Of all the cars in BMW's closet, the 6 Series wears its new togs the best. It is the quintessential luxury sports coupe, both low-slung and aggressive. If fans of the Roundel wanted a hero, this is it.
Federico Pavoncelli has been a BMW fan since he bought his first 320i more than 20 years ago. "The original owner said it had Recaros in it," he recalled. "I didn't even know what Recaros were." Despite his being fairly noobish, the BMW bug bit Pavoncelli hard. He had to make the car faster and look better. Problem was, no one had anything he liked. He had to make everything himself. Like many Italian designers, Pavoncelli is both gifted and somewhat unorganized. In speaking with him he occasionally drifts off as another project comes to mind. And given BMW's current product line, Pavoncelli will become even more distracted. He's got a big job ahead.
Looking at the R54 featured on these pages, it's obvious Pavoncelli and the crew at RD Sport were well focused. They've essentially built a unique version of BMW's vaunted M6, a car that promises to be both rare and exclusive. Should you need one of these, you might want to buy a 6 Series in Munich and drive it to Milan. Spend a week or two in the Dolomites, and upon returning, you'll be treated to a very different car.
Inside its machine shop, RD Sport disassembles the N series engine and enlarges the bore and stroke to accommodate new forged pistons with F1-type rings, a billet crank and exotic connecting rods. Exact dimensions are unique to the R54 and Pavoncelli keeps them secret. RD Sport then installs its sport cams and "breathes" on the valvetrain for greater efficiency. The motor is treated with stainless-steel tubular headers, metal matrix cats, an X-flow crossover pipe and custom silencers. RD Sport then re-maps the computer to best utilize the motor's new dimensions. Dyno testing showed a sizable improvement, with peaks of 496 bhp and 415 lb-ft of twist.
"We recorded a sustained 311 km/h on the autostrada," Pavoncelli said."Our aerodynamics do a pretty good job of keeping things grounded."
That the R54 is powerful is already proven. That it can do 193 mph is testament to the way it's shaped. It takes more than bhp to get safely get a car going this fast. The RD Sport aerodynamic package consists of a unique front airdam, side skirts and rear valance. The stuff is comprised of carbon-Kevlar with 100% carbon inlays. And while the parts are extremely strong, they are also flexible enough to take daily-driven beatings.
RD Sport also offers driveline conversions featuring limited-slip differentials, and a 3.41:1 rear axle. These can be augmented with a diff cooler plumbed into the rear valance. The RD Sport driveline kits are an intelligent way to wring more performance from a BMW. It's a shame more tuners don't pursue gearing mods, as they make use of what's already there.
The underpinnings are revised with RD Sport bits including springs and dampers, conspiring to lower the chassis nearly an inch. Brakes can be upgraded to include six-piston calipers and 15-inch vented and slotted discs. Running gear is comprised of 20-inch RS2 forged wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber.
Like the previous RD Sport cars we tested, the R54 has a unique character. If the M6 is a linebacker, the R54 is the wide receiver, both agile and quick. Although there are easier and less expensive ways to coax more power from the 6 Series engine (like supercharging), it is against RD Sport's philosophy. "We believe larger displacement is the best way to go for more performance," said Pavoncelli."We always have and always will." Each RD Sport car is placed within the company's database so if any issues arise, the crew knows the specifics.
"I got a call the other day from the owner of an RD K2.1 318ti," Pavoncelli said. "He was restoring it and needed a few parts. We had the entire build sheet on the computer."The R54 is very much like the M6, so much so it begs the question, why not just buy one of those?
"It's really about uniqueness and exclusivity," said Pavoncelli. "Our customers want something rare and singular. When a fellow driver sees an R54 he at first thinks it's an M6, but on closer inspection realizes it is something else."The R54 gets more than its share of attention and rightly so. It's well engineered, sexy and extremely fast, especially from 75 to140 mph. Nothing's better than blowing the doors off the unsuspecting, like the poor guy in the Lexus. He knew it was something German, probably a BMW.That's close enough.
RD SPORT R54
Longitudinal front engine,rear-wheel drive
5.4-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder, ValvetronicBillet crank, billet connecting rods, low friction bearings, forged pistons, stainless steel tubular manifolds, metal matrix hi-flow cats,RD Sport mufflers, RD Sportsoftware
RD Sport progressive rate springs and dampers
Brembo/RD Sport six-piston calipers, 15-inch slotted rotors, performance brake pads
Wheels and Tires
RD Sport RS2, 9x20 H2 (f)
10.5x20 H2 (r)
Michelin PilotSport2, 255/30-20 (f) 295/25-20 (r)
R54 Aerodynamic kit
RD Sport race pedals with oversized gas pedal, integrated dead pedal
Peak Power: 496 bhp @ 6200 rpm
Peak Torque: 415 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.8 sec.
Top Speed: 193 mph