A history lesson…
Is it a muscle car, is it a cruiser? It’s a question most motoring journalists asked when the BMW Z4 launched in 2003, thanks mostly due to its predecessor, the Z3. You see, the Z3 was universally disliked by those in the know, because it didn’t have a clear focus; it was soft and about as excited as watching someone eat pasta.
The Z4, however, represented a massive step-forward for the German marque, as it was a truly international sports-car. The yanks thought it was a muscle car, thanks to models like the Z4 M, and we thought it was a great sports car that may have had a rough ride, but featured such nostalgia, we couldn’t help but love it.
The new model – launched in 2009 – has taken the evolution a step-further by improving on almost every aspect of the original. It’s much softer and focused on being a comfortable cruiser than the perhaps harsh-riding MK1.
Bang for your buck
There are two options available: a coupe or convertible. And whichever you choose, you’re going to get a very stylish and engaging sports car. In typical sports car design, there isn’t that much in the recipe: a petrol engine, a roof, some pedals and two seats. It’s that simplicity that keeps the Z4 an exciting prospect for any adrenaline-seeker.
Compared to its rivals, the BMW Z4 is probably quite expensive. BMW like to charge a premium for the badge, and even in the used car market, you’ll pay a pretty penny for one. The styling may have been debatable at launch in 2003, but now it looks absolutely spot on; aggressive and sculptured. Chris Bangle designed this one – he also penned the 5-Series – and it still looks good even to this day.
What you’ll pay
Smaller engined Z4s like the 2.0-litre and 2.5-litre will go for considerably less than the full-blooded Z4 M, but whatever Z4 you buy, it’ll look the business. Prices are well under £10k for the aforementioned smaller capacity models, and while the monstrous M version is expensive, it is one of the most powerful sports cars available – as BMW placed the old M3’s straight-six into the tiny Z4.
What to check
Lessons learned from the poor Z3 have been applied on the Z4, which is good news for used car buyers, but there are still the basic checks to look for. The alloys, condition of the electrics and interior are all crucial. If you buy a convertible, you have to make sure the electric switch and mechanism works perfectly for the hood, if not, you will be paying through the nose to fix it.
BMW’s prices have come down a bit in recent years, so if you do need to get some dealer replacement parts, you should be ok. A replacement headlamp unit is around £165, and a door mirror is £170. A front shock absorber is £120 and a fuel filter is about £20.
How it drives
The ride on the Z4 is harsh, there’s no two-ways about it. It’s fitted with sports-suspension and, as a result, pot-holes will not be your best friend. It’s anything but a Range Rover over bumps, but for sheer thrills and a driving experience that is hard to replicate, the Z4 is top-class.
With the convertible, you get to hear the lovely exhaust note even clearer, and with the Z4’s handling, which is absolutely sublime, you’re in for one hell of a ride. Most Z4s are pretty powerful – including the basic 2.0-litre entry-level variant – so even if your budget can’t stretch to a Z4 M, you can be sure you won’t be embarrassed by 17-year-olds in 25 year old Vauxhall Novas.