top of page

BMW M52B28 Engine (Design, Issues & Tuning)

Updated: Feb 2

✔ This article has been fact checked.

The BMW M52B28 is a straight-6 DOHC petrol engine which was produced from 1995 to 2000, it is a 2.8L engine which produces 190hp and 280nm.

It is a member of the M52 series of engines, which includes the M52B20, M52B24, M52B25, and S52B32. The M52 and S52 engines were on the Ward's 10 Best Engines list from 1997 to 2000.

Variable valve timing was added to the exhaust camshaft as part of the "technical update" (M52TU) upgrades in 1998.

The BMW M52B28 engine was used in the following cars:

  • 1995-1999 E36 328i, 328is

  • 1995-1998 E39 528i

  • 1995-1998 E38 728i, 728iL

  • 1997-1998 E36/7 Z3 2.8

  • 1997-2000 Land Rover Defender (South Africa only)

The updated M52TUB28 was used in the following cars:

  • 1998-2000 E46 328i, 328Ci

  • 1998-2000 E36/7/8 Z3 2.8

  • 1998-2000 E39 528i

  • 1998-2000 E38 728i

Table of Contents:

BMW M52B20 Engine

BMW M52B28 Engine Design

This engine has an aluminium cylinder block with a Nikasil coating on the cylinder walls, just like M50 engines do. Only the BMW Z3 model has aluminium cylinder blocks, while the M52B28 employs cast iron engine blocks rather than aluminium ones for the North American market.

Due to the high quantities of sulphur in US gasoline, which quickly corrodes Nikasil, this option was chosen.

The connecting rods are 135 mm long. The compression height of aluminium pistons is 31.82 mm. These figures made it possible to get the "square engine" outcome (84 x 84 mm bore and stroke).

The 24-valve DOHC aluminium cylinder head of the M52B28 engine has variable valve timing only for the intake (single VANOS). The cylinder heads M50TUB25 and M52B28 are interchangeable.

The M54B30 engine, the newest member of the M54 family, took the place of the M52B28/M52TUB28 engine in 2000.

M52TUB28 - M52 Technical Update

The engine was given the name M52TUB28 in 1998 when the M52TU ("Technical Update"), which included variable valve timing to the exhaust camshaft (called "double VANOS") was released.

Additional improvements included:

  • dual VANOS (variable valve timing system for both camshafts)

  • variable geometry intake manifold (DISA)

  • cast iron sleeves within the block

  • new connecting rods, pistons

  • an electronic throttle body

The M52TUB28's camshaft specs are as follows:

  • Valve lift: 9.0/9.0 mm

  • Duration: 244/228 degrees

Engine Specs

  • Manufacturer: Munich Plant

  • Production years: 1995-2000

  • Cylinder block material: Aluminium

  • Cylinder head material: Aluminium

  • Fuel type: Gasoline

  • Fuel system: Fuel injection

  • Configuration: Inline

  • Number of cylinders: 6

  • Valves per cylinder: 4

  • Valvetrain layout: DOHC

  • Bore: 84.0 mm

  • Stroke: 84.0 mm

  • Displacement: 2793 cc

  • Type of internal combustion engine: Four-stroke, naturally aspirated

  • Compression Ratio: 10.2:1

  • Power: 193 hp at 5,300 rpm, 193 hp at 5,500 rpm (TU)

  • Torque: 210 lb-ft (280 Nm) at 3,950 rpm, 210 lb-ft (280 Nm)at 3,500 rpm (TU)

  • Firing order: 1-5-3-6-2-4

  • Engine oil weight: SAE 0W-30, 0W-40, 5W-30, 5W-40

  • Engine oil capacity: 6.5 litres

  • Oil change interval: 6,000 miles (10,000 km) or 12 months

  • Applications: BMW 328i E36, BMW 328i E46, BMW 528i E39, BMW 728i E38, BMW Z3, Land Rover Defender

Problems & Reliability

There are no unique faults with this engine; only those that affect the M52-series as a whole, as detailed below.

  • Overheating: Overheating is a problem with the M52B28 engine. If a cylinder head overheats, it can quickly be rendered unusable.

  • Oil usage: The oil rings in the engine are unreliable, and if they are broken, they waste a significant amount of oil.

  • Ignition: Hydraulic tappets or lifters that are blocked may be the source of ignition issues. The ECU will disable the ignition for cylinders with partly closed valves.

There are flaws that present in all M52 engines. The engine's age, mileage, and different variants might result in different problems. However, the M52B28 has a more refined design.

Tuning & Performance Upgrades

There are a number of additional options to modify your M52B28 besides remapping, which is often how most people tune their cars.

  • Stage 1 improvements include fast road camshafts, sports exhaust manifolds, panel air filters, drilled and smoothed air boxes, intake headers, and remaps/piggyback ECUs.

  • Stage 2 upgrades include the induction kit, sports catalyst and performance exhaust, ported and polished heads, modified fuel pumps, and high flow fuel injectors.

  • Stage 3 modifications include adding or improving forced induction (turbo/supercharger), twin charging conversions, engine balancing and blueprinting, internal engine improvements (head flowing porting/bigger valves), competition cam, crank, and piston changes to adjust compression, and all of the aforementioned.


The air intake manifolds on the M52B20 may have a major impact on fuel atomization depending on their design and flow characteristics. Despite the fact that certain manufacturers sell air intake manifolds that flow rather well, the majority need motorsport components.

Larger intake pipes, smoother piping, a cold air feed, or ram air feed can all be used to boost power.


One of the most important mechanical upgrades is a fast road cam, but they need to be fitted by a qualified mechanic, and they're not always easy to find.

Most of the time, these modifications won't boost power on their own, but by removing the limitation, they could aid in boosting power after other modifications.

Forced Induction

Forced induction is the most effective way to boost airflow, allowing you to burn more fuel and generate more power. Despite being one of the most expensive upgrades, it offers the greatest gains.


Increasing airflow while reducing flow limitations and turbulence are the two main objectives of porting and flowing the head.

The M52B28 valve may be made larger, some port matching added, and head flowing added to boost power. In addition, you'll be able to benefit more from other tuning modifications.


To maximise the performance of all the installed components on your M52B28, use ECU mapping.

Since the factory ECU is locked, an aftermarket ECU may be the best option in some circumstances. Many of them will perform better than original ECUs, but make sure they include knock protection and are installed correctly.

On turbocharged cars, it will typically offer you roughly 30% more power, and on naturally aspirated engines, it will give you about 15% more power, but the final outcome will depend on the equipment you've installed and the condition of your engine.


Below are images of the BMW M52B28 engine.



More Questions? Ask the Community

Our Promise

TuneAutos is a car, vehicle, and automotive information publishing company working to make honest, accurate, and unbiased information easy to find. Our goal is to provide the highest-quality automotive information possible.

All of our articles are subjected to the most rigorous editorial standards to ensure the best possible possible quality. See our process here.

bottom of page