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Thursday 6th September 2012

Tell Me I'm Wrong: BMW Z4 M Coupe

It should be wonderful, Chris Harris thinks it isn't and invites you to put him right



The styling was a bad start, that's all I can say. Its predecessor, the fantastically unexpected Z3 M Coupe was all curves and distended wheelarches and this Z4 M was just so, well, conventional.

Too normal compared with the Z3 M?
Too normal compared with the Z3 M?
Many of you will already be spitting phlegm at the screen because someone has the temerity to categorise a Garching product in PH's democratic Room 101 (not for the first time - Ed.), but I just don't see why you'd buy a Z4 M unless you suffered from chronic agoraphobia and felt an M3 was too big.

There is no single dynamic measurement in which the Z4 M is superior to the E46 M3. Is that a supportable statement? Could be. It was lighter and, on paper, was supposed to be a bit faster, but it never felt that quick to me. But for steering, ride and perhaps most importantly driver confidence, the M3 killed it. And, yes, I know that last point wasn't objective.

Let's agree on this - the engine is fabulous
Let's agree on this - the engine is fabulous
Sum of its parts
So the reason you buy a cramped coupe with potentially severe depreciation is usually quite simple: it's better to drive than the mainstream car with which it shares many components, in this case an engine. Well, I don't think it was as good to drive, which leaves us with the only other reason why you might make such a choice - the way it looks. Which brings me back to the point about the original Z3 M breadvan being cooler than an Eskimo's spuds, and this one appearing rather too conventional.

The case for the defense will suggest that the comparison with the E46 M3 is unfair because the two barely overlapped - when the E86 Z4 M Coupe arrived in 2006, the E46 had months to live, and it might be possible to argue that the Z4 M actually makes a stronger case for itself against the E90 Series V8 M3, and of course it was a much cheaper car to purchase from new.

Rear-set cabin is on the cosy side
Rear-set cabin is on the cosy side
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me was the gap that existed between the expectation and the reality. On paper, a small coupe body with the sublime S54 straight-six and a chassis by BMW M should have been a recipe that made us forget that the E30 M3 ever existed. But the car just never quite delivered. It reminded me of certain TVRs, in that it matched a slight laziness in its suspension behaviour with an aggressive steering rack. Also, sitting so far back in the car made it hard to judge small steering inputs going fast down narrower roads, but I'm sure regular exposure makes that less of a problem.

On point
Boy was it lively in the wet too. I remember switching the chassis nanny off and being a bit shocked. Not at the immediate oversteer, because that's more easily dealt with. No, what we had here was that pernicious build-up of understeer, the one that claims more victims than any other rear-drive mishap. The front would push and push and then, with half a turn of lock wound in, the rear tyres would say "actually we're going to take the wider line now, thanks" at which point the car became difficult to contain. Amusing, but very spiky.

Fast, sure, but it lacks poise and precision
Fast, sure, but it lacks poise and precision
Drive a Cayman S immediately afterwards, and the Z4 feels a little bit shambolic.

Of course I'm writing about the car the way I received it when it was new, and like so many other vehicles, what once missed the target is now presenting itself as a very accomplished used choice. It's fast, sounds magnificent, is mechanically robust and there isn't really anything else out there quite like it. It's kind of a German TVR Sagaris - a little bit wild and the perfect antidote to a Boxster or Cayman.

I completely accept that, but in light of how much better - to my eyes - the original breadvan looks, and how much better I expected it to drive, the Z4 M still strikes me as a missed opportunity.

Wait there - yep, the Kevlar jacket is now on - please go ahead and tell me why I'm wrong.


BMW Z4 M COUPE (E85)
Engine:
3,187cc straight-six
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 343@7,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 269@4,900rpm
0-62mph: 5.0sec
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,485kg
MPG: 23.3mpg
C02: 292g/km
Price:£42,950 (new)

Chris Harris
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Author Discussion

tjlazer

Original Poster:

424 posts

58 months

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I think you're wrong here Chris. These cars are wonderful, I had a z4mr and we had a whole lot of fun on road and track. The z3m is very distinctive but put some CSLs on one of these and you have a thing of beauty to my eyes. Great fun and why the hell would I want an m3 instead? Far too common and practical. Not perfect but brilliant once you are used to them. Come on the oversteer opportunities are far more exciting in this than a cayman!

Reardy Mister

11,300 posts

106 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all


I wonder if we should also be adding to the mix: What does it do significanlty better than the 3.0lsi?

b14

431 posts

72 months

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The primary reason I'd have this over an E46 M3 is because I live in South East London, where M3s are driven by drug dealers alone.

I agree with the other sentiments though, the E46 M3 is in my view more desirable in every respect, except possibly image.

Raify

6,475 posts

132 months

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Well, since you asked to tell me why you're wrong.... Let's start with something subjective, the looks.

I've owned a Breadvan and now have a Z4m Coupe, and I prefer the Z4, mostly because of the front end. The Z3 looked awful, IMHO, and the Z4 isn't perfect, but it's better.

I'm just a sucker for "training shoe" shaped cars, and the Z4 looks great as far as I'm concerned.

The Z4 isn't perfect though. The gearchange isn't a joy to use, and the damping is shown up by terrible roads. If you could get Evora-spec damping with those looks and that engine, then you'd have something special.


playalistic

1,569 posts

48 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
The pervading memory of these is definitely understeer when pushed hard. Also the jittery bouncy (and confidence sapping) ride over anything other than a perfectly laid road surface. Oh also, the massively over-invasive traction control.

Other than that, they are superb machines and have a real x-factor that is hard to explain. With some choice suspension mods they can be made great.
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jontysafe

1,435 posts

62 months

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I hate to say it because I had one for 18 months but I have to agree...... To a point.
One of the major problems, IMHO , is that is was much more a product of Spartanburg, than a product of Garching, seeing as that's where it was built. The chassis lacked the "fast across any surface" fluidity of the e46 M3. I had absolutely no confidence to push in long sweeping bends as it never really felt as though it settled on a line. This could say more about the current state of our roads though.
The gearbox from 1st to 2nd was particularly recalcitrant as was the clutch delay valve when pulling away at fast junctions.

I guess I wasn't lucky with mine, had a new engine under warranty, failed rear shocks (fairly common) and numerous O2 sensor issues. Swapped it in for an M6 convertible which I loved.

Such a shame there won't be an M version of the current Z4 with a last hurrah for the v8 in the e90 M3 with dct. I would buy that. Maybe a year old one but I would buy it. Come to think of it that's probably why BMW aren't going to build it.

I always loved the S54 engine though, a true great.

scz4

1,709 posts

125 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
I would agree the M3 is the better drive and inspires confidence, whereas the Z4M feels nervous on anything but a smooth surface. The M3 suspension is better tuned for our bumpy A\B roads. The steering feels much nicer too, better turn in, could be related to sitting so far back as mentioned or the chunky steering wheel which must absorb some of the feel on the Zed. No tramlining in the M3 either, even on 19's, or fighting it to keep it in a steady straight line. The M3 has a very split personality, where as the Z4M only does going (very) fast well.

However, purely for looks and the Z4M interior, I'd have that sitting on my drive way It still looks relatively fresh compared to the E46 M3, which has dated a lot in recent years. Z4M being a 2 seater obviously feels a more special place to sit.

If only the Z4M was 200kg lighter.. but that was never going to happen with the cast iron lump up front, but it's almost worth it just for the noise and the way the power is delivered, awesome engine!

I've driven two Z3M coupe, one with the S50 B32 engine and a S54. The S54 didn't feel any faster. The car initially feels very soft, but once you get to grips with it it corners better than expected, especially given the rear is old technology from an E30 if I remember correctly.

The breadvan still looks very special, but the roadster looks dated and pretty dire from the back. If I had a choice, it would be the Z4M roadster.. but only as a weekend car. M3 as the daily, all round beast.


Edited by scz4 on Thursday 6th September 14:09

Herbs

2,850 posts

113 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
I cannot comment on the Coupe but the roadster was one of the most enjoyable cars I have owned and would take it over (& have taken over) the M3 any day so long as you do not need the rear seats. It is also one of the few cars i would love to own again.

They take quite a while to bond with and to dial yourself in to the chassis but on fast country roads it is sublime.

Therefore have to completely disagree with you smile

martyspain

58 posts

53 months

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Had a Z4M Roadster on loan from a mate for a month a couple of years ago. Mixed experience - it was the first M-car I drove, and I loved the bonkers engine and the pops and burbles from the exhaust on the overrun. I did feel like I was sat on the rear axle which made the long bonnet seem even longer, and the ride was awful. It felt like a point-and-squirt machine, nothing special in the corners.

I wasn't too sad to give it back, though I missed that epic engine. So, I went and bought an E46 M3...

MarJay

1,862 posts

59 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
But for £15k for a 2006 M car...

My 2005 130i cost £12k when I bought it back in 2010... This makes the Z4M coupe a viable trade in option methinks!

E90 M3? Forget it.

Greg 172

179 posts

85 months

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As a financially challanged Pistonhead-er (yes, such things exist!), I can only argue against the styling bit. Sure, the M Coupe 'breadvan' had that out-of-proportion, slightly-shambolic 'wrongness', (a bit like the Clio V6) that made it look strangely good.

But does the Z4 coupe really look bad? I always though it seemed better resolved and more like a real product, rather than something cobbled together after hours. But what do I know.....

miln0039

2,004 posts

42 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
I have the 3.0si Coupe and firstly, I think it looks great in ruby black metallic. I get a LOT of positive feedback on the looks too!

The main problem with the M for me is that the battery steals a lot of the boot space.

Still, I love mine and no artcile written based on the memory of a drive some 6 years ago is going to stop me enjoying it smile

LuS1fer

31,704 posts

129 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
Regardless of how it goes, it is one of the few successful styling exercises perpetrated by the styling war criminals at BMW in recent years. the new Z4 is absolutely terrible to look at, a real boulevardier.

seefarr

284 posts

70 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
I love the look of these on CSL wheels. I can see one of these in my future.


Krikkit

4,947 posts

65 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
That's lovely, but I'll take it in blue.

I can see why it might be a bit of a disappointment, but surely a few gentle tweaks with some dampers and you'd sort the slightly wayward suspension?

miln0039

2,004 posts

42 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
seefarr said:
I love the look of these on CSL wheels. I can see one of these in my future.

It also has the obligatory stubby aerial.

I think it is an M looking at brakes etc, but the M badges have been deleted from the wings?

Raify

6,475 posts

132 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
miln0039 said:
It also has the obligatory stubby aerial.

I think it is an M looking at brakes etc, but the M badges have been deleted from the wings?
It's an American one, look at the side reflectors. Pretty hard to see if it's an M.

Defconluke

74 posts

38 months

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I don't know why but with the Z3 it's the coupe every day of the week but with the Z4 i'd much rather have the drop top - I think it's about the looks.

The breadvan Z3 is a fabulous looking thing and completely unique in the way it looks. I agree with Chris that the first generation Z4 coupe is bland in comparison but get the drop top and the long bonnet is made to look even longer with the top down.

The new Z4 doesn't look as good as the first generation does with the top down but looks immeasurably better when the hard top is up - like a slightly smaller SLS.


tjlazer

Original Poster:

424 posts

58 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
If they had seen to give this some better suspension (maybe edc) and a variable TC setting I think they would have been regarded as great. I still think they will in the end, as it doesn't look like another m of this ilk is likely again. The "powerboat" sensation of sitting on the rear axel with the enormous bonnet ahead of you is worth the price of admission alone, m3 just feels like you're in another car by comparison.

snorkel sucker

2,285 posts

87 months

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Thursday 6th September 2012 quote quote all
I think it is hard not to agree that the breadvan M coupe has grown into one of the best looking cars out there. That said, and sticking with looks for a second, at least the Z4M Coupe never suffered from that terrible Bangle-era afflication that meant that any non-M Sport adorned car looked, well, limp. It looks good in both si and Z4M trim.

My question though Chris (and everyone else) which would you deem better; a £15k Z4M Coupe or a £15k S54 engined M Coupe? The latter still command a hefty premium but - as far as I know - dynamically they are the same as the earlier cars.

One - surely - has to assume that both the Z4M and the M Coupe are eventually going to settle at a similar bottom end price so surely better to objectively (and subjectively) compare the Z4M with the S54 M Coupe...?!

coffee
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