With a mid-cycle makeover and a hardtop companion on the horizon, we thought the car merited a second look while there was still enough mild weather to take the top down.
We tested a lavishly equipped 2005 Z4 3.0i, with more than $5,000 worth of options. The bottom line: $47,245.
HE: I don't know how much more fun I can take -- a Pontiac Solstice one week, a BMW Z4 the next. Automotive fantasies don't get much better than this.
SHE: I don't think it's a coincidence that your fantasy BMW roadster came equipped with a "dream red/black leather" interior. Because basically I think you're dreaming if you think I'm gonna give my seal of approval to this bit of excess. Look at it this way. We could get his-and-hers Solstices or even his-and-her Mazda Miatas for the price of this Z4, and have enough money left over for a trip to the Bahamas. How can you justify spending this much cash on a seasonal vehicle in Michigan?
HE: Honey, just drop the top on the Z4 and you can easily picture yourself in the Bahamas, with all that 90-degree weather we've had this summer. And I wouldn't worry so much about Michigan winters -- not with features like standard stability control and antilock brakes, plus an insulated canvas top with a glass rear window. As much as I like the Solstice, the Z4 goes one better -- it looks sensational inside and out. I love the matte brushed-metal surfaces inside, and the shape, with all those sculpted curves, is enough to make any man drool.
SHE: I have to admit BMW did a great job with the Z4 powertrain. The twin-cam 3.0-liter straight six makes 225 horsepower and feels really quick. BMW also shortened the throws on the six-speed gearbox, which makes it even easier to shift. Despite the terrific performance, you don't pay a penalty for fuel economy. But the pennies you save on gas are more than offset by the ridiculously steep option prices. Why do heated seats, for instance, cost an extra $500?
HE: Set the issue of price aside for a minute, and let's talk a little more about performance. You're right, the engine and transmission are just about perfect. But the whole car is so beautifully balanced, from the speed-sensitive steering to the multi-link rear suspension. It's a road-hugger that you just want to drive, and drive hard, for hours on end. The fact that it looks so sweet, with such an alluring cockpit, is a bonus, as far as I'm concerned. Very few two-seaters in this price class -- the Chevrolet Corvette might be the exception -- offer the full package like this BMW does.
SHE: As far as convertibles go, the Z4 is fine and very livable. The optional power top is extremely easy to operate, and there is a surprising amount of room in the trunk. And you can see the Germans tried hard to cram as many amenities as they could into the cabin, including little touches like a glove box behind the seats that has a penholder and an elastic strap for a parking card. The standard safety hardware is also pretty impressive, not to mention high-tech. In addition to side air bags and rollover protection, the Z4 comes with run-flat tires, rain-sensing wipers and adaptive brake lights.
HE: For a change, I don't have much to grouse about. My biggest beef is with the fancy extra-cost M sport bucket seats, which just didn't fit my big butt. I still crave a Corvette in my driveway -- but I surely wouldn't mind if a BMW Z4 suddenly dropped out of the heavens one day and landed in my garage. With Paris Hilton in the passenger seat, of course.
SHE: Oh, poor Paris.
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He drove, she drove Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, an Ann Arbor automotive information services company.
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2005 BMW Z4 3.0i
Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-passenger convertible.
Price: Base, $41,995 (inc. $695 destination charge); as tested, $47,245.
Engine: 3.0-liter I-6; 225-hp; 214 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway.
Where built: Greer, S.C.
Key competitors: Audi TT, Chevrolet Corvette, Chrysler Crossfire, Ford Thunderbird, Honda S2000, Lotus Elise, Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, Nissan 350Z, Porsche Boxster.
12-month insurance cost, estimated by AAA Michigan: $1,687. (Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)
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Anita's rating: 4
Likes: Good safety equipment, including standard ABS, stability control, side air bags, adaptive brake lights, rain-sensing wipers, run-flat tires, active knee and rollover protection. Surprisingly roomy trunk. Optional power top is easy to operate with push of one button on IP. Small glove box behind seats with penholder, elastic strap for parking card.
Dislikes: Needs adjustable pedals. Cabin and seats felt cramped. Too expensive. Heated seats cost an extra $500.
Paul's rating: 5
Likes: Strong inline six-cylinder engine provides quick acceleration. Lovely 6-speed gearbox with razor-sharp shifts. Distinctive and voluptuous exterior. Brushed matte-metal interior trim. Sensational handling. Good fuel economy for a sports car. Gorgeous alloy wheels.
Dislikes: Optional M seats too tight in the butt. Not much storage space in cabin. Dumb cup holders.
Vehicle ratings: 1. Unacceptable, 2. Subpar, 3. Acceptable, 4. Above Average, 5. World Class