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 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.
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.
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.
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
Top Speed: 155mph (limited)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
I wasn't too sad to give it back, though I missed that epic engine. So, I went and bought an E46 M3...
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.....
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
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.
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...?!