BMW’s Z-range has always stood for roadsters, from the legendary Z1 with its unconventional doors that disappeared vertically into the bodywork, to the beautiful Z8. In between quite a few numbers are missing, but obviously we all know the Z3 and Z4 series that exist in a number of shapes and forms. Today we’ll look at the latter of those, the Z4 in its most potent BMW M-version.
The first generation of the Z4 was launched in 2002 in the US and was designed by the then highly praised and later not so praised Chris Bangle. The car made it to Europe in 2003 and the M-version of the roadster followed when the Z4 was subject to a first facelift in 2006. The Z4M Coupé was launched in the same year. Both M-versions were only produced until late 2008, so roughly during around two and a half years, and all of them were built in Germany. All in all, only slightly more than 5000 Z4 M Roadsters and around 4200 Z4 M Coupés were built.
Both the Z4 coupé and roadster were fitted with the same engine as the M3 (E46), i.e. a wonderful 3.2 litre straight six delivering 343 bhp in the Z4, allowing for a 0-100 time of below 5 seconds and a 250 km/h limited top speed (the limit could as an option be lifted, then allowing for a top speed of 275 km/h). That is a lot of speed so the brakes had better be good – and they were, as the Z4M inherited the same breaks as those fitted on the E46 M3 CSL. Unlike other Z4’s the M’s were only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. The M-cars were distinguishable from the less powerful Z4’s mainly through there 4 exhaust pipes and differently shaped engine hub.
The Z4M, given its power output was clearly positioned as a competitor to the 911 (997) rather than the Boxster. This is also the car it was most frequently compared to, comparisons it typically lost. Not because the Z4 was a bad car, rather because the 911 is an even better one… But precisely for that reason, the Z4 was sometimes praised for providing a bit more excitement than the 911. It was seen as a bit rawer around the edges, demanding more of its driver. And the fact that it was fitted with one of the greatest straight-six engines ever built allowed not only for great music but also for very similar speed.
Today the Z4M’s are rare figures, both as coupé and roadsters, but in spite of that prices have not yet started to climb, which is obviously the reason for this post. the Z4M ticks a lot of the right boxes: short production time, few cars built, great engine and design, and reasonable running costs. It is thus not a wild guess that prices may start to climb going forward as they have already done for example on the E46 M3 CSL (a lot!) and even the “normal” E46 MS. As we speak, nice cars with less than 100′ kms can be had for 25-30′ EUR, not much more than the less powerful, but much more ordinary Z4 3.0 version, and far less than any comparable 997. It is really a lot of bang for the buck in terms of driving pleasure!
So finally, should it be a coupé or a roadster? Both are two-seaters so it is really about individual taste. The coupé is arguably the more practical version and the better track car, providing more torsional stiffness. the roadster will compensate for that by unlimited access to the wonderful tones of the engine. Then again, the coupé looks better from behind, which is the end of the car most other drivers will see…