The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2008 BMW Z4 M Roadster Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


Model: BMW Z4 M Roadster
Engine: 3.2-liter DOHC inline 6
Horsepower/Torque: 330 hp/262 lb.-ft.
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 98.2 in.
Length x Width x Height: 161.1 x 70.1 x 51.1 in.
Tires: P225/45ZR18 (F)/ P255/40ZR18 (R)
Cargo volume: 11.6 cu. ft.
Economy: 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway/16.8mpg test
Fuel capacity: 18.0 gal.
Price: $62,150 (includes $775 destination charge, $1,000 gas guzzler tax and $9,050 in options)

The Bottom Line – Despite its less-than-ideal looks, the BMW M Roadster is a formidable sports car with performance and handling to compete with any other front-engined sports car on the road. It’s also comfortable for everyday driving and, despite a gas guzzler tax, is relatively economical.

I have never been a fan of the BMW Z-Series’ looks. To my eye, the hood is too long and the rear deck to truncated. But, there are a lot of these cars on the road, so that may indicate that I’m not the style expert I think I am.

I must agree, though, that from the front the car is awesome. It carries the classic BMW twin-kidney grille inside a sculpted round nose that’s almost bulbous but stops before going too far.

Our tester is the BMW Z4M Roadster, more commonly known as simply the M roadster. At its base is the Z4, but there the similarity ends. Under the hood is a 3.2-liter double overhead cam inline six that’s rated at a healthy 330 horsepower and 262 pounds-feet of torque. The standard Z4 carries a 3.0-liter six that can be rated at either 215 or 255 hp.

This engine is connected to a 6-speed manual transmission that feels like a sports car gearbox. The throws aren’t particularly short, but when you’re in gear you know it. I occasionally had to hunt around to get the right gear, but that may have been a result of my relatively short time in the car.

Performance is wonderful. The M has super power and response. When it’s driven hard, it performs. Acceleration is great and the handling is great. There’s some harshness to the suspension that results in excellent cornering, but it isn’t objectionable. On the few opportunities I had to let the car out, the engine threw me back into the deeply dished bucket seat and the exhaust let out a subtle roar and I was in the illegal speed zone before I realized it.

The driver holds a thick padded steering wheel (with M-colored stitching on the leather) that makes steering a joy.

There’s one stretch of road I travel frequently where the speed limit is a comfortable 45 mph. In the M, I had difficulty keeping the car below the limit and I was trying to keep it below (the police hand out tickets on this stretch).

On the other side of the power coin is the adaptability. The M is a car that can also be driven sedately. I developed a habit of just using the even-numbered gears (I’m not sure if that’s allowed) when I was driving through town or on local streets. In this mode, the M is a comfortable car, with less outside noise (we still couldn’t listen to the radio at a sensible volume).

With the top up, though, we could listen to the radio. We only found a couple of stations to listen to because tuning it was difficult. We eventually figured it out, but it wasn’t intuitive.

One of the best features about the Roadster is the automatic top. You can go from coupe to topless in a matter of seconds. The top stows in a compartment behind the seats that doesn’t impinge on the trunk, which isn’t that great anyway, but this is a sports car. It’s a cloth top, as in a “standard” convertible. So it wasn’t a problem to put it down to drive to the supermarket, put it up to park there, then put it back down for the ride home.

The seats are super comfortable with excellent side support. They are slightly difficult to exit when you’re a senior citizen, though.

The M has a pop-up navigation system ($1,800) that is good because it can be lowered out of the way when it isn’t needed. It automatically pops up if you change the radio station, but otherwise it’s just hiding there until called upon.

The instrument panel consists of two deep nacelles. On the left is a 180mph speedometer (top speed is a regulated 155 mph) with digital readouts for the odometer, trip odometer and outside temperature. On the right is the tachometer with small fuel level and water temp gauges on the bottom.

Cupholders flip out from the dash by pressing what looks like small drawers on either side. They’re nice, but don’t hold a water bottle.

Controls are easy to reach except for the cruise control. It’s a lever hidden behind the left spoke of the steering wheel If you’re not familiar with it, it’s difficult, but once you learn how to operate it you don’t have to look and it’s fine.

While I’m not a fan of the car’s styling, the BMW Z4 M Roadster is a fun car to tool around in. If you want some serious driving, it does the job as well over almost any road.

2008 The Auto Page Syndicate