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First look: BMW unveils Z4

A Zed and two sixes: BMW's Z4 will initially be offered in Australia with the choice of two inline six-cylinder engines.

More performance and quality is promised from BMW's convertible contender

3 Jul 2002

HERE it is, the latest controversial car to emerge from BMW's styling studios, the Z4 roadster.

Criticised in the automotive press for its looks even before this week's release of official photography, the Z4 will be seen for the first time in the metal at the Paris auto show in September.

While the styling of the two-seater Z3 replacement may be up for debate, BMW is emphatic there is no argument about the car's ability, claiming it is up there with Porsche's brilliant Boxster.

"We certainly think from a performance point of view and a dynamic point of view it does (match Boxster) because we have physically tested it against it," said BMW Australia spokesman John Kananghinis.

"We think it offers an equivalent product substance, if not better."The Z4 will go on sale in the US - where it is built - in October then be released in Europe in their spring next year. It will be displayed at the Melbourne motor show next March before going on sale in Australia around August, 2003.

The expectation is that pricing will creep up from the Z3, which at the end of its life sat in a bracket between $74,000 and $90,000.

The $100,000-plus Z4 then?"100K for the roadster market is a significant level - it's a psychological barrier - but it all depends on what sort of mix of final specification we are going to have in the car and we do have fairly high spec in cars in this market," Mr Kananghinis said.

"But that's got to be balanced against where we think the meat of the market is."BMW Australia is not expecting the 1000-plus annual sales Z3 achieved early in its local life, but it is also hoping Z4 sales will not tail off as quickly either.

It will initially be offered in Australia with the choice of two inline six-cylinder engines - the 170kW 3.0-litre and 141kW 2.5-litre. The 3.0 will be offered with either a six-speed manual or five-speed steptronic automatic, while the 2.5 will have the choice of five-speed units.

An SMG paddle shift gearbox as seen in the M3 is also being considered for Australia.

Further engine choices being mooted down the track for the Z4 include the barnstorming 3.2-litre M3 engine and, at the other end of the spectrum, 2.0-litre six-cylinder and four-cylinder variants.

The rear suspension of the car has undergone some serious work in the wake of criticism of the Z3, which used the original 3 Series Compact's design. In its place is the Z-axle from the current 3 Series.

BMW also says the Z4 has a wide track, low centre of gravity, 50:50 axle load distribution, electric power steering and high-performance brakes.

The Z4 continues the Z3's long-nose, short-tail styling theme but updated with the flame surfacing concept which combines convex and concave surface shapes.

Following on from the controversial 7 Series saloon, the Z4's looks are bound to draw wide-ranging responses and more criticism for BMW design boss Chris Bangle.

"The car represents a modern interpretation of what a roadster is," said Mr Kananghinis.

"We were a little bit shot at last time on two fronts with the Z3 - that it was too retro and too soft.

"I guess this addresses very clearly those potential criticisms with the next evolution of our roadster, which is very up-to-the-minute in terms of its leading-edge design and it is quite aggressive and representative of the dynamics of the car."It also sticks with a cloth roof rather than swapping to a metal roof design as favoured by the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. However, it is updated with a heated glass rear window.

In Australia, the roof will come standard with power operation, along with plenty of other features like climate control air-conditioning and CD audio, while full leather trim is probable.

Other standard features include a new throttle control system called Dynamic Drive Control, Dynamic Stability Control, run-flat tyres and a rollover safety system.

BMW did not release interior details of the Z4, other than to say dials and instruments are housed beneath sporting hoods on the dashboard.

A navigation system with 16:9 display retracting fully into the instrument panel, higher quality audio system and a car telephone are all listed as options.

The change from Z3 to Z4 reflects BMW's new naming policy under which core models are odd numbered and sports models even numbered.

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