2007 BMW Z4 Preview

The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Henny Hemmes Henny Hemmes Editor
February 26, 2006
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With all the restrictions on European roads and congestion on the German Autobahn, there’s no great place for fast driving on the Continent outside of a racetrack. That made it all the more fitting that BMW held the preview for its new Z4 M roadster on the track, where the new tuned version of the roadster surely belongs.


We drove the new Z4 M Roadster around the track at Jerez de la Frontera in the south of Spain — as well as along a beautiful winding route through the mountains that enclose Jerez. On both routes, the Z4 M shone with the brilliance you expect from the most performance-oriented vehicles in BMW’s stable.


Late to the party?


The Z4 began issuing from BMW’s South Carolina factory in 2003 and has been a successful model since then, with 120,000 sales worldwide. But M fans have had to wait a long time for the “real thing.” Finally, after four years, the M Roadster arrives in U.S. showrooms in June. The M Coupe will follow several months later. The reason for the delay is that during the past three years BMW was very busy with the development of the M5 and M6 and simply had not enough capacity to do the Z4 M at the same time, company officials said.


The wait clearly has been worthwhile, as the new M roadster really impresses with its sophisticated handling, something its predecessor, the Z3 M Roadster lacked. The Z4 is much more refined and has well-balanced driving qualities on public roads, even at the fastest speed. But it’s also a sheer joy to drive the new car on the racetrack. After just a few laps, we were familiar with the track and were able to push the Z4 M and fully appreciate its racing potential. The first thing we learned, of course, was to push the Sports button and disengage the stability control system. Once those electronic helpers are disengaged, you can drift through the chicanes and sail through beautiful four-wheel drifts through the long and fast left-hander at Jerez. Shifting the Z4 M’s six manual gears is short, smooth, and precise, something we expect in any car from BMW.


The steering system is of the traditional hydraulic type, rather than electric. BMW uses its own brake system with single piston calipers and large vented disc brakes. Around the track and on the road, with considerable braking for tight bends, the brakes felt adequate and performed well. But after twenty laps on the track the system we longed for higher-capacity Brembo brakes, those better prepared to comply with much harder braking and the heat that is generated.


Horses unleashed


In the Z4 M Roadster, BMW combines its high performance 3.2-liter straight six with a manual six-speed gearbox with a short overall transmission ratio. The engine has a power output of 343 hp and has 269 lb-ft of torque. BMW says the engine reaches a maximum speed of 8000 rpm, but limits it electronically at 7900 rpm.


The body of the Z4 M Roadster is strong but very light, at only 3109 lb. Hence, output per liter of displacement is 106 hp, which translates into acceleration to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds. The top speed is limited to 155 mph and unlike the other M models, the Z4 M Roadster cannot be delivered with the top-speed package that takes away the limiter after 1243 miles. It is not worthwhile, BMW says, because the difference between the limited and unlimited speed would be too small, approximately 10 mph. But there is no need to brag about power, as the six-cylinder is very responsive and as its 215 lb-ft of torque (eighty percent) is available at 2000 rpm.


Along with the power, the Z4 M Roadster sings with a nice engine note. The engineers have put a lot of effort to have a sound that is reminiscent of motorsports cars and to limit the exhaust emissions to comply with the U.S. norms.


The suspension of the M Roadster has been lowered by 0.39 inches and wheel guidance has more negative camber. The weight distribution comes close to the optimal 50:50, and together with anti-roll bars and the wide front track of 58.5 inches and rear track of 59.7 inches, the Z4 M has great stability.


The car stands on 255/45ZR-18 rubber at the front and 255/40ZR-18 at the rear, on specially designed light–alloy rims. A tire-pressure monitor warns the driver when the pressure drops to less than 50 percent of the required level. Instead of a spare tire, BMW saves the 44 lb and outfits the M with a mini-compressor and rapid sealant for tire punctures.


The abovementioned DSC system has integrated stability control and Cornering Brake Control, which monitors the asymmetric brake pressure, preventing the car from swerving when applying the brakes upon entering a bend. Instead of Dynamic Traction Control that is normally part of DSC in the Roadster, the M has a variable, speed-sensing M differential lock. It is carried over from the M3 and adjusts the car’s behaviour at higher speeds. The system builds up a specific locking force on demand.


There are subtle differences between the Z4 Roadster and the M version, but the M stands out by some important structural changes. The underfloor has an improved airflow to cool the transmission and rear axle and by using a diffuser and an air dam in the rear, the flow of air along the underfloor is optimized.


The cockpit of the M is sporty and attractive. Leather and carbon-look trim on the dashboard lend the cabin a distinct feel. The speedometer and rev counter have black faces with white numbers and red indicator needles and are illuminated by white light. On the outside the Z4 M Roadster is recognizable by the revised front and rear fascias.


BMW will set pricing on the new Roadster closer to its on-sale date in June.

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Base price: $55,000 (est.)

Engine: 3.2-liter in-line six, 343 hp/269 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
Length x width x height: 160.4 x 69.5 x 50.8 in
Wheelbase: 98.3 in
Curb weight: 3273 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): N/A
Safety equipment:
Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control

Major standard features: Climate control; power windows, locks and mirrors; electric rear defroster; 18-inch wheels; cruise control; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; CD changer/MP3 player
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles

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