From cultivated power to inspired lunacy.
Whatever your opinion of BMW, there's no denying that the Bavarian automaker consistently delivers excellent engines. From surprisingly smooth and fuel-efficient four-cylinder turbo units and torquey straight-sixes to crazy powerful V8 and V12 engines, BMW has consistently delivered for decades. However, you don't always have to buy a BMW car to get BMW power. These are the least likely cars you'd expect to find one of Germany's finest lurking under the hood.
The Mclaren F1 is one of the most celebrated supercars in existence. In the early 1990s, McLaren partnered with Honda for its Formula 1 team engines, and Gordon Murray wanted a naturally aspirated F1 derived engine in the F1 sports car. Honda wasn't interested, though, so Murray turned to BMW, and its M division built a new version of its S70 V12 for the new car. The first McLaren F1 models rolled off the line in 1991 with 635 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque; figures that are still impressive decades later.
To British car enthusiasts, the idea of a German engine inside a Rolls-Royce once seemed unimaginable. However, BMW now owns the British institution, and the Phantom's twin-turbocharged 6.75-liter V12 engine is a unique variant of BMW's N74 unit. Rolls-Royce's engine variants are developed alongside the V12 engines in Germany, so the two companies can learn and develop together to build the best engines possible for their applications. The Phantom's version produces 563 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque at just 1,700 rpm. It's not only the Phantom, though, as all current Rolls-Royce V12 engines are running on BMW's framework.
Back in 1983, Brabham designer Gordon Murray put together one of the most legendary Formula 1 cars yet. It's also likely why Murray had BMW in mind when he needed an engine for the McLaren F1. For the BT52 race car, BMW supplied its M12/13 engine, and it was incredible. The powerplant is a turbocharged four-cylinder 1.5-liter unit that, in qualification tune, was laying down 811 hp. Then in race trim was tuned down to around 640 hp.
Yes, you read that right. BMW built a four-cylinder turbo engine delivering 811 hp for qualifying, then a reliable 640 hp for races in the 1980s, and the kicker is that it could be ramped up "occasionally" to lay down 1,500 hp.
The third-generation Range Rover was developed under BMW's ownership, and the legendary Rover V8 was swapped for the BMW M62 4.4-liter V8 from 2002-2005. In Europe, blessed relief from the earlier clunky diesel options came in the form of BMW's 2.5-liter turbo diesel straight-six engine. 2005 saw a significant change again as the Range Rover moved to use supercharged Jaguar engines as an option as well as naturally aspirated Ford V8 units. It was a shame the Rover V8 finally came to an end, but the BMW engine was the start of Range Rovers truly becoming luxury vehicles.
The Morgan Plus 8 started out in 1962 with the same Rover V8 as the Range Rover, so it's no surprise that when the Rover V8 was retired, Morgan turned to BMW in 2012. The 4.8-liter engine makes 372 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque and breathes through a side-mounted exhaust. And because it's so light, the wheels will spin in third gear at 50 mph in the wet. That becomes even more exciting if you're driving the roofless speedster. While the Plus 8 is reaching the end of it lifespan, it's being replaced by the Plus 6 that's powered by a BMW turbo inline-six.
When people fantasized about Toyota bringing back the iconic Supra name, a BMW wasn't what they had in mind. The legendary Toyota 2JZ, more specifically, the twin-turbocharged 2JZ-GE from the MK IV Supra of the 1990s was all they could think about. The 2JZ had an incredibly strong bottom end and well-refined top end, meaning it could be tuned and take all the extra horsepower tuners could throw at it without having to upgrade internal components. Like the 2JZ line of engines, BMW's unit in the modern Supra is a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six. Unlike the 320 hp and 315 lb-ft the 2JZ put down, BMW's B58 engine makes 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque from a single turbo arrangement. Like the 2JZ-GTE, though, BMW's engine is incredibly strong, tunable, and highly reliable.
If you've found yourself traveling the world and jumping on a tram in Nordhausen, Germany, it's entirely possible it was powered by a BMW M67 3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine. Siemens trams are used throughout the world and typically run from power delivered by a 600 V DC overhead power line. However, there are places where the trams go outside the city's electrical grid and need an internal combustion engine for propulsion. Nordhausen is the only place we can find that uses the hefty DuoCombino, though.
This piece of outright insanity is actually a 1908 American LaFrance car. At the beginning of the last century, American LaFrance Fire Engine Company was based in New York, and its primary business was manufacturing fire apparatus in the US. That went on to include fire trucks and a couple of cars. Brutus is claimed to have been built after World War II by Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim due to there being plentiful unused aero engines and a surplus of lunacy after the war. However, the museum has only existed since 1981, so it's likely a later project.
Brutus was fitted with a 1920's era 46.9-liter V12 BMW aircraft engine. The museum still owns the car and claims it generates 500 hp at 1,500 rpm and has a fuel economy of 2.35 mpg. In a Top Gear episode, Jeremy Clarkson said that driving Brutus was like "doing a crossword while being eaten by a tiger."