BMW's Z3 series of sports cars was replaced in 2003 by a longer, wider, all-new Z4 duo. The roadster's styling changed dramatically, though both models center on a long hood with the two occupants positioned well to the rear. Electric power steering was a first for BMW.
Two inline-six-cylinder engine choices and four transmission possibilities, including a sequential manual gearbox on the higher-level 3.0 trim, are offered. Standard run-flat tires eliminate the spare.
Additional standard equipment goes into the 2005 models. The 2.5i adds fog lamps, heated mirrors and cruise control, while the more powerful 3.0i gains automatic climate control. Bluetooth wireless capability is optional, and dealers can install Sirius Satellite Radio. No high-performance M editions are currently available.
BMW's two-seater displays a blend of convex and concave surfaces, deeply sculpted bodysides and twin belt lines. The Z4 has more edges, especially at the rear, than its rounded predecessor.
Featuring a 98.2-inch wheelbase � relatively long for a roadster � the Z4 has short overhangs and a low rearward seating position. Round side blinkers protrude from each front fender.
The hood is aluminum, and soft-top components are magnesium. Equipped with a heated glass rear window, the top retracts beneath an integrated tonneau cover. Manual operation is standard, but power operation is available. Roll bars sit behind the seats, and the A-pillars are reinforced. Premium and Sport packages are available. A removable hardtop can be installed at BMW centers.
Other than its two-passenger capacity, the Z4's cockpit is completely different than the Z3's. The instruments are well spaced on a distinctive dashboard, though some critics find them difficult to use. Full-width dash panels are either woodgrained or brushed aluminum. Leatherette upholstery is standard in the 2.5i, while the 3.0i gets leather. Trunk capacity is 8.5 cubic feet with the soft-top down.
Under the Hood
A 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder produces 184 horsepower and mates with a five-speed-manual transmission in the Z4 2.5i. The Z4 3.0i uses a 225-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six and a six-speed manual. A five-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates BMW's Steptronic for manually selected gear changes is optional in both models. BMW's six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox, available in the 3.0i, operates without a clutch pedal. Dynamic Driving Control is part of the Sport Package.
Dynamic Stability Control, side-impact airbags, knee airbags and antilock brakes are standard. A cutoff switch for the front passenger airbag is included.
Ranking as a serious thoroughbred, the Z4 takes full advantage of its pedigree. Precision handling is a BMW hallmark.
Acceleration in the Z4 3.0i is forceful even with the automatic transmission, which shifts smoothly and responds swiftly. There's plenty of low-end torque when starting off or passing. With its slick manual shift and well-behaved clutch, the Z4 2.5i isn't far behind.
Except for a subtle exhaust note, the Z4 is quiet. Just a touch of road wander has been noted in the 3.0i, but the defiantly taut suspension delivers a reasonably smooth ride on most surfaces. Magnificent seats are satisfyingly cushioned.