Originally Posted by JAJ
I'd have to disagree with all of you and say it was the original 1960's inline four designed by Alex Von Falkenhausen. They built that engine and variants of it for twenty years and it powered the cars that turned BMW from an unknown into the successful giant it is today.
It was a very simple and strong design - I've rebuilt a couple and they're remarkably simple to assemble. How strong? Well it's the same block that became the turbo F1 engine.
The modern BMW engines are superb pieces of engineering, but not one of has stayed in production for 20 years. Yes, that's because of changing standards and so on, but still, the old four-banger made BMW what it is today. It wins!
Back in those days, historically most manufacturers evolved engines much slower than today. I owned a '76 2002 way back when and it was in fact a great motor. Today, most BMW owners have no experience with the Bimmers of old. To them, their knowledge of BMW may have started with the 3 series, and possibly beyond the E21? (My relationship with BMW truly began with the 2002, prior to my ownership as a neighbor had one) So I can see why many think the I6 is the most successful BMW configuration to date. But the thread is about the most successful engine, which I interpret as specific engine, not general layout. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm partial to the S54. Aside from all its performance which is well known, it's also so cool to behold. It's one of the best looking modern engines as it's not covered up or hidden like so many motors are today. Pop the hood and all you see is a long exposed great looking engine with six individual throttle bodies and minimal plastic. If you consider form and function as part of your equation, then the S54 is the winner for sure. Form and function is the common denominator for everything in my garage (as well as high performance in class and per dollar).
'08 Carrera S 6MT Guards Red/Black ext leather, Carbon fiber pkg, sport exh, sport chrono +, PASM, Nav, Bose, 19" forged turbos, red tranny tunnel
'07 MV Agusta F4 1000 R 1+1, Corse Red/Silver, RG3 race pipes and factory race ECU