Alpha V10

Alpha V10

"These build journal entries are part of a Special Series on the development of the S85 CSL Style Carbon Plenum and S85 CSL Competition Complete Carbon Intake System and written in collaboration with Sal at Infinity Design.

In this entry written in collaboration with Sal @ InfinityDesign, I document the technical differences of MAF, MAP and Alpha-N engine mapping. 

We discuss why the S85 was built for AlphaN, the mapping process and I end with my driving impressions drawing a comparaison with its younger brother: the M3 V8."
- Matt

A brief history and definitions. 

Mass Air Flow. 

MAF sensors measure the Flow as a Mass of Air.

MAF sensors are extremely accurate in knowing how much air is entering the intake system, but not only that.

The S85 MAF also includes a thermosensitive element: it monitors air temperatures. This will be useful later on as both alttitude and temperatures determine air density: a fundamental element to making power.  

One of the downsides to MAF are limitations imposed on intake designs: if there are any changes to the overall diameter or shape of the tract on aftermarket intakes, you're going to have error codes for wrong data readings.

The MAF sensors are positioned in the intake trace besides the sealed filters.

OEM filters get dirty, ultimately MAF sensors can get dirty and need to be cleaned. 

Mass Air Pressure (MAP). 

MAP takes into consideration the absolute pressure as it accounts for both vacuum (negative) and open throttle or leaks (positive pressure) to deliver its readings to the DME. 

BMW got their feet wet with Mass Air Pressure (MAP) sensors with the S54

My CSL airbox uses a MAP sensor conversion over Alpha-N. 

The MAP can't read air temperatures. You also need to refit an IAT sensor to the CSL airbox. The HaimusRacing CSL airbox positions the sensor closer to the filter. This has been proven to avoid heat soak issues.


BMW M didn't bother with MAF on the M3 V8.

Using the MSS60 variant, the S65 used MAP and IAT sensors to great effect: the S65 always felt hyper responsive, visceral and ready to jump out of the engine bay.

BMW M has been using MAP ever since on their M engines. 

No MAFs here.

Why was MAF still used on the S85?

The MAF derived engine maps were still considered the all encompassing, risk free engine mapping option back in 2005 when the V10 was introduced. 

It was still an M5. 

BMW M engineered the M5 for its target market: executives looking for an edgy daily driver, without compromises. 

My main criticism of the V10 M5 has always been its actually soft edges. The S85's throttle pedal has always felt like jello even in Sport Plus. I documented this in my blueprint to my build here

I picked up my 100% stock M5 in the Summer of 2021: I was sort of the target market, 15 years too late. 

Previous hesitations.

We can speculate that BMW M didn't yet feel confident enough in offering their flagship M5 with a MAP sensor such as the CSL considering their documented hesitation issues. 

We'll never truly know. 

Emissions target.

Fitting a V10 to a mass produced 5 series was mad enough - it also had to meet emissions across all weather conditions, and engine maintenance level. 

Remember BMW's 15,000 miles / 25,000km oil change recommendations?

Poorly maintained S85s are still able to meet emissions requirements by using MAF to adjust its adaptations. 

The V10s were built with AlphaN in mind.

Alpha N Basics.

Alpha is the throttle position and N is the engine speed. 

Compared to MAF engine mapping, Alpha N is when the throttle position is used as load rather than the air flow readings from the MAF. 

The air-fuel ratio is called lambda number (λ). It determines the mass ratio of air and fuel in the combustion chamber.

BMW M left a switch in the code.

You can using MAF to AlphaN as the predominant load sensor on the MSS65 in a simple code change. 

Fuel correction is set to lambda 1.0 for idle and partial load driving. The adjustments are then made extremely rapidly given how powerful the MSSx ECU’s are, 

The compensating factors for inlet air temperature, barometric pressure, oil temperature, coolant temperature etc are all the same in AlphaN as they are when the MAF is used.

Why? Moore's law!

Until the MSS65 was introduced, there had never been any other BMW M ECU designed with AlphaN in mind.

The MSS60 is claimed to be capable of more than 200 million calculations per second, it exponentially exceeded the S54’s ECU by a factor of 8x.

The MSS54 and MSS54HP found in the E46 M3 could run on Alpha-N as a failsafe mode only.

I documented this in my Alpha N v MAP conversion dilemma in the Special Series covering my CSL airbox experience. 

I had to swap a MSS54HP to run the CSL airbox with MAP. It's still just a gameboy in a world of Playstations. 

Plug and play? You just need to play!

There is no rewiring needed for IAT sensors: the MAFs are kept. 

The airflow readings are turned off, and the temperature readings from the thermosensitive elements are used to tune for AlphaN. 

The MAFs in their predetermined stock location. 

Keep your maintenance schedules tight, and consider your emissions tests. 

AlphaN is built for enthusiasts - marketing talk that infers expectations of tight maintenance schedule on oil changes and air filter cleaning & changes if required.

Each jurisdiction will have different emissions testing. AlphaN creates more variability in emissions produced by your engine. As a rule of thumb, the better condition it's in, the less emissions it'll produce. 

The AlphaN mapping process. 

The process itself is just like a standard S85 MAF tune: buy a tune, receive the flashing cable and load the software. 

Sal will then read your current map to create the AlphaN map for your specific DME.

He uses stage along with your desired specifications such as V max removal, increased rev limits, cold start delete, etc. 

Stage #  Required Modifications Expected Peak Power
1 None. I highly recommend the sealed air intakes 450whp
2 Primary cat deletes & aftermarket long tube headers. 470 to 475whp
3 Optimized for V3 long-tube, equal length headers. Further mid-range gains of 10whp 4000 to 6000rpm.  490 to 500whp
3+ Custom tuning for S85s with cams, strokers and/or superchargers.  Case by case.


Cable gets plugged into the OBD2, and the process begins. This picture was while loading a tune on a local member's S65.


So what's the point? 

AlphaN uncovers the raw V10 experience. 

Gone is the jello: there aren't any interferences when pressing the GO pedal. 

It feels as if my right foot was directly connected to the engine: the closest thing to a cable actuated throttle body.

It feels mechanical. 

It feels like a V10 should.

AlphaN is a must have if you're an enthusiast with a disciplined mind for maintenance.

Spec your tune or slide in my DM to have a chat about it. 
- Matt

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

I help you save money on everything you need for your BMW M.

ConnexPlus is a premium membership for the most demanding BMW M owners.

A select group of members will save on everything they will ever need for their BMW M cars at the world's biggest BMW parts retailers.