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E85 Z4

1 Jul 2003

A clean-sheet redesign, BMW wasn’t about to make the same mistake with the Z3’s replacement.

Out went the creaky old E30 platform for one based on the far-more sophisticated E46 3 Series item – meaning an expensive and effective Z-axle rear suspension, super rigidity and a finesse hitherto missing from the previous model.

And in came BMW design head Chris Bangle’s controversial ‘flame surfacing’ styling, that evened up the proportions yet still managed to make the drop-top look menacing.

Furthermore the quality control and material feel stepped up a few notches, there was now enough room and comfort for even the tallest occupants, and the refinement levels matched the prices asked.

Engines also were up to the task – with no fewer than 2.5 litres and BMW’s brilliant variable-valve timing, for 141kW and 245Nm in the base 2.5i and 170kW/300Nm driving the rear wheels of the punchy Z4 3.0i.

Both were paired to five-speed automatic with Steptronic sequential shift operation, a five-speed manual for the 2.5i or a six-speed manual gearbox if it was the 3.0i you’re seeking.

Clearly BMW had benchmarked the Porsche Boxster as well as Honda’s fantastic S2000 – and clearly the its little drop-top now rated as a superb rival.

From April 2006 a minor facelift and re-engineered Z4s arrived, along with another instalment of BMW’s M magic.

Both the newly renamed 2.5si and 3.0si gained a magnesium-alloy, Valvetronic-equipped, double-VANOS six-cylinder engines, for 160kW and 250Nm for the former and 195kW and 315Nm for the latter.

Gearboxes were now six-speed automatic with paddle shift sequential control or six-speed manual.

Visual changes included new bumpers, a modified grille and tail-light design, and revised trim inside.

Meanwhile the Z4 M Roadster badge retuned boasting the classic E46 M3’s 252kW/365Nm 3.2-litre in-line six-cylinder engine for a 0-100km/h sprint in five seconds, high-performance brakes, a quicker hydraulic (rather than electric) steering ratio, and revamped suspension tuning.

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