BMW E52 Z8

Total Production: 5,703 2000 - 2003
The spectacular 507 roadster, built during 1956-59 in only 253 examples, is considered by many enthusiasts and collectors to be one of the most beautiful cars ever built. In developing the Z8, BMW designers were challenged to imagine what the original 507 would be like if it had never ceased production and had evolved over four decades. The result of this creative direction is a thoroughly contemporary interpretation of that famous and coveted roadster – a car that is truly a perfect blend of performance and sensuality; of modern technology and classic elegance.

The world's first look at the Z8 concept was the Z07 design study displayed at the 1997 Tokyo Auto Show and shortly thereafter at the1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Again encouraged by favorable public reaction, BMW decided to build the Z8 in limited numbers.
BMW 507 designer Count Albrecht Goertz has paid the Z8 the ultimate compliment: 'If I were to design the 507 today, it would look like the Z8.' Vastly different from the esthetic of current exclusive high-performance cars, the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car features a long hood, tapered overhangs, a cockpit positioned toward the rear, and a low beltline. The front-fender air vents or 'gills,' here with integrated fiber-optic turn signal lights, are a design element usually associated with the classic 507 even though the concept dates from earlier BMWs. In a world of sharp-edged, angular sports cars, the Z8 is romantically curvaceous.

The roadster's advanced lighting technology includes Xenon lowbeam headlights with dynamic auto-leveling and, concealed in the leading edges of the headlamp covers, high-intensity washers. The Z8 is the first car ever with neon turn signals and brake lights that illuminate ten times faster than conventional bulbs, giving other drivers more time to react. Another example of the attention to detail the designers lavished on the Z8 is the two round red lenses bracketing the rear license plate. The left one is a rear foglight; the right one is a backup light that, despite its red lens, illuminates white for reversing.

Building the Z8 in Germany is as unique a process as is the car itself. Z8 bodies are constructed and painted at BMW's Dingolfing plant, approximately 60 miles northeast of Munich; the front and rear bumpers are manufactured at the nearby Landshut facility. Completed bodies are then shipped to the former pilot-plant area of the company's Munich factory for final assembly. There, a small team of highly skilled craftspeople largely hand-build Z8s in 31 assembly steps. The complete construction and finishing process takes about 10 times as long as that for a 3 Series sedan.

The Z8 cockpit continues the theme of a modern re-creation of the 507. Thus in the tradition of great sports cars, the Z8 has a pushbutton starter for its engine. The ignition switch is mounted on the dash, just above the starter button instead of in the traditional steering-column location. A new electronic steering lock, along with BMW's Coded Driveaway Protection, helps deter theft. Other standard equipment includes heated leather seats, a power roadster top and a removable aluminum hardtop with heated rear window. The extensive Nappa leather upholstery and trim is accented with body-color painted surfaces and aluminum control knobs, all connoting –5 –more– astounding attention to detail. Interior trim consists of aluminum and colorkeyed painted surfaces; among the few changes for '02 are new choices for combining trim colors with the four available upholstery schemes.

There was never any question about what engine should power the Z8. The 3.2-liter aluminum V8 that powered the original 507 was, at the time, BMW's most powerful engine. For a car that personifies BMW's passion for driving, only the most powerful road engine in BMW history, the S62 5-liter V-8 - also found in the M5 sedan - would do. Delivering 394 horsepower and 368 lb-ft. of torque, the Z8's aluminum engine is completely civilized in traffic and around town, thanks in part to its infinitely adjustable, electronically controlled valve-timing system.

Called High-Pressure Double VANOS 1, the system varies valve timing on the intake and exhaust valves of both cylinder heads – thus on all four camshafts – helping optimize power, torque and emission control. The 'high-pressure' designation signifies the fact that this engine, like other BMW M engines but distinct from regular production BMW powerplants, includes a dedicated oil pump for the VANOS system. The engine's 'drive-by-wire' throttle system operates eight individual intake throttles and includes M Driving Dynamics Control, which allows the driver to select between Normal and quicker Sport response characteristics. A unique g-sensitive engine-lubrication system automatically ensures proper oil circulation in hard cornering situations. Because a V-8 engine's cylinder heads are canted at a 45° angle, there could be insufficient natural oil flow out of the heads under extreme cornering loads. In addition to the usual pressure pump, there are two scavenging pumps, one for each cylinder bank. In straight-ahead driving, these pumps pick up oil from the rear of the 1 – VANOS = VAriable NOckenwellen Steuerung = variable camshaft control, or variable valve timing. –6 –more– engine and return it to the sump. In hard cornering (0.9g or more), the Dynamic Stability Control system's lateral-g sensor switches magnetic valves to different pickup points, at the curve-outer side of each head and the pan.

The original 507's body was aluminum. Taking up that tradition in a 21st-century form, all the Z8's body panels, except its bumpers and door hinges, are aluminum. Here BMW has taken the use of this lightweight alloy a step further and designed an entire space frame in aluminum. This concept combines moderate weight with body rigidity that is unparalleled by any other open sports car in this category. The monocoque frame is made of extrusion-pressed beams much like the trusses of a timber house. Nearly 1,000 rivets and 190 ft. of fused welding seam (MIG) hold the frame and body panels together. The frame is made largely in-house at BMW's Dingolfing plant, where the existing aluminum processing center also makes the 3 Series convertible hardtop, M3 hood and 7 Series hood and front fenders. The space frame, which is 30 percent lighter than if it were made of steel, provides exceptional torsional rigidity to eliminate most of the body or –7 –more– 'cowl' shake usually associated with an open-top car: 'The chassis is rigid enough,' commented Car and Driver in April 2001, 'to harness the engine's thrust without any creaks or groans.' This also provides an extremely stable platform for precise suspension tuning, and contributes to excellent driver feedback. The central frame's stiffness also allows much lower side sills than is normally the case for a roadster. Pairs of unique aluminum 'Y' arms that connect the Z8's front and rear sections to its space frame provide much of the torsional rigidity and accident protection. In a crash, the arms are designed to crumple, absorbing energy and transferring forces to the sturdy center floor pan. In simulations of the rigorous European Union's 40-mph offset crash test, the Z8's passenger cell remained completely intact. 'Smart' 2-stage airbags, safety belts with force limiters and automatic tensioners, twin Rollover Protection hoops behind the seats, and a reinforced windshield frame provide additional protection.

The Z8's impressive technology also includes Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), one of the most advanced vehicle control systems in the industry. Scenarios where DSC could help 'save the day' include those where the driver might have misjudged a traffic situation; failed to match speed to road conditions; had a lapse of attention; or been confronted with an unavoidable or critical situation. With wheel-speed sensors and a powerful microprocessor at its heart, DSC incorporates a range of functions that facilitate full and effective use of the Z8's immense performance and handing capabilities with an added measure of safety. It incorporates all-speed traction control; electronic brake proportioning for always-optimum distribution of brake force among the four wheels; antilock braking; Dynamic Brake Control, which assists the driver in obtaining the shortest stopping distance in an emergency; and enhancement of vehicle stability during hard cornering and accident-avoidance maneuvers. In this last function, figuratively speaking, DCS could be described as a 'giant hand' gently exerting its influence on a car to help stabilize it when the driver's abilities or actions might not be able to do so. DSC employs its highly sophisticated technology of sensors, computing power and actuating systems to achieve stabilizing effects that can be likened to such a 'hand.'

Ordering and taking delivery of a car as exclusive as the Z8 should be a memorable experience; BMW has taken steps to ensure that it is just that. Owners awaiting delivery of their roadster will be offered a high-quality scale model of the Z8. A handmade book will be presented to the owner of each Z8 upon delivery, including photographs of his or her car in production and actual paint and upholstery samples from the car. Z8 owners are offered the opportunity to take delivery of their roadster at BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany, where they may even watch the final assembly of their roadster. Munich delivery also includes a tour of the Z8 assembly area, and an optional European tour is offered. Alternatively, delivery is also possible at the BMW Performance Center at Spartanburg, South Carolina. The purchase of a Z8 includes a special driving course at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Source - BMW
Only produced from 2000 until 2003, the BMW Z8 is famous for appearing in 'The World Is Not Enough' as the infamous vehicle James Bond drove. The convertible 'supercar' was also featured in a variety of video games. Though it had a very short shelf life, the Z8 was sold for more than six figures. This was mostly due to the all-aluminum chassis and body and the 4.9 liter, 32-valve V8 engine that pushed the car to 400 hp.

For several years the Z8 held BMW's production vehicle performance records, though it struggled to get any major credit from either drivers or automatic journalists. Some reviewers considered it to have 'terrible handling' and not seeming at all like a roadster or a supercar.

German automaker produced the Z8 and it was given the E52 BMW model car. Designed by Henrik Fisker at BMW's DesignworksUSA in Southern California, the Z8 was the production variant of the '97 Z07 concept car. Originally, the Z07 was designed as a styling exercise that was attempting to pay tribute to the '56-59 BMW 507. At the 1997 Tokyo Auto Show the Z07 caused quite a stir. This success was what spurred the decision to create a concept in a limited production model that was called the Z8.

A total of 5,703 BMW Z8's were produced, this number was approximately half of which were exported to the U.S. Originally the Z07 had been created with the concept of production in mind. Because of this, regulatory and practical considerations necessitated only minor changes for the original production model. Changes included the windshield of the Z8 being extended upward as well as a larger front airdam was fitted.

These changes were contrived to provide aerodynamic stability and came with a comfortably placid cockpit area. The concept car had featured a four-spoke steering wheel but the Z8 instead came with a three-spoke design. The concept car also featured a hardtop but it was a double-bubble form with a tapering faring and the Z8 featured a single dome with a truncated convex backside. To allow for easy operation of the power soft top, the concept's exotic driver's side helmet fairing was eliminated.

Though these changes occurred, the BMW Z8 still remained quite true to the concept model. In a way that nearly rendered the side-mounted indicators invisible until activated, they were integrated into the side vents. The interior hid the very modern equipment under retracting panels and it kept the 'vintage simplicity' of the inside of the car. The Z8 also utilized a pricy MIG-welded aluminum space frame that preserved complex compound curves. The Z8 model also kept the concept models five-spoke wheel design, though it didn't feature the race-style center lug-nut.

The BMW Z8 was priced at $128,000 and somewhat worth the price, the car had an all-aluminum chassis and body that used a 5.0 L 32-valve V8 that developed 400 hp and 500 Nm torque. BMW Motorsport subsidiary built the engine for the V8 and it was shared with the E39 M5. The engine was placed behind the front axle and produced the car with 50/50 weight distribution. The Z8 could achieve 0-60 mph in just 4.7 seconds, and according the Car and Driver magazine found that it outperformed the Ferrari 360 Modena in three very important performance categories, handling, acceleration and braking. The top speed was electronically limited to 155 mph, much like most BMW products, and the car's maximum top speed with an unlocked chip was 165 mph.

The Z8 had a very creative and innovative use of neon exterior lighting. The turn indicators and taillights were powered by neon tubes that offer quicker activation than basic standard lightbulbs that were expected to last the entire lifetime of the car.

Every Z8 model came with a color-matching metal hardtop with a rear defroster. The Z8 hardtop was designed from the beginning to complement the roadster curves and lines, unlike various accessory hardtops which are provided for practical use rather than stylistic considerations.

Inside, the BMW Z8 a variety of convenience functions were integrated into the design of multifunctional controls. This was designed to keep the interior completely uncluttered. The power windows and mirrors were completely controlled by just one single instrument. The center-mounted instrument cluster was canted slightly toward the driver. To offer a clear view of the hood and the road ahead, the displacement of these gauges to the middle of the dash.

Claiming it as an 'instant classic', the BMW Z8 was promoted to collectors this way, as BMW promised that a 50-year stockpile of spare parts maintained in order to support the Z8 fleet. Since the Z8 was produced in limited volume, all elements of the vehicle were constructed or finished by hand. This compounded the importance of ongoing manufacturer support for the type. BMW was able to offer custom options to interested buyers because of the price point and production process. Over the 4-year production period, a large number of V8's with nonstandard paint and interior treatments were run by BMW Individual, a division of BMW AG.

For the '03 model year, the Z8 model line was enhanced with the arrival of the Alpina V8 Roadster. Leaving the hard-edged sporting focus of the original Z8, the Alpina featured elements of the new grand touring intent. The Alpina came only as an automatic that used a 5-speed BMW Steptronic transmission joined to a downgraded 4.8L Alpina-tuned V8 engine from the Alpina E39 B10 V8 S, rather than the original six-speed manual and 4.9 liter engine in the earlier Z8's.

The Alpina featured relaxed suspension tuning that transformed the car from sportscar to a boulevardier. Rather than utilizing the Z8's conventional tires with softer sidewalls and 20-inch wheels, the Alpina featured 18-inch wheels. The Z8 featured less plush interior, while the Alpina came with a new, softer grade of Nappy leather and unique Alpina gauges featured on the dash cluster. A special Alpina steering wheel with three solid spokes replaced the original Z8 wheel, but it could not be retrofitted with shift paddles for the automatic. An Alpina-specific display highlighted gear selection and it was mounted in front of the wheel.
The Alpina Z8 had less peak power than the standard Z8 as peak power was reduced to 375 hp, meanwhile, peak torque was raised to 383 lb/ft of torque. This torque was available at substantially lower rpm than the original in a way to enable more comfortable and relaxed cruising. The electronically limited top speed of the Alpina was upped to 161 mph. A total of only 555 Alpina's were ever constructed, and most of these were exported to the U.S. market. This special edition of the Z8 was sold directly through BMW dealerships in the U.S. marking a first for BMW Alpina. This was a first for the Alpina whose vehicles had never been sold through retail channels in the USA.

For a variety of years, the Z8 held BMW's production car performance records. Numerous journalists praised the Z8, but one UK motoring press described the standard Z8 as 'having terrible handling'. The particular journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, spared no love for the Z8.

One of the Z8's odd characteristics was the lack of a limited-slip differential; the vehicle came with an open differential that allowed one wheel to break free under maximum acceleration. The DSC traction from BMW and stability control prevented the absence of an LSD from becoming a safety factor. Journalists and car owners agreed that this choice of differential was a poor judgment idea on BMW's part. Numerous Z8 owners subsequently retrofitted Quaife LSD's to fix the perceived shortcomings.

By Jessica Donaldson

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.