BMW SULEV – What Is It? [Benefits, Problems, and the Warranty]

The most rigorous requirements in car emissions are implemented in California because of the state’s pollution levels. Of all car manufacturers, BMW is the first one to introduce a technology that satisfies the state’s emission requirements. This technology is called SULEV. What is BMW SULEV?

BMW SULEV (Super Ultra-low Emissions Vehicle) cars are manufactured by BMW with the SULEV technology. This technology is the carmakers’ latest effort to make their vehicles produce 90% fewer emissions than conventional cars using gasoline engines.

Not all BMW cars are SULEV cars. Most BMW cars are of the LEV type. LEV means Low Emission Vehicle. It is worth noting that most cars under the BMW brand can meet the regulator’s low emission targets.

Read on to learn more about what SULEV means on a BMW, the BMW SULEV warranty, and BMW SULEV problems.



The term SULEV means Super Ultra-low Emissions Vehicle. BMW and other car manufacturers were required to develop a system that produces fewer emissions from their motorized vehicles. This spurred the development of this technology.

SULEV is also a classification system applied to vehicles that can produce 90% fewer emissions than the common cars powered by gasoline engines. BMW was the first of the major car manufacturers in the world that produced this kind of technology.

Not all vehicles produced by BMW are SULEV types. But almost all their vehicles are LEVs or low emission vehicles. The entire model range of BMW can meet the low emission targets of the law.

The performance of a car that has SULEV technology is not affected. This technology focuses on the fuel tank’s evaporative system and other volatile vapor emissions, including vehicle warranty. It does not do anything that relates to engine performance.

How to know if your BMW is SULEV? You will know if your BMW is a SULEV car by looking under the hood. A SULEV engine will have ‘SULEV’ etched on it somewhere in the engine block. If you see this word, it is a BMW N51 engine. But if you see the word ‘LEV’ instead, your engine is a BMW N52. You can also check your BMW VIN (vehicle identification number) if it’s a SULEV or an LEV.

Why Did BMW Develop SULEV Technology?

The idea of a super clean automotive engine started in California because of the overabundance of harmful particles in the environment. To keep its metro areas clean, this state thought of implementing a law regulating vehicles’ emission of particulates.

So, SULEV technology was born. What does SULEV mean on a BMW? This word means Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle. Only vehicles that can produce 90% fewer emissions are allowed to bear this tag. It quickly became the standard in the early 2000s.

The engineers at the BMW plant in Bavaria, Germany, quickly took the challenge. Eventually, they came up with a new tech that answers the challenge of 90% fewer emissions for cars – the SULEV technology. They started installing it in their 2003 BMW E46 3-series.

How BMW Developed Its SULEV Vehicles

When California implemented the SULEV requirement, BMW immediately jumped ahead of the others. But they did not design a completely new engine. They know that the law only orders them to satisfy the new and stricter emission standards.

So, they modified their existing vehicle lineup instead. The legendary M54 engine was the first that BMW revamped. This is the go-to model that enabled BMW to implement the changes at that time. To them, this engine was the easiest to convert into a SULEV.

When the motor was redesigned into a SULEV, BMW called it the M56. They used it as the powerhouse for cars in the United States that require SULEV engines. However, as time went on, BMW saw several weaknesses in the M56.

The design of the M56 is more complex than the M54 because of the emission standard requirements. But it also exhibited the same weaknesses as the M54. But the issues of the M56 are more expensive to resolve.

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BMW 3 Series Line Up with SULEV

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Several BMW vehicles are equipped with SULEV engines. The models in the different series have grown over the years. But the rear-wheel drives are the best overall and also provide the best in fuel economy.

Several BMW 3 series variants have different body styles and power trains. They include the hatchback Gran Turismo, the sedan, and the wagon. There is also the BMW 4 series which consists of a convertible and a coupe.

BMW sedans all come with rear-wheel drives as standard. The all-wheel-drive variant is available with the xDrive. Another standard is the 8-speed automatic transmission. However, there are the 6-speed manual versions for those who want to be more active when driving. Manual transmissions are available for the 340i xDrive, the 340i, the 328i, and the 320i for the same price.

How a BMW Car Becomes a SULEV

A BMW car is classified as a SULEV vehicle if it is equipped with this technology and passes the regulator’s strict emission requirements. It will also have the following features:

1. Fuel System

The SULEV technology has a completely closed fuel system where all the parts are integrated. It has a closed fuel tank where the fuel pump and a ‘long-life’ fuel filter are integrated. That’s why if the fuel filter or the fuel pump fails, you have to replace the tank and all the things inside it.

2. Intake System

The intake system of a SULEV car has an upgraded air box. It comes with an additional carbon-lined filter as well. This filter keeps out excess hydrocarbon from polluting the atmosphere. There are also additional components and more complicated installations in this system.

3. Exhaust System

It is in its exhaust system that SULEV cars are markedly different from conventional cars. There is a catalytic converter at the end of the exhaust manifold. This catalytic converter needs to be warmed up before it can attain its optimum operating efficiency.

It is designed to burn the most amounts of residual particles as soon as the system has attained its peak operating temperature.

4. Engine Cooling

In BMW SULEV cars, there are also different components compared to conventional cars. For instance, the radiator in a SULEV car is different. It has a special manganese dioxide coating. There is an integrated sensor built into the core of the radiator too. If you use a conventional radiator in a SULEV car, your car will throw codes that will only confuse you.

BMW 328i xDrive SULEV Specs and Features

One of the most popular cars that belong to the BMW SULEV lineup is the BMW 328i xDrive SULEV 4-door All-wheel Drive Sedan 2016 model. It belongs to BMW’s 328 series.

Here are its specifications and features:

Essential Specifications

  • Engine – 2.0 liters gasoline engine, I-4
  • Horsepower – 240 hp at 5,000 RPM.
  • Torque – 255 lb.-ft at 1,250 RPM.
  • Drive Type – All-wheel drive
  • Transmission – 6-speed manual w/OD transmission
  • Fuel – Gasoline
  • Fuel tank capacity – 15.8 gallons
  • EPA mileage estimates – 22 mpg city, 34 mpg highway
  • Payload – 900 lbs.
  • Turning Radius – 19.2 inches

Standard Features

  • 17″ silver aluminum wheels
  • Sensatec leatherette seat trim
  • ABS and driveline traction control
  • Front air conditioning, dual-zone automatic
  • Rear air conditioning, with separate controls
  • Windshield wipers – rain sensing
  • Front Fog/driving lights
  • 1st row LCD monitor
  • AM/FM/HD/Satellite-prep, seek-scan Radio
  • Heated mirrors
  • Keyfob (all doors) Remote keyless entry

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Regarding drivability, the BMW sedan and wagon handle just like you would expect a BMW should. In terms of comfort, nothing in BMW’s fleet can beat the Gran Turismo. It is surefooted more than a tall crossover.

The 328i variant with its 2-liter turbo engine provides precise-shifting manual transmission. It can attain 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds. Peak torque comes at 1,250 RPM. This car works well with the standard 8-speed transmission. You can shift to Sports mode if you want faster shifts.

The 340i variant is quicker than the 328i because it can pick up speed from zero to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. All variants have Driving Dynamics Control, enabling you to choose either the Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, and Sport + mode. Comfort is the default drive.

Overall, the 328i seems to be the best buy for most car buyers. It has the best combination of reasonable price, good mileage, and available power. Here is a video of the 2016 BMW SULEV 328i. This video shows the essential specs and features of this SULEV car, making it a good and safe car to drive:

So we’ve looked at what SULEV means on a BMW; next, let’s look at problems with BMW SULEV.

BMW SULEV Problems

While BMW SULEV’s have been protective of the environment, its desire to do so has also resulted in certain problems. Here are some of the most common BMW SULEV problems that their owners have encountered:

1. Dealers May Not Honor the BMW SULEV Warranty

An owner of a BMW SULEV with only 48,000 miles encountered a problem when the car’s fuel pump failed. The dealer does not know anything about the warranty, and the dealer said it would cost $8,130 to have it repaired. But the current value of the car is only about $11,000.

The thing is, they can’t repair the fuel pump without replacing the tank, which is not plastic but stainless steel. So, they had to argue with the dealer so that their warranty will be honored. Some dealers will say they do not cover the warranty. They would like to avoid the huge repair cost.

If this happens, you really need to insist that this warranty should be honored. And geography does not limit this warranty, as one BMW SULEV owner discovered when fighting for the warranty rights.

2. Repair Costs Are Typically Expensive


There are BMW car owners who found out that SULEV repair costs can cost more than their cars’ value. But the SULEV BMW warranty covers most of the parts. However, not all states honor this warranty.

3. Revs Are Harder with SULEV Cars

Some BMW SULEV owners compared its revs with the revs of their non-SULEV cars. They found out that the revs of non-SULEVs are easier. They could not feel the turbo kicking in with their SULEVs like it is with their non-SULEVs.

4. The Pump and Tank Are Dealer Only Parts

There are BMW SULEV owners who found out that SULEV pumps and tanks are only available from dealers. They are expensive at $6,000 a set. They tried searching for more affordable parts and found one at $5,500. But they have to pay for shipping and had to install the system themselves.

BMW SULEV Warranty

BMW provides a special warranty to its vehicles that are equipped with SULEV Technology. However, if you are not aware of this BMW SULEV warranty and something happens to your BMW’s fuel system that requires repair or replacement, BMW or its dealer will leave you holding the bag.

All BMW cars with SULEV technology have a warranty of 15 years or 150,000 miles. That means if your SULEV BMW car is still less than 150,000 miles, you can claim this warranty if there is something wrong going wrong with your car that is emission-related.

But be also aware that some owners of BMW SULEVs have to go through the eye of a needle, so to speak, to claim this warranty. Why? As mentioned earlier, repairing this SULEV technology or anything connected to it is very expensive. So is with its replacement parts.

Another thing you need to know about the BMW SULEV warranty is that not all states in the US honor it. California and New York do. For other states, check Google to find out.

Conclusion: BMW SULEV Specs and Review

BMW cars that are branded as BMW SULEV vehicles are equipped with the SULEV technology. BMW developed this technology to make cars friendlier to the environment. If a BMW car or other cars, for that matter, is equipped with this technology, it will produce 90% fewer emissions than ordinary cars that are powered by gasoline engines.

If you choose to get yourself one of the BMW SULEV vehicles, then look out for the common problems associated with it:

  1. Dealers May Not Honor the Warranty
  2. Repair Costs Are Typically Expensive
  3. Revs Are Harder with SULEV Cars
  4. The Pump and Tank Are Dealer Only Parts

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