Business Week describes the $128,000 BMW Z8 roadster as one of the best products of 2000. Automobile Magazine describes it as an "engineering tour de force."

Sounds like the ideal vehicle for us to haggle over as we close the books on this year. But don't expect to find the Z8 under your Christmas tree. BMW plans to sell only about 400 in the U.S. And reportedly, the aluminum-bodied Z8, with a V-8 engine that makes 394 horsepower, is so hot that some dealers have auctioned the car for as much as $250,000. Guess that makes any argument we'll have over the Z8 moot.

She: You got a fairly stern lecture when you picked up the Z8 from BMW, didn't you? Something about `whatever you do, don't slam the trunk. And don't slam the doors. And be careful with it!' You'd think they were delivering fine china. I was terrified to take that car to the grocery store. And who needs a car with a $2,100 gas-guzzler tax and a $3,279 insurance price?

He: Or for that matter, an unbelievably sexy car that sprints from zero to 60 in less than five seconds and tops out at close to 170 miles per hour. Hey, if I found one under my tree on Christmas morning, I wouldn't give it back.

She: Well, you're getting underwear and socks.

He: As usual. Who says the romance is gone?

She: Romance is at the heart of what's wrong with the Z8 in my book. My fantasy vehicle needs to be pumpkin-shaped with two footmen and a fancy dress. It's the Cinderella fantasy. I just don't understand things about the Z8 - like why it has both an ignition and a starter button. Isn't that redundant, like a belt plus suspenders? Why aren't there lighted vanity mirrors? Why doesn't the navigation system have a map? Or am I not seeing the forest for the trees?

He: Or the pumpkin for the vine. Step back a few feet. Look at that beautiful car. BMW wants you to see echoes of its classic 507 sports car from the 1950s. In fact, from the rear three-quarters, I see shades of the old Jaguar E-Type. The red-leather-and-brushed-aluminum cockpit just knocks me out. If you own a Palm Vx, you know what I'm talking about. It's classic, and yet it's contemporary and hip.

She: I have to admit the Z8 actually performed fairly well for us when we took it out in the early stages of a Detroit blizzard. It's got standard dynamic stability control and all-season traction with limited slip differential. What that means is the Z8 hugged the slick roads and didn't slip and slide around very much. Of course, we hurried back home before the snow got much higher than the door sills.

He: My big disappointment was that we didn't get to spend much time testing that sensational twin-cam 5.0-liter V-8 engine, which the Z8 shares with the M5. It makes 394 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed gearbox that is one of the smoothest shifters I've sampled this year. On dry roads, those run-flat performance tires grip like a cat trying to avoid a bath. They're Z-rat ed, 18-inch radials - 245/45 in front and 275/40 in the rear. BMW also includes a tire-pressure monitoring system, for peace of mind.

She: I'm surprised to see that the Z8 comes with side air bags. It also has rollover protection and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS that really stop you quickly. And it has lots of other standard goodies like a digital cellular phone, a Harman Kardon sound system with 10 speakers and a jazzy steering wheel with chrome spokes. But it just cries out for some sort of protective bubble. I'm still not convinced it would hold up against a runaway grocery cart. How can I give the Z8 four stars when I'm afraid to drive it?

He: OK, Chicken Little. If you're worried about the sky falling, the Z8 comes with a removable hardtop, in addition to its fully automatic soft top. I can't tell you how to cope with those errant grocery carts, other than to suggest you take the Kia to the grocery store. In fact, let me put your mind at ease. You will defini ly NOT find a Z8 in your Christmas stocking.

Anita's rating: Acceptable

Paul's rating: World class

Likes: Exclusive (Paul). Goes from 0-60 in about 4.7 seconds. Superb design harks back to 1960s E-Type Jaguar and 1955 BMW 507 roadster. Love the classic split grille and side air outlets. Tons of standard equipment. Excellent safety features - traction control, ABS and side air bags are standard.

Dislikes: Expensive (Anita). Plastic rear window. Complicated navigation system has no map. No lighted vanity mirrors (Anita). Only one cupholder. You have to baby the all-aluminum body - don't slam doors or trunk (Anita).

Type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-passenger convertible

Price: Base, $128,000; as tested; $130,670 (inc. $570 destination charge).

Engine: 5.0-liter V-8; 394 hp; 369 lb-ft torque.

Fuel economy: 13 city/21 highway.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan (*Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower depending on coverage and driving record.): $3,279.

Where built: Germany.