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Expert Reviews 1 of 6
By Jim Flammang
November 20, 2002
Vehicle Overview After seven seasons on the market, BMWs Z3 series of sports cars has been replaced by an all-new Z4 duo. Introduced at the Paris Motor Show in September 2002, the Z4 two-seaters went on sale in November 2002.
Not only do the new models look considerably different than their predecessors, but they also behave in an improved manner. Electric power steering, for instance, is a first for BMW. Standard run-flat tires eliminate the spare. The Z4s trunk capacity has grown by half, to 9.2 cubic feet; when the soft-top is down, the space decreases to 8.5 cubic feet. A hardtop will be available for the 2004 model year.
People like to have emotional, assertive, aggressive products, says Ed Robbins, BMWs executive vice president of operations. Even so, no more super-performance M editions are available as they were with the Z3 at least for now.
While coming up with ideas, Exterior Designer Anders Warming studied the works of Picasso and was influenced by the old Lamborghini Miura. This is an extremely passionate product, Warming says, breaking down the design process into proportion, surface and detail.
Far different in appearance than the Z3, the Z4 displays a blend of convex and concave surfaces, with deeply sculpted bodysides and twin belt lines. The Z4 has more sharp edges than its rounded predecessor, especially at the rear where an integrated spoiler sits. The Z4 displays BMWs familiar twin-kidney grille that is slightly reshaped and set between distinctive, neatly integrated headlights. Relatively long in wheelbase at 98.2 inches, the Z4 has short overhangs at the front and rear and a low, set-back seating position. Round side blinker indicators that protrude from each front fender are a design element rather than an add-on.
Body stiffness has more than doubled. The hood is aluminum, and the soft-top components are made of magnesium. Equipped with a heated glass rear window, the soft-top features an integrated tonneau cover. Manual operation is standard, but the German automaker expects most Z4s to have the optional power top. Roll bars sit behind the seats, and a sport suspension that is similar to that in the former M coupe and roadster is optional. High-intensity-discharge headlights are also optional.
Other than its two-passenger capacity, the Z4s cockpit is completely different from its predecessors. Warming refers to its openness by noting that the interior should be a constant reminder of what the exterior looks like. The instruments are well spaced on a distinctive, clean-looking dashboard. Full-width dash panels are either woodgrained or brushed aluminum, which looks especially appealing.
Under the Hood
A 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine produces 184 horsepower in the Z4 2.5i, while the Z4 3.0i uses a 225-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six. The Z4 2.5i gets a five-speed-manual transmission, and the Z4 3.0i is equipped with a standard six-speed-manual gearbox. Both models have the option of a five-speed-automatic transmission with a provision for manually selected Steptronic gear changes. A sequential six-speed-manual gearbox will be available later in the 2003 model year.
BMWs Dynamic Driving Control features a Sport button and is offered with the Sport Package. BMW claims the Z4 2.5i can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, while the Z4 3.0i achieves that job in 5.9 seconds.
Side-impact airbags, knee airbags and antilock brakes are standard. A cutoff switch for the front passenger airbag is included.
If the Z3 was an enjoyable sports car, then the new Z4 ranks as a serious thoroughbred that takes full advantage of its pedigree. Its styling might be controversial, but the Z4s road behavior is not. Its precision handling continues to be a BMW hallmark, and it excels in other ways as well.
Acceleration in the Z4 3.0i is forceful even with the automatic transmission. The automatic shifts smoothly and responds swiftly, which makes the Steptronic manual-selection provision less necessary. You get plenty of low-end torque when starting off or passing, which happens with silken smoothness.
The Z4 2.5i with the luscious manual shift and well-behaved clutch isnt far behind in performance. Except for a subtle but alluring exhaust note, the Z4 is quiet all around.
Just a touch of road wander was noted in the Z4 3.0i, but the defiantly taut suspension delivers a reasonably smooth ride on all but the harshest surfaces. Nasty bumps may be hit hard without losing even a sliver of control. The Z4s magnificent seats are satisfyingly cushioned and fully supportive.