2006 BMW M
BMW's entry-level roadster gains big-league power and handling that fortify the company's Ultimate Driving Machine reputation but unfortunately do nothing to camouflage the car's unfortunate styling, developed under the direction of BMW's controversial chief designer, Chris Bangle. The Z4 M will be available in both coupe and roadster forms, with the roadster arriving at dealerships in April and the coupe appearing in June.
The new coupe body style will also be available in regular, non-M versions. Conventional roadsters and coupes receive the new magnesium-block inline-six-cylinder engines that debuted in the 3 Series.
The best thing about these cars is the driving, and from the cockpit you don't have to look at the outside.
The M roadster and coupe are only mildly differentiated from their lesser brethren, with a tweaked front fascia and a rear end that incorporates a hint of a race-style diffuser, flanked by quad exhaust tips.
Bi-xenon headlights — which means high-intensity-discharge lighting for both high and low beams, not that they swing both ways — are standard equipment on M cars, so even with added power you won't out-drive your lights.
The M interiors are as subtly differentiated from the base cars as are the exteriors. The instruments are white on black, with an adaptive yellow and red LED zone on the tachometer that changes to match the engine's readiness to rev. (A cold engine shouldn't be revved as high.) A thick-rimmed M steering wheel and shift knob give these cars a firm handshake, and the pearlescent chrome climate controls and door handles provide jewelry.
Under the Hood
Here is where the going gets good. The M variant of the magnesium engine produces 330 horsepower and raises the redline to 8,000 rpm. The transmission will remind drivers of the inspiration behind the boast "shifts like a BMW." The power is transmitted meticulously to the asphalt by a six-speed-manual transmission and a computer-controlled variable differential lock, which lets the driver enjoy the dynamic sensation of rear-wheel drive without flinging the car into the nearest ditch at the first sign of precipitation.
With a rigid structure to protect occupants in the event of a crash, and traction control and an electronic stability system to help prevent one in the first place, the Z4 promises better safety than expected for a compact roadster. To help reduce the chance of being rear-ended, the Z4 carries two-stage brake lights that increase the illuminated taillight area under hard braking, conveying the urgency of the stop to following traffic.
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