The ultimate driving machine is usually thought of as a BMW sedan. The BMW Z4 lineup applies this mantra to what is by modern standards a true sports car, complete with rear-wheel drive and room for just two people. Freed from passenger-carrying requirements, the BMW Z4 focuses even more tightly on high-performance driving with cutting-edge style than do the BMW sedans.
First and foremost, the BMW Z4 is a blast to drive, with sharp handling that is the match for anything on the road. Yet the ride is compliant in base models. The Sport Package option sharpens handling further, though at the expense of ride quality.
The Z4 comes as either a traditional roadster with a convertible cloth top or as a hardtop coupe with a graceful fastback body and a larger cargo area. The BMW Z4 Roadsters offer manual and power soft tops, and both are easy to operate. Inside the Z4 it's comfortable and everything is well-assembled though there is not a lot of places for belongings.
The BMW Z4 is powered by 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engines providing smooth, ample power. Two states of tune are available, the 3.0i and the more powerful 3.0si.
The high-performance M Coupe and M Roadster versions of the Z4 boast even more power and sharper handling. They are exciting to drive, though they can become harsh on rough roads.
The daring styling introduced with the 2003 Z4 was mildly updated for 2006, when BMW introduced new engine choices, the hatchback coupe, and a high-performance M model. Changes have since been minimal. For 2008, 18-inch wheels come on all Sport Package models.
The 2008 BMW Z4 is offered in three levels of tune and trim, and in both coupe and roadster body styles. All are powered by an inline six-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all Z4s. A six-speed automatic is optional ($1,275) on all but the M models, which come with manual transmission only.
The BMW Z4 3.0i ($36,700) is available only as a roadster. Its 3.0-liter engine makes 215 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, and 185 pound-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm. Standard equipment includes a manual top with heated glass rear window, vinyl upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, six-way manually adjustable sports seats, heated power mirrors, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD with iPod connectivity, outside temperature indicator, rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers, automatic headlights, fog lights, theft-deterrent system, and 225/45R17 run-flat tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.
The BMW Z4 3.0si is available as a coupe ($40,700) or a roadster ($42,700), powered by the 3.0-liter inline-6 tuned to 255 horsepower at 6,600 rpm, and 220 pound-feet of torque at 2,750 rpm. The 3.0si models are more luxuriously equipped, also, with leather upholstery, automatic climate control, center arm pad, aluminum interior trim, THX audio system, trip computer, and map lights.
The M Coupe ($50,400) and M Roadster ($52,400) feature a larger, 3.2-liter inline-6 that puts out 330 horsepower at 7,900 rpm, and 262 pound-feet of torque at 4,900 rpm. Backing up that increased potential are 225/45ZR18 front tires and 255/40ZR18 rear tires, sports suspension, plus xenon headlights with washers. Roadsters get a power top. Cruise control and the THX audio system are deleted.
A Premium package ($3,550) for the 3.0i includes a fully automatic top, automatic climate control, eight-way power driver's seat with memory, auto-dimming rearview and outside mirrors, trip computer, BMW Assist with Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, and interior storage nets.
A Sport package, available for the 3.0i and 3.0si roadsters ($1,200), and the 3.0si coupe ($1,300) includes sport suspension and BMW's Dynamic Driving Control, which has a Sport button that, when pressed, quickens throttle response, reduces power steering assist, and adds sport programming to the available automatic transmission. For 2008 the Sport Package also upgrades to 225/40 R18 front and 255/35 R18 rear tires on all three models.
Stand-alone options include leather upholstery ($1,150), eight-way power seats ($995), M sports seats ($500), heated seats ($500), power convertible top ($750), xenon headlights ($700), navigation ($1,800), BMW Assist with Bluetooth ($750), the THX sound system ($875), and HD radio ($350).
Safety features include dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags, front knee airbags, LATCH-style child safety seat anchors on the passenger seat, ABS, brake fade compensation, brake standby, brake drying, EBD, traction control, anti-skid control, tire-pressure monitor, and a hill-holder feature that prevents the car from rolling backward at a stop. Roadsters have two roll bars mounted behind the seats.