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Audi S4 Avant, Mini Cooper Convertible, BMW M6 Convertible - Fast Forward

R&D N54 Twin Turbo Six. The BMW tuning platform for a new generation.

Nov 12, 2006
0611_01_z+mini_cooper_convertible+aerial_view Photo 1/1   |   Audi S4 Avant, Mini Cooper Convertible, BMW M6 Convertible - Fast Forward

R&D
N54 Twin Turbo Six
The BMW tuning platform for a new generation

There is a certain quiet reality in BMW tuning circles. Seems the current engines from Bavaria are so spot-on the U.S. tuners can't really get much more power out of them with simple bolt-ons or downloads.

The Bavarians are optimizing their engines out of the box. Sure, we can do things with throttle bodies, exhaust systems, and intakes, and maybe pick up 10 hp or so-but for well over $1,000. Bolt-on bang for the buck kind of went away after the wild '80s and '90s. To get big results we have to pony up for forced induction.

2018 BMW M6
$119,800 Base Model (MSRP) 14/20 MPG Fuel Economy

Finally, BMW has delivered a twin turbocharged six cylinder engine. Their first gasoline turbo since the 1979-1986 E23 745i turbo, and possible spiritual successor to the mighty 1974 2002 Turbo, the 2007 335i Coupe will be powered by a 3.0-liter double VANOS twin turbo engine, internally designated N54, yielding 306 bhp at 5800 rpm and 295 lb-ft torque at a mere 1300 rpm and remaining steady to 5000 rpm, with a red ine of 7000.

They probably didn't really want to do it, having made certain pronouncements against forced induction gasoline engines in the not-too-distant past. BMW was confronted with the harsh reality of its own price points, which places the new coupe squarely within the sights of competitors with 300-bhp V8 power. True, we are on the cusp of the V8 3 Series now-the E92 M3 will have a 415-bhp V8. Yet BMW probably didn't want to jump in with a non-M V8 3 Series for a number of reasons, including M3 exclusivity. With 300 bhp now the door charge for entry into the $50,000 luxury GT coupe world, BMW really had no choice but forced induction. If they stuck with normal aspiration, they would have had to increase the size of the engine to V8 proportions. By going with the twin turbo six, BMW saved 154 pounds of weight, considerable fuel economy, and gave tuners a gift-wrapped present.

This is not a case of bolting a couple of blowers onto an N52 engine, even though BMW wisely started with a proven performer-the straight six-cylinder engine. This plant is extremely efficient, weighing just 355 pounds, a figure attributed to an aluminum crankcase and a cylinder head and bedplate of extra-light aluminum alloy. The valve cover is magnesium, and the camshafts are hollow. Note the magnesium/aluminum insert block design of the N52 was eschewed for the turbo engine.

BMW calls its second generation of direct fuel injection "High Precision Fuel Injection." The system uses extremely high fuel pressure boosted by a crankshaft-driven mechanical fuel pump. Pressure comes out of the main fuel pump at 5 bar (72.52 psi), and out of the mechanical pump at a whopping 200 bar (2,900.76 psi). The pump supplies piezoelectric fuel injectors pressed into the top of the cylinder head, aimed squarely at a pocket in the tops of the pistons. Right next to it is a four-electrode high-energy spark plug. The benefit is complete combustion, which allows BMW to run a very high compression ratio for a turbocharged engine (10.2:1), lower emissions and improve fuel economy.

BMW's double VANOS system provides variable camshaft control over a huge range, allowing the intake and exhaust cam timing to be optimized for the driving conditions. Cam timing is retarded at low engine speeds for smooth running, and advanced at high engine speeds for more power.

A small turbocharger for each bank of three cylinders yields low inertia momentum, with the blowers responding instantly to the smallest throttle opening. This means no turbo lag. The turbines themselves are high-heat-resistant special steel able to handle temperatures up to 1,900 degrees F. According to BMW, there is no need for coolant or enhanced fuel supply. (We'll see about that!)

When I first saw the N54 engine at BMW Innovation Day in Munich in April 2006, I thought of the first time I saw Katie Holmes on television, the sole legitimate reason to tune in Dawson's Creek. The "what ifs" were obvious. Looking at the N54 for the first time that day in Munich, I just couldn't help but wonder what it would be like with... bigger turbos, of course. Or even just dialed-up boost. Once you've got an engine already wearing forced induction, it's a lot less difficult to extract more power. What you're looking at here is the probably the premier BMW tuning platform for the current, and perhaps next, generation of cars.

We can't wait to see what Dinan is going to do with this engine. Our guess is more airflow through the engine with a cold-air intake, revised VANOS, boost and engine management protocols, a free-flow exhaust system, and a pair of Jennifer Love Hewett-sized turbos. Our guess is... 400 bhp.

Event
Bentley Driving Experience
Peace of mind has never been so exhilarating
Who wouldn't want to drive a Bentley GT or Flying Spur, let alone place one in a four-wheel drift? Bentley has always been a driver's car, and now the company has a driver's program that allows you to test the car's segment-leading performance and safety capabilities.

Since the 1920s, Bentley motors has been producing remarkable sporting, hand-crafted luxury automobiles. Today's Bentleys continue this grand tradition, only they are a lot faster and safer.

It's no secret the 550-bhp Flying Spur is the fastest production-built sedan in the world with a top speed of 198 mph, but you can't begin to truly appreciate a car of this size and performance caliber until seated behind the wheel and tapping into its full performance potential. The Bentley Driving program allows you to do that.

"After producing such magnificently wonderful cars as the GT and Flying Spur, it was necessary to educate those eager to learn how to drive a Bentley at the best of its impressive abilities and to safely push the car's driving limits, as well as your own," says legendary champion racecar driver and Bentley driving instructor Derek Bell.

The two-day affair encompasses various driving exercises, including defensive driving techniques, and demonstrates the car's truly state-of-the-art driving prowess.

Mind you, the multiple courses, of which include slalom, high-speed acceleration, extreme braking, and others are not for the faint of heart, nor are the high-adrenalin maneuvers you learn to eventually perfect. Bentley Driving is held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, as well as other locations around the world.

The program also includes the opportunity to experience firsthand how the design and the technology of these remarkable cars have developed over the years with a ride in a classic Bentley.

We had the pleasure of going through the program in Vegas, and for $1,500, you can too. Dining and hotel accommodations are inclusive, which makes this quite an irresistible package.

"We view the program as an obligation that goes hand in hand with creating such a high-performance car, and to have the chance to understand the performance capabilities with which a is Bentley endowed," says Bentley's John Crawford.

The entire program is a kick in the pants, but there is a serious side. That objective is to provide the driver an instilled sensitivity that he or she may not otherwise possess, creating an enhanced set of instincts that can be essential in everyday driving situations. It also makes you want to rush out and buy a Bentley.

Seat Time
Audi S4 Avant
I am Superman
It was probably a blessing this car left our office. The car is so good I behaved like a spoiled 12-year-old high on a keg of Mountain Dew. During the S4 Avant's brief time with us, I pulled editorial rank and refused to share. Few cars elicit this type of behavior. And for all intents and purposes, that's a good thing.

It's near impossible to isolate the most impressive aspect of the S4 Avant. It does the sports car thing so well it's easy to forget it's also a family truckster. It's one of those rare vehicles inherently balanced from birth. The S4 Avant can do many things very well.

First off it's god-awful fast. The 340-bhp V8 from the A8 places the S4 Avant firmly in musclecar territory. The engine sounds so good it makes me want to remove the muffler entirely. The S4 Avant leaves the line like it's been rear-ended by a TGV bullet train. The sensation is unique to Quattro-equipped cars, the feeling of immense power both pushing and pulling the car forward. The shifter feels extremely solid, almost industrial, as each gear change engages powerful cogs down below.

Audi's sport-tuned suspension is perfectly matched to the Avant's demeanor. Neither too firm nor too soft, it makes the S4 feel extremely athletic. The big brakes add to the effect and are capable bringing this 4,000-pound vehicle to a dead stop with uncanny ease. Perhaps my only gripe is with the steering, which feels a tad light and over-assisted with vague feedback (seems to be a Quattro thing).

If you want a sports car, the S4 Avant will do just fine. It's easy to forget this Audi has four doors and a sizable rear boot. I suppose that's a bonus. And I'll say it once again: Audi's interior design is the best there is. From the MMI-controlled nav system to the silicon-dampened grab-handles, every interior bit of the S4 Avant is exceptional.

Yeah, I hogged the S4 Avant and I'd do it again. It's that good. -Les Bidrawn

From The Hip
+ Taut, athletic handling, worm hole acceleration, superior cabin ergonomics - smallish rear seats

Seat Time
Mini Cooper Convertible
Too much fun
Mini ran a radio ad a few months ago on the convertible, something about a "top-down patrol" who would go around and harass those convertible drivers motoring with their tops up. It's true, it seems a shame to drive a convertible on a nice day without feeling the sun on your face and the wind in your hair. A convertible Mini in particular. This example was equipped with the JCW tuning package; along with the convertible top, it will run you about $11K more than a base Cooper S. Other than that, heck, what a great little car. The biggest downside to this package, other than added cost, is the miniscule storage space in back when the top is in fact down. But if you're looking to buy a convertible, this is something you should have already considered. -Karl Funke

From The Hip
+ Supercharged power, signature handling, sun on your face -
Skimpy storagewith top down

Gear
The latest great stuff for your car and lifestyleDeliver the best stopping power to your BMW M5 or M6 with new RD Sport brake assemblies. The front assembly has six-piston aluminum calipers and 15- inch cross-drilled rotors, and four-piston calipers with cross-drilled rotors are in the rear. The piston sizes have been engineered to provide the best performance for the suspension geometry and weight of the M cars, unlike other heavy eight-piston systems. MSRP starts at $4,500.
RD Sport
877.RDSPORT
www.rdsport.com

First Look
Limited Edition Touareg-450-horse W12
Looking to make those trips to the grocery store a bit faster? Consider Volkswagen's factory-tuned Touareg Sport. Stuffed with a tweaked version of VW's massive W12 powerhouse, the limited edition SUV is the ultimate grocery-getter. Imagine the bewildered Cayenne driver after being smoked by a Touareg. Thanks to a blistering 5.9-second 0-62-mph sprint, it's in the bag.

The 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine produces an impressive 450 bhp and a hefty 442 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a smooth six-speed auto with Tip.

The Sport package also includes a more muscular appearance with widened wheel arches and sills, roof spoiler, and big 20-inch alloy wheels. Darkened rear and side windows, a silver-colored roof rack, and color-coded bumpers further denote its unique styling, while quad tailpipes with a sound-tuned exhaust give more than a hint to the sinister beast lurking from within (the engine, that is).

Consistent with the rest, the interior boasts, as standard, Napa leather-upholstered seats, aluminum door and dash trim, a 320 km/h (200 mph) speedo, dual-zone climate system, premium audio/video, and NAV with multi-function color display and more.

The downside is the Touareg Sport is not available in the U.S. To order in Europe, expect to pay 96,300 euro or about $120K. Bragging rights come at a price.

First Look
Forcefed 380R
Insanity has a name, and it is called 380R. John Modica and Forcedfed has developed a complete performance package to transform your Elise into a track-day terror, with 380 bhp and 280 lb-ft of torque in a package that still weighs less than 2,000 pounds. The package includes complete engine prep, including a rebuilt and balanced bottom end, modified lube system, Garrett ball-bearing turbo system, and completely revamped engine management. The end product takes a claimed 3.1 seconds to get to 60 mph from a standing start and runs a heart-stopping 10.8-second quarter-mile elapsed time. Priced at $43,995 installed, this package will net you a race car for less than a hundred grand, including the car's initial cost-not bad if you ask us.

Test
ContiSportContact 3
Continental unleashes its new weapon
With more than 31.7 million units sold, the ContiSportContact 2 is one of the most successful tires ever, and after years of development Continental has finally released its third generation, the ContiSportContact 3. A ribbed pattern contributes to reduced deformation and greater stability during high-performance driving. Fine sipes in the tread ribs were added so that the tread elements support each other and distribute braking forces across the entire tread rib. The new compound is also softer, which further betters wet and dry performance.

Continental will be offering the ContiSportContact 3 in sizes ranging from 17 to 21 inches, profiles from 25 to 50, and widths starting from 205mm all the way to a beefy 325mm. It will be sold at the same price as the ContiSportContact 2. A "Vmax" version rated for 360 km/h (225 mph) will also be available for autobahn thrashers. Audi already likes the tire so much it was approved for the new TT, A6 and RS4 models.

First Look
BMW M6 Convertible
BMW announced the arrival of the "ultimate" two-plus-two open-air driving experience-the new BMW M6 Convertible. Like its hard-top stablemate, the M6 Convertible combines a 500-bhp V10 and the seven-speed SMG gearbox with Drivelogic. It also combines the signature luxury and elegance inherent in every 6 Series with true supercar performance: zero to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds and a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. With production beginning this month, the '07 M6 Convertible should begin arriving in U.S. showrooms very soon.

Incoming... you said it.
Got something you want to say? Please send us your feedback. Email european.car@primedia.com.

Literal Journalism
On page 93 of the September 2006 issue, the editor says a BMW M3 "literally fell into my lap." I'd just like to say I'm very pleased that you were not killed in what sounds like quite a horrific accident.
Dave Kraige
State College, PA

Down an Old Road
Thanks for the story by Kevin Clemens (September 06, pg. 122). Made the world go rosy for me for a while. I must be getting romantic in my old age. Either that or I just plain forgot how much I loved tear-assing around in old Alpha and Fiat Spyders. Given the rumored prospect of Alpha returning to these shores, please consider doing an overview of Alpha similar to the one you did on the BMW 3 Series last year.

P.S.: Tell Kevin that Sally should have run over Thomas's foot. The putz.
M.J. Rapuano
Via the Internet

A Little Brainstorming
I have a few ideas that I would like to bounce off you for your mag.

1. You should do an article about how to get max mileage out of your VW diesel.

2. You should show the actual dyno charts for the tuner cars compared to stock. Nothing huge, just a little square under the specs you show at the end of those articals.

3. You should do a section on common problems with European cars and fixes for them, e.g., window clips for VWs, ball joints for the BMWs and whatever else you can think of. Mind you, as a VW tech I dont really need these but it would help your readers feel more attached to their cars.

4. Give me a job so I don't need to turn wrenches anymore. Haha. Outside of that, I love the new format.
Justin Kobak
Via the Internet

Justin, thanks for the feedback and the ideas. And we'd love to hire some new help, but currently have no budget to do so. Do you work for free?

Sell Outs?
I am (or was) a loyal subscriber of yours since I was 16 and acquired my very first car, a 1985 Scirocco. That was when your rag was called VW & Porsche. I have owned, restored and modified many Euro cars since then. I am now three months away from my 35th birthday and I have gotten pretty disgusted with the direction you have gone over the past two years. Your mag was for the people with real world cars and good tech articles which have basically all gone away. I know I cannot be the only person to tell you this, either. I think I can count maybe five or so articles that were actually about VWs in the past 10 issues!

Do you honestly feel that the common Southern California professional like myself can actually afford a $100K-plus Ferrari or Bentley? That is pretty arrogant of your upper management or editors to assume. You took a great magazine and ruined it completely. The BMWs, Alfas, VWs, Audis, old-school Porsche cars, etc., have pretty much been replaced with these cars that only the uber rich can afford.

In my honest opinion, the content that kept Euro enthusiasts like myself motivated to finish that resto or buy from your advertisers and only one or two pieces of the supercar articles to admire and dream about was the best balance in keeping people like myself coming back for more.

I just wanted to thank you for making a repeat, loyal customer of almost 20 years feel like a POS that was forgotten about over a trend... sell outs. Please cancel my subscription immediately. You have too many elite customers to worry about anyways.
Chris Oakland
Temecula, CA

Thanks for the great hate mail, but you might be blowing things out of proportion. Saying we cover only Ferraris and Bentleys is ridiculous. How about the A4s? The 3 Series? How about the six-page historical piece/photo essay on your beloved Scirocco? We're sorry we can no longer devote 50 percent editorial space to Mk II and III VWs. We're not going back to those days, however.

Volkswagen and SEMA '06
Coming off a stunning debut at SEMA last year, Volkswagen is poised to make another big splash at SEMA '06.

At the 2005 SEMA show, Volkswagen made a huge statement with its display of three concept vehicles, code named Project R GT Unfortunately, these vehicles were more "truly conceptual" vs. "true to own." The problem was that the engines and drivetrain configurations were never going to be for sale in the United States. These amazing machines were basically unobtainable, and it was like dangling candy in front a baby.

Volkswagen promises that this year will be different. For SEMA 2006, VW wants the focus to be on mainstream tuning and the fact that their cars can compete as affordable entry level tuner vehicles. It's rumored that this year a new project car will be hopping on stage along side it sportier GTI brother. The cars exhibited will be models fitted with performance parts that will be available for sale to the American consumer.

To ensure performance tuning comes off without a hitch, Volkswagen has joined forces with Neuspeed, an industry leader in the performance aftermarket. For more than 30 years, Neuspeed has consistently put out high quality parts and has recently developed a new 2.5L turbo kit. Stay tuned

Sources

Bentley Motors
Auburn Hills, MI 48326

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