BMW's Z3 series of sports cars was replaced in 2003 by a longer, wider, all-new Z4 duo. The roadster's styling changed dramatically, though both models had a long hood with the two occupants positioned well to the rear. Electric power steering was a first for BMW.
For 2006, the Z4 received a thorough mid-cycle freshening. Exterior details were restyled, while updated transmissions complemented a new range of inline-six-cylinder engines. To reflect the new drivetrains, trim levels changed from 2.5i and 3.0i to 3.0i and 3.0si. Equipment changes included new 17-inch wheels, a revised electronic stability system and a newly optional headlight cleaning system.
For 2007, auxiliary audio input is now standard, and a tire pressure monitoring system replaces the flat tire monitor, but little else has changed.
A high-performance M version packs a larger engine and a track-tuned suspension.
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BMW's two-seater displays a blend of convex and concave surfaces, coupled with deeply sculpted bodysides. The Z4 has more edges, especially at the rear, than its rounded predecessor. Changes last year included a larger air dam, new fog lamps and updated taillights.
Featuring a 98.2-inch wheelbase — relatively long for a roadster — the Z4 has short overhangs and a low rearward seating position. The hood is aluminum, and soft-top components are magnesium. Equipped with a heated glass rear window, the top retracts beneath an integrated tonneau cover. Manual operation is standard, but power operation is available. Roll bars are located behind the seats, and the A-pillars are reinforced.
The Z4 coupe sports front-end styling that's similar to the roadster's and incorporates a curvaceous roof that flows seamlessly from the windshield to the stern, ending abruptly ahead of a subtle deck spoiler.
Seventeen-inch wheels wear P225/45R17 run-flat tires. The Sport package adds wider 17-inch wheels on the 3.0i and 18-inch wheels on the 3.0si.
The Z4's controls are well spaced on a distinctive dashboard, and they received upgraded materials for 2006. Full-width dash panels are either wood or brushed aluminum. Simulated leather upholstery is standard in the 3.0i, while the 3.0si gets real leather. An extended leather option in the 3.0si adds upholstery to the windshield frame, sun visors and doors.
Under the Hood
Two inline-six-cylinder engines are available in the Z4, and both displace 3.0 liters. The 3.0i makes 215 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque, while the 3.0si achieves 255 hp and 220 pounds-feet of torque. Roadsters are available with either engine, but coupes come only with the more powerful motor. A six-speed manual transmission is standard in all Z4s, and a six-speed automatic with a clutchless-manual mode is optional.
Side-impact airbags, knee airbags, antilock brakes, and BMW's Dynamic Stability Control electronic stability system are standard. A cutoff switch for the front passenger airbag is included.
The rear-wheel-drive Z4 M is available in both coupe and roadster forms. Other than a newly standard tire pressure monitoring system and a new exterior color (Monaco Blue), little has changed for 2007.
The M roadster and coupe are only mildly differentiated from their lesser brethren, with a tweaked front fascia and a rear end that incorporates a hint of a race-style diffuser, flanked by quad exhaust tips. Bi-xenon headlights — which means high-intensity-discharge lighting for both high and low beams, not that they swing both ways — are standard equipment on M cars, so even with added power you won't out-drive your lights.
The M interiors are as subtly differentiated from the base cars as are the exteriors. The instruments are white on black, with an adaptive yellow and red LED zone on the tachometer that changes to match the engine's readiness to rev. (A cold engine shouldn't be revved as high.) A thick-rimmed M steering wheel and shift knob give these cars a firm handshake, and the pearlescent chrome climate controls and door handles provide jewelry. "Hexagon" trim replaces brushed aluminum for 2007.
The M's 3.2-liter inline-six-cylinder engine produces 330 horsepower and redlines at 8,000 rpm. The power is transmitted to the asphalt by a six-speed manual transmission and a computer-controlled variable differential lock, which lets the driver enjoy the dynamic sensation of rear-wheel drive without flinging the car into the nearest ditch at the first sign of precipitation.
All-disc antilock brakes, side-impact airbags and an electronic stability system are standard. To help reduce the chance of being rear-ended, the Z4 carries two-stage brake lights that increase the illuminated taillight area under hard braking, conveying the urgency of the stop to following traffic.
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