Autocar gets a tour of BMW's new M-Power engine test facility
27 March 2007

BMW has opened a new cutting-edge M-Division engine test facility, where the engines of many future Motorsport BMWs will be developed, and last week it gave Autocar the full guided tour. The company says that the new facility will enable it to dramatically reduce development costs and the time it takes to bring an engine to market. This should allow the company to expand the number of M-Division models it offers, and to bring them to market more quickly, and more cheaply.The new engine test building is revealed in Autocar's exclusive photographs of the site (see gallery). It covers the same area as a football pitch (around 10,000 square metres) and is mounted on a 60cm-thick concrete base. It took just 286 days to build, from starting construction to the first test bed being run.Aside from three engine test beds, the facility hand-builds pilot-production engines and is also involved in writing the immensely complex engine management programmes that run the engines.

The test facility that runs on unleaded

BMW's brand new engine test beds can handle up to 738bhp, 516 lb ft of torque, and 12,000rpm. Being able to use the engine's full production exhaust system on them is also a big step forward, the company says.One of the test rigs is configured to take drive from the prototype engine – via a rear differential – and use it to power a pair of electrical generators. This allows power created when test-running an engine to be fed back into the power supply for the building.The facility can be run 24 hours a day (or up to 5000 hours per year) and BMW engineers say that while a conventional on-road engine test programme might take six to eight weeks, the same cycle can be completed in just nine days on the test bed.BMW claims cost savings of 75 per cent over the testing phase of a three-year engine development project because the need for expensive prototype vehicles is much reduced.

Hilton Holloway

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