A rear-wheel drive sports vehicle, the BMW Z4 was known as the E85 in roadster form, and E86 in coupe form. Replacing the BMW Z3, production began in 2002. The Z4 was much larger than its predecessor and featured a significantly stiffer chassis. Originally only available as a roadster, in 2006 a coupe version was finally released. Built in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the BMW Z4 has been in production since the 2003 model year. The Z4 is BMW's only two-seat sports car.
The BMW-Z4 was designed by Danish BMW-designer Anders Warming. Warming was later famed with creating the Mille Miglia Concept vehicle with many of the similarities from the Z4. Considered to be one of the more unique sports vehicles currently available, the Z4 features an exquisite inline six-cylinder engine, and fabulous styling. The Z4 is famed for its excellent handling and steering and it counters with a light curb weight.
Available as a roadster with a convertible top or a fixed-roof coupe, the BMW Z4 featured the traditional front-engine/rear-drive layout, an elongated hood (that some consider ‘shoe-like' in appearance) and rearward positioning of driver and passenger. To add tension to the Z4's shape, the car showcased an extremely chiseled exterior design.
The original BMW Z4 from 2003 through 2005 was broken down inti either 2.5i or 3.0i. The 3.0i used a 3.0-liter straight six-cylinder engine that achieved 225 hp, while the 2.5i had a 2.5-liter, inline six-cylinder engine that achieved 184hp. Available transmission were a five-speed manual that was standard on the 2.5, a six-speed manual that was standard on the 3.0, a five-speed automatic or a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox that was featured on the M3. Only a few small updates were made over these years, but not enough to differentiate one model from another.
Much like the Z3, the Z4 featured a strut type front suspension, while its rear suspension was completely different and was based on that of the E30 BMW 3-Series. The Z4 also featured a much more conventional multi-link suspension, rather than a semi-trailing arm suspension.
The 200 BMW Z4 was available in two trim levels, the 3.0i and 3.0si. The 3.0i featured 17-inch wheels, antilock brakes, power mirror and windows, stability control, manually operated seats and vinyl upholstery. Standard, the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine was rated at 215 hp; the six-speed manual transmission was also standard, while a six-speed automatic is optional. The 3.0si came with 18-inch wheels, several improved interior updates and a 255-hp 3.0-liter inline six. Both trim levels offered a variety of option, these included a Premium package with a power-operated top, and a Sport package that was designed to improve the car's handling capabilities. It added stiffer and lower suspension, larger wheels with run-flat tires, BMW's Vehicle Stability Control system; Dynamic Driving control. The BMW Z4 coupe is only available in the 3.0si trim.
The Sport package isn't needed though for a rewardable driving experience, the BMW Z4 offers that no matter what. The coupe had an advantage over the roadster in the terms of handling because of its additional body rigidity.
A choice of four straight-six engines were available on the BMW Z4, the 2.2 L, 2.5 L, 3.0 L and 3.2 L, all are variants of the BMW M54 engine. A 2.0 L straight-4 engine was available in the European market. Not available in the U.S. the 2.2 L, 170 bhp version could achieve 100 km/h in 7.7 seconds. The 2.5 L engine could achieve 192 bhp at 6,000 rpm. With a manual transmission, it is rated at 6.8 seconds at 62 mph. Weighing 2,932 lbs with a manual transmission is 66lbs lighter than the 3.0 L version. The 3.0 L was capable of 231 bhp at 5,900 rpm and its straight six could achieve a 62 mph in just 5.9 seconds. The 3.2 L reached 330 bhp at 7,900 rpm and had 262 lb/ft of torque at 4,900 rpm.
A Bangle-designed concept coupe version of the Z4 was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2005. A company announcement was made on November 22, 2005 that the coupe would be available for delivery in the U.S. by June 2006, along with the return of the M Coupe. On April 4, 2006, production began at the Spartanburg, SC BMW plant, and the production vehicles were unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April 2006.
The BMW Z4 was also available in an M-powered version. This was the most powerful car of the Z4 lineup and it featured a naturally aspirated, inline six cylinder engine that was used in the third generation of the M3. The Z4 M produced 340 bhp at 7,900 rpm and 270 lb/ft of torque. With a top speed of 250 km/h, the M could achieve 0-100 km/h in just five seconds. The M Roadster also shares its 6-speed Getrag 217 manual gearbox with the M3.
For 2006, the Z4 was extensively updated and because of this, all models from '06 on were even more improved and a better choice for buyers. BMW installed its new N52 I-6 engines in all of the Z4 line. Mid-year in 2006 BMW released the coupe body steel, both the 215-hp and 255-hp engines, and the six-speed automatic. The N52 featured a magnesium block construction which consisted of an aluminum interior for the cylinders, along with an outer magnesium block.
To achieve increased performance, this engine featured BMW's Valvetronic variable valve timing system, which is incredibly more powerful through the middle of the rev range, and also improved handling and turn-in due to the decreased weight over the nose of the car. Other updates included a retuned standard suspension that improved ride quality, a higher final-drive ratio that only improved acceleration, additional braking functionality for the stability control system, new wheel designs, minor interior trim revisions and updated front and rear styling. The brakes size was also increased on the 3.0si models for 2006.
The Z4 3.0i Roadster released in 2008, when equipped with the optional Sport package, came complete with wheels very similar to the original Z4 Coupe concept vehicle.
According to the Auto Press, the 2008 BMW Z4 ranks 7 out of 8 Luxury Sports Cars, this analysis is ranked on 24 published reviews and test drives, along with an extensive review of reliability and safety data. The '08 Z4 3.0si was a two-seat hatchback coupe that came with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. Automatic transmission is optional, and the Z4 was also available as a convertible.
On August 27 2008, the Z4 line ended its production in North America at its Spartanburg, SC plant. Production has been shifted to the Regensburg, Germany plant for the its next-generation model, the E89.By Jessica Donaldson