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The 316ti compact is the first production car in the world featuring an engine controlled by a Valvetronic air supply.

Accordingly, the Valvetronic engine no longer requires a throttle butterfly, which has quite literally restricted the free ventilation of the internal combustion engine ever since its invention. Now Valvetronic replaces this conventional function by infinitely variable intake valve lift, offering a quantum leap in technology quite comparable to the changeover from the carburetor to fuel injection. And at the same time clearly proves the outstanding competence and innovative power of BMWs engineers, Valvetronic going back to a BMW patent and manufactured exclusively on BMWs own machines and facilities. 

Its most important feature is that it is able to save at least 10 per cent fuel throughout the entire operating range relevant to the customer, with a corresponding reduction in exhaust emissions, regardless of fuel quality. And a further important point is that the efficient operation of Valvetronic does not require any unusual types and grades of oil possibly difficult to obtain.

As a result of these particular features the 85 kW/115bhp BMW 316ti compact with its top speed of 210 km/h or 125 mph consumes a mere 6.9 liters of premium fuel on 100 kilometers in the European test cycle, equivalent to 40.9 mpg Imp. This is a significant 0.7 liters less than the former 77 kW/105 bhp compact and well over a liter less than all competitors in this class.

The Valvetronic system is based consistently on BMWs proven double-VANOS (VANOS = variable adjustment of the camshafts), with infinite camshaft adjustment to meet specific requirements. The additional, variable valve lift adjusts the effective cam action and, accordingly, the opening cross-section of the valves. 

This is done by a lever positioned between the camshaft and the intake valves, its distance from the camshaft being adjusted infinitely by an additional eccentric shaft operated by an electric motor. Depending on the position of the Valvetronic control system, the lever converts the cam contour into a larger or smaller valve lift, whatever may be required.

Taking nature as the role model: human beings also apply the Valvetronic principle

A comparison with the human being clearly explains how Valvetronic works: Whenever we are required to make a great effort, we human beings breathe in a deep and long process of ventilation. Whenever we need less air, we do not throttle the supply of air by, say, closing our nose or our mouth, but simply breathe in a shorter, flatter process of ventilation. In a conventional combustion engine the throttle butterfly is basically comparable to a human being keeping his nose or mouth at least partially closed. With its large valve lift (= deep, long ventilation) and short valve lift (= flat, short process of ventilation), Valvetronic, on the other hand, is able to breathe in the same way as nature always in line with current requirements, without any kind of throttling effect and therefore with maximum efficiency.

Fuel economy up by at least 10 per cent: as economical as only a diesel was in former times

Valvetronic offers the customer direct, immediate benefits, with fuel consumption and exhaust emissions decreasing, but dynamic performance and the spontaneous response of the engine improving accordingly. Added to this there is the even higher standard of running smoothness, since the valves move only slightly in a precisely controlled process.

The improvement in fuel economy ensured by this concept of throttle-free engine load management is approximately 10 per cent in the EU cycle and at least 10 per cent under the typical driving conditions encountered by a customer. The basic rule is that fuel economy versus other concepts increases with the driver running the vehicle at lower loads and engine speeds. The consumption figures the motorist is able to achieve in this way are comparable to the fuel economy only a diesel engine was able to offer just a few years ago.

At the same time the new four-cylinder is even more dynamic than its predecessor, the 316ti now accelerating well over a second faster to 100 km/h, achieving this important mark from a standstill in 10.9 seconds. The standing-start kilometer, in turn, comes after 31.6 seconds, 1.8 seconds faster than before, and the top speed of the 316ti is now 201 km/h or 125 mph, 11 km/h faster than the top speed of the former model.

Another advantage is the unusually spontaneous response of the 316ti to the gas pedal. This is attributable to the simple fact that load control, to use the technical term for "giving gas", now takes place "right there where the action is", that is directly in the combustion chamber. This eliminates the usual time lag between the process of "giving gas" and the actual acceleration of the car, which used to be inevitable due to the need to fill the intake manifold between the throttle butterfly and the combustion chamber. In this respect, Valvetronic even outperforms the most advanced concepts using individual throttle butterflies, thus offering an unprecedented combination of spontaneous engine response and ultra-fine dosage of power and performance under low loads.

Perfectly suited for all fuel grades, contrary to a direct-injection (DI) petrol engine

Another significant advantage of Valvetronic highly beneficial to the customer is that a Valvetronic engine offers at least the same fuel economy as the most advanced direct-injection petrol engines without the same compromises in terms of emissions. Accordingly, the 316ti is able to do without the elaborate and so far hardly reliable emission management technologies still required today on a direct-injection petrol engine. And it does not require sulfur-free fuel like a direct-injection petrol engine, achieving its superior fuel economy with proven l =1 technology, which allows the Valvetronic engine to run on all commercially available grades of regular petrol. In other words, the customer enjoys all the consumption-related advantages of Valvetronic also when driving in countries without a nationwide supply of sulfur-free fuel. The consumption figures for the 316ti nevertheless relate to the use of premium fuel with an octane rating of 95 RON. Together with its 63-liter (13.9 Imp gal) fuel tank, the 316ti offers a much longer range than its predecessor, with extra-urban fuel consumption in the European EU test cycle of just 5.3 liters for 100 kilometers (53.3 Imp gals). This means that the driver would only have to refuel after a very significant 1,188 kilometers or 737 miles.

Basic engine design completely revised

Not only the cylinder head with BMWs new Valvetronic technology, but also the complete four-cylinder power unit featured in the BMW 316ti is an all-new development from the ground up. The new cross-flow cooling concept with its open deck crankcase reduces coolant flow resistance and therefore allows use of a smaller water pump with just 60 per cent of the usual power uptake.

Made of aluminum, the engine block ends exactly on the centerline of the crankshaft bearings. A ladder frame between the crankcase and the oil sump connects the lower halves of the bearing bridges to form one complete unit also accommodating the balance shaft housing and the two-stage oil pump. This makes the entire drive unit very stiff and robust, minimizing any vibration of other vehicle components the driver would otherwise feel on the steering wheel, gearshift lever and pedals, and also perceive as a kind of consistent humming noise.

All ancillaries are bolted directly to the crankcase without the rather elaborate supports and attachments otherwise required again an important contribution to running smoothness with vibrations reduced to a minimum.

BMWs new four-cylinder furthermore comes with all modern engine technologies such as:

  • Anti-knock control for running on all fuel grades between 87 and 99 octane.

  • Maintenance-free ignition system with individual coils.
  • Maintenance-free valve drive with hydraulic valve play compensation.
  • A Service Interval Indicator to keep the cost of service to a minimum
  • A two-mass flywheel for maximum running smoothness
  • Valve drive with roller bearings throughout in the interest of minimum friction and fuel consumption.
  • Advanced catalysts near the engine in special manifold design for minimum emissions.

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