• Oct 12, 2010
2010 BMW 335i – Click above for high-res image gallery

The award-winning BMW N54 inline-six has been a hit around the world since it made its debut in the 2006 E90 335i. The twin-turbocharged engine produces around 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and many have actually suggested that the Bavarian automaker's power figures have been conservative. When it came out, BMW promised this engine would virtually eliminate turbo lag, increase performance and improve fuel economy at the same time. In fact, it was so confident in its new engine that it spread it around, adding it to its 1, 3 and 5 Series cars, along with its Z4 sports cars and X6 crossovers.

Unfortunately, the N54 has also seen its fair share of owner complaints. Most notably, unhappy BMW drivers allege having two very important issues with the wündermill; the high-pressure fuel pump has a very high failure rate and a defect in the design of the turbochargers requires they be tweaked so as not to run at full capacity. Many BMW owners have officially had it with the N54 engine and a class-action lawsuit has kicked into gear.

Read the rest after the jump...


Photos by Zach Bowman / Copyright ©2010 AOL

[Sources: Kershaw, Cutter and Ratinoff, LLC, BimmerFest, Daily Finance]


The lawsuit, initiated by the legal firm of Kershaw, Cutter and Ratinoff, LLC of California alleges BMW produced an engine that suffers from serious defects. The aforementioned fuel pump is evidently prone to failure, and when they go south, the car loses power and goes into 'limp mode' since it can't drink gasoline. Such failures could have serious safety ramifications depending on when and where the pump packs up. According to Autoblog sister site Daily Finance, this isn't the first lawsuit regarding N54 problems.

According to the law firm, the problem with the turbochargers is that defective examples cannot run at full capacity, resulting in strange noises underhood and noticeable throttle lag. BMW had initiated a software update, which made it so the turbochargers were "fixed," but apparently all they did was stop the turbos from being allowed to run at full tilt. This, in turn, resulted in a loss of power and noticeable lag, one of the very issues the N54's architecture was designed to eliminate.

Among other details, the KC&L class action (official press release below) alleges that BMW knowingly hid these defects not just from customers, but also from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the suit is looking to legally compel BMW into a recall.

BMW officials that Autoblog contacted for this story noted that the company cannot comment on pending litigation, but they did offer us the following statement:

BMW has discovered that certain 2007-2010 model year vehicles may experience partial failure of the High-Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP) which is part of the direct fuel injection system on certain 1 Series, 3 Series, 5 Series, X6, and Z4 models. Specifically, vehicles powered by the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine (internally dubbed "N54") are affected. Symptoms include long engine starting times and sometimes the illumination of the Service Engine Soon lamp in the instrument cluster, possibly accompanied by reduced engine performance (Fail Safe operation).

As a result, BMW will extend the emissions warranty coverage period to 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first, on affected vehicles in all 50 States. If the HPFP fails during the extended warranty coverage period, BMW will replace it with a newer-production version. Customers who experience long starting times or notice the Service Engine Soon lamp should contact an Authorized BMW Center to schedule a service appointment. Customers with further questions should contact BMW Customer Relations at 1-800-831-1117 or email customer.relations@bmwna.com.

It's worth noting that while BMW acknowledges problems with the N54's fuel pump and is offering affected owners an extended emissions warranty, the additional coverage does not appear to extend to other areas of the engine. In regards to the turbocharger, BMW spokesman Matthew Russell says that:

The turbo complaint is much less widespread and we have had a service bulletin in place since 2007 to address it. In an effort to address specific noise concerns, BMW updated the turbocharged engine software on 335i/xi and 535i/xi models built from June 2006 through March 2008. The updated software causes a small amount of increased "turbocharger lag" under certain circumstances and, while not substantial, the lag may be perceptible to the most sensitive BMW drivers. X6, 135i, and 3 Series/5 Series vehicles from March 2008 production onward are not affected."

We'll have more on the N54 engine saga as it develops. Thanks for the tip, challenger64hemi!
Show full PR text
Class Action Law Firm takes on BMW for Systematically Concealing Safety Risks of Defective High Pressure Fuel Pumps and Turbo Chargers

Lawsuit alleges that BMW systematically concealed information from the public and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding defective fuel pumps and their risks to consumers.

Flawed engine design of BMW twin turbo models leaves consumers stranded

Sacramento, CA (Vocus) October 5, 2010

Sacramento, California based class action law firm Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff, LLP, recently filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of individuals who own various BMW vehicles released between the years of 2007-2010. The lawsuit, No. CV10-2257 SI filed in the Northern District of California, seeks to compel BMW to initiate a recall in order to replace all of the high pressure fuel pumps (HPFP) in the affected vehicles.

According to the complaint, in 2006, BMW announced with much fanfare the development of its new N54 twin turbo engine. BMW touted the new engine as incorporating state of the art technology that included dual turbo chargers and a newly developed fuel injection system. BMW represented to the public that this new technology would eliminate 'turbo lag,' a common problem in turbocharged vehicles, and that its new state of the art fuel injection system greatly increased the performance and fuel efficiency of its vehicles.

Plaintiffs allege that the new engines that were so highly touted by BMW in fact contain serious design flaws that render the vehicles unsafe to drive. There are essentially two design flaws at the center of the case. First, the plaintiff asserts that BMW's new fuel injection system that supposedly incorporates a new 'state of the art' fuel pump actually malfunctions at an alarming high rate. As a result, many BMW owners have had to repeatedly replace their fuel pumps, sometimes within 1,000 miles of vehicle ownership.

Lead attorney on the case, Stuart Talley of Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff, noted, "When these fuel pumps fail, the car comes to a complete stop or loses substantial power. If this happens while someone is driving on a highway at high speeds, this can create a very serious safety hazard. We believe the defect is so significant that it makes these cars unsafe to drive."

The second problem relates to the BMW turbo chargers. Specifically, the complaint alleges that owners of the affected vehicles were told that BMW's new engine had eliminated 'turbo lag.' 'Turbo lag' is the delay between the time that driver of a vehicle presses the accelerator and the time that turbo chargers on the engine essentially 'kick in' to provide added power to the engine. However, shortly after the vehicles were released, BMW began to receive complaints from owners that they were hearing strange noises from the engine along with a delay in throttle response. BMW eventually discovered that these problems were the result of a design defect in the turbo chargers.

Plaintiffs allege, however, that rather than repair the defective turbo chargers, BMW implemented a secret 'software fix' to hide the problems from consumers. Any time a consumer brought their BMW in for repair or routine maintenance, BMW would 'upgrade' the vehicle's software. This software tweak kept the turbo chargers from operating at full capacity, ensuring that their defects would go undetected.

Apparently owners aren't happy. A number of user generated forums, petitions and blogs have cropped up criticizing BMW for their handling of the issue. On the BMW Blog, several consumers reported their BMW's going into 'limp mode.' They also complained of excessive power loss and 'turbo lag,' the very condition BMW said it had eliminated with its 'state of the art engine.' The plaintiff's complaint seeks to force BMW to repair the defective turbo charges and/or reimburse consumers for the diminution in value to the vehicles.

Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff have demonstrated their dedication to protecting the legal rights of consumers, as well as their ability to devote substantial resources through trials involving large corporations. Their product liability lawyers have represented thousands of victims of defective vehicles and dangerous products in cases throughout the United States, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuit recoveries for their clients and the classes they have represented.

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  • 71 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I nearly baught a Z 4 but after hearing about transmission problems with the paddle shifters, computer glitches, expensive "Run Flat Tires" And Engine problems I baught 2 MAZDA MIATAS for the price of 1 Z 4 More fun to drive,More Reliable & I love to "Auto Cross on weekends,not to mention the scenic drives down "The Pacific Coast Highway,Or Deals Gap,Tail of the Dragon
      • 4 Years Ago
      The fuel pumps sounds like their water pumps for their older cars. The plastic blades were known to break pretty early and easily. How BMW's engineers felt it was acceptable to produce such a vital piece in plastic still confuses me, but after a while they had a metal bladed replacement. Same with their rear strut mounts. It was a weak design that has many cheaper aftermarket replacements which are actually more durable. These fuel pumps will eventually be replaced by better components whether they be by BMW's supplier or an aftermarket company. As for the turbos, I that's really something BMW should look into pronto. For a company that should know a lot about turbos, this is pretty pathetic. And if the defect turns out to be due to a radical design, why would BMW put that in their 3 series? I can understand the turbos going screwy on a 7 series; It's a flagship, they're expected to have problems because they are a rolling testbed. I know you can't build safe and stay ahead of the competition, but making a lot of people suffer will bite back later. I doubt many of these 335i owners will buy another BMW for their next car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I owned a 2007 335i coupe. It was an outstanding car and never once had a problem with it. I was aware of the problems and how sensitive they are to fuel, so I always used nothing but Shell 93. It never skipped a beat. I now have a 2010 Mazdaspeed3, so apparently I can't seem to get away from the high pressure pumps...ha. I still think that 335i was the best car i've ever owned and have no problem telling people that. Let's be honest, yes, they do have issues...but if you don't mind the occasional trip to your dealer, it's well worth the driving experience. Yeah, you could drive something like a Lexus and most likely never have to do anything but routine maintenance, but jeez, shoot me now. I'd rather be in a dealer once a month and have 3 weeks of awesome driving than never go to a dealer and be bored out of my mind every day.

      That's just me, though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A trip to the dealer once a month? Didn't they used to make jokes about Fiats and Renaults for that? That would be acceptable if they were inexpensive at least. Certainly NOT acceptable in 2010, and when they cost as much as they do, no matter how good the driving experience is, especially when the manufacturer refuses to stand by its product and charges exorbitant rates for service and parts. Been there, done that with BMW. Thanks, but no thanks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Apples and pickles? More like organic apples from Whole Foods versus organic apples from Fry's. Both quick cars with great handling. You just pay more for the privilege of owning the former.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just out of curiosity, why did you get rid of it for a MPS3? Those are Apple/Pickles sort of cars.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All these lawsuits - and folks wonder why the world's auto manufacturers don't bring the cutting-edge technology to the States...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, like Porsche never sell any of their RS cars here and MB have yet to give us AMG.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I KNOW! It's a rare PRIVILEGE to drive an unreliable over-engineered Teutonic POS.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I too continue to experience these problems car went limp on FRWY very scary. HPFP, one replaced only 6 months ago and the 2nd is starting to act up.

      Waste gate actuators replaced once and the second set is worse and now since they cant fix it they tell me its normal or they replace the turbos. The service advisers just play dumb until they know you are knowledgeable about the issues, "then play dumb".

      Software updates did nothing but did have a negative effect on the performance, Taking the car back, its embarrassing and the gas mileage is a joke.

      Will not take this car to far from home.

      Pretend and extend, I guess they learned this from our government.

      Take the damn award back this engine does not deserve it, but their all in bed together.


      • 4 Years Ago
      WHAAAAAT????!!! You mean BMWs and German cars in general aren't the most awesomest, bestest, most infallible perfect cars EVER? Cuz that's why I bought one because that's BMW has told me.

      Maybe BMW should reduce their model line up, stop chasing every niche no matter how small, and get back to their roots so they can concentrate on making their cars reliable and less needlessly complex.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Those in the Porsche crowd will attest that it is amazing that this has not yet also been done to Porsche due to the IMS failure issue on the M96/97 engines found in all NA and non GT 996/986/997/987 cars. Everyone on the boards moans when another engine goes boom and Porsche washes their hands of it, but no one has done anything about it yet. I never understand why car makers attempt to save a few dollars by refusing to stand behind their cars but lose untold amounts of money in future sales by alienating their fan base.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I'm sorry, what is the IMS and RMS?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yup, I'm paranoid about it and always take a peek at the garage floor before going off for a drive. What's annoying is that the RMS issue wasn't resolved with the 996 for as long as its run. I took a chance on a first year run C2S because I got a deal on it that was too good to pass up but I must admit I am haunted by the thought of waking up to a nice oil puddle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The RMS and the intermediate shaft are not the same problem, IIRC. The IMS has been redesigned from 2005+ and any remanu since late 05' have the new IMS design. The 997 and most if not all 987 are not prone to the IMS problem.

        And at least there's a repair kit for that. There is no known equivalent for the HPFP according to various BMW forums.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Would never trust a BMW engine...always seem problematic.
        • 4 Years Ago
        BMW makes pretty good motors (take it from someone not enamored by the brand).... It's the stuff that attaches to those motors that's not so great... especially with the least bit of aging.

        • 4 Years Ago
        instead of fixing obvious fail points in the design, they just assume it will go bad and include it on the scheduled maintenance
        • 4 Years Ago
        That sounds perfectly reasonable. I'd say powertrain issues are the least of the problems with bmw, usually its stupid little electrical things. Sure the HPFP issue sucks, but i've had zero issues with mine (2007 e92 335i, 37k miles) in any sense, with the exception of a taillight bulb burning out, squeaky brakes, and wear on my steering wheel trim, all covered promptly under warranty with no questions asked. Maybe its my dealer but they have always taken car of things quickly and given me a comparable or better loaner than the vehicle in for service. If wheels were falling off of cars spontaneously combusting, i'd say that warrants a lawsuit, but they are extending the warranty and have made some efforts to fix things, sure theres some things that need to be addressed, but i think this is more about some lawyers trying to get rich than the good of the public. Just my 2 cents.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My BMW motor has been bulletproof.
      thecornfedmule
      • 1 Year Ago
      Kinda happy I went with the 550i vs the 535i when I purchased my car way back when. I wanted good power but decent reliability (by BMWs standards). Car has been a tank after 80K miles with only the usual control arm and tire wear issues. Something that's not mentioned in the comments that goes along with the N54 ownership is the need for carbon build up head cleaning after a certain period of time. Also, don't forget the continued problems with fuel injectors...you can't replace just one anymore. One injector goes bad and they all will have to be replaced. Once the aftermarket replacement parts become reasonable, I'll probably pick up a nice 135 coupe for track blasting...
      • 4 Years Ago
      My 535 with the N54 was in the shop for a week with fuel pump failure but am I going to let some greedy lawyer to make money out of that issue? Hell no! BMW gave me an X5 to drive around for the whole time. Other than that one issue,I havent had any problem at all and have thoroughly enjoyed the car. I did affect my decision not to buy it back though. Am i going to buy/lease another BMW? Yes!! its going to be the new 535-if the facelifted XF with a lot more hp doesnt lure me away!
        • 4 Years Ago
        In the long run you still lose. Problem-prone vehicles cause resale values to drop, meaning future lease rates will be higher when you go to sign for a new one. So, yes, you do end up paying for their lack of willingness to tackle the problem and make cars that don't fail.
      • 4 Years Ago
      You know what's funny? All you heard from 335i owners on Bimmerpost prior to the introduction of the N55 was complaining about the N54. Some, who had repeated failures, had a legitimate right to complain. Others just jumped on the bandwagon. And what did you hear from the same people when the N55 was released?

      "Boy, sure am glad I got the 335i when I did!"
        • 4 Years Ago
        That sucks... problems like these are what kept me away from the 335 when I went to buy a car a few years back, I was hoping they would have resolved these issues by now with the N55.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't buy the first generation of German anything.
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