The introduction of the Z4 Coupe brought a new look to the Z4 stable. When the Roadster was given the M treatment, it was only a matter of time before the same was done to the Coupe.
With the M Coupe, BMW brings together the Z4's advanced Grand Touring coupe concept and a version of the BMW M 6-cylinder engine that's even more powerful than that of the previous M Coupe – plus a wide range of new BMW and BMW M developments in suspension, steering, brakes, stability systems, safety features and, not to be left out, luxury and convenience feaures. In short, the new Z4 M Coupe is an artful fusion of ultimate BMW M performance, contemporary technology and abundant luxury.M Coupe features include:
• 3.2-liter DOHC 24-valve inline 6-cylinder engine high-pressure VANOS variable valve timing, 6 individual throttles, semi-dry-sump lubrication, low-back-pressure exhaust system and other features •
• 6-speed manual transmission with heavy-duty clutch
• Dynamic Stability Control with specific M logic
• New front suspension with wider track, newly configured lower arms and new steering knuckles – bolted to struts
• Modified rear suspension with larger, stronger subframe, M3-type wheel bearings, central links and anti-roll-bar configuration
• M-specific ride height and suspension calibration
• M3-type hydraulically assisted steering Source - BMW
Before the new millennium and the subsequent radical shapes of ex-design chief Chris Bangle, BMW was know for its conservative styling philosophy. The venerable 3-, 5-, and 7-Series cars all looked like Russian dolls that had been neatly formed by moulds of similar shapes in varying sizes. The shapes were clean, crisp, and taut, and had inspired legions of imitators. Many argued the designs were growing stale, though, and that change was due.
One car that broke BMW's traditional design habits long before Bangle's controversial transformation of the company was the Z3. Introduced in 1996 as Germany's answer to the successful Mazda Miata, the Z3 was also used to test how customers would react to a BMW that broke thoroughly with tradition.
Reactions to the Z3 were positive. Fans were drawn to BMW by the car's surprising new look. Its nimble performance was a fun throwback to a time when a sports car didn't need limitless reserves of power to be exciting. The Z3 Roadster, which was the only body style available upon introduction, encouraged BMW to bring out a car with styling even more revolutionary: the Z3 Coupe.
The Z3 Coupe had a design that looked terrible, wonderful, interesting, ugly, or gorgeous depending on whom you asked. Taking the flowing lines of the Roadster and tacking a geometric hatchback to the car's rear end created an undeniably strange look that many likened to a high-top sneaker.
The Z3 Coupe had a character unlike any other BMW vehicles. Its look traded professionalism for individuality. The hatch offered practicality unprecedented in the sports car market. Its driving dynamics were excellent. With a chassis that was 2.7 times stiffer than the Roadster, the Coupe offered edgy handling that ousted pricier BMWs for sheer fun factor. Unique, energetic, and well-built, the Z3 Coupe had all the marks of a future classic. The only thing it could possibly benefit from was an infusion of raw, undiluted power.
That injection of Teutonic adrenaline was available as the BMW M Coupe of 1998. Sharing the Z3 Coupe's platform, the M Coupe looked like an angrier version of its already capable sibling. Both cars shared the sneaker shape, but under hood the differences were profound.
Z3 Coupes were motivated at first by a 193hp 2.8L straight six, and later by a 225hp 3.0L straight six. They were peppy, but not fast. When the M Coupe made its appearance, U.S.-spec versions received the same engine as the American bound E36-generation BMW M3. Called the S50, the 3,154cc straight six produced 240hp. For 2001 and 2002, the last two years of M Coupe production, the cars received the engine out of the latest E46 M3. The S54, as it was called, was a 3,246cc, high-revving straight six with 315hp at 7,400rpm. That kind of power, in a small car that weighed under 3,100lbs, turned the oddly shaped Bimmer into an explosively quick running shoe.
The engines, especially the later S54, were BMW's gems. Smooth and fast-revving, they were efficient motors that produced terrific thrust and a heroic sound. Both were 24-valve units with dual overhead cams and BMW's signature VANOS variable valve timing. Both were of almost equal displacement, and both had identical 10.5:1 compression ratios, but the S54 was able to produce more mayhem thanks to its 'steplessly variable' version of VANOS that allowed a wide range of smooth valve timing adjustments.
No automatic transmissions were offered, so all M Coupes used a slick 5-speed stick that delivered power to the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential. Staggered wheel sizes were used, with 7.5-inch wide rims used in front and 9.0-inchers used at the powered end. Both front and rear wheels were 17 inches in diameter, allowing sufficient clearance to fit the large 12.4-inch front/12.3-inch rear ventilated brake rotors.
Performance mirrored that of other BMW M-cars. Tenacious grip was achieved through the wide rear tires and serious speed came standard. An electronic governor still allowed the car to top out at 137mph, and the 5.1-second dash to 60mph indicated the car's unfiltered performance potential.
An austere but high-quality interior fit well with the car's polished performance. Even with all the space behind the front seats, the Coupe clung to its 2-seater roots and offered space only for a driver and one lucky passenger. As a couple's getaway car, the M Coupe had a cavernous cargo hold that could easily swallow a week's worth of supplies.
Offering a unique blend of performance, practicality, and individualistic panache, the M Coupe should have been a hot seller. Its styling, though, steered many of BMW's more conservative buyers towards the equally capable and more conventional M3. Sales were always slow because of this. Values have remained surprisingly high for what was essentially an unwanted car, however, and that intangible quality of every true classic—an essence of honest design purity unaffected by fads or traditions—has stuck in the M Coupe. A small group of diehard admirers continues to love this future classic as bystanders scratch their heads at the idea of a shoe-shaped BMW.Sources:
Larimer, Fred. BMW Buyer's Guide. St. Paul, MN: MBI Publishing, 2002. Print.
'1998 BMW M Coupe.' BMWMCoupe.net Web.24 Jul 2009. http://bmwmcoupe.net/.By Evan Acuña