BMW jumped back into the burgeoning roadster market in 1997 with the Z3, and now it moves into the luxury/high-performance end of the market with the Z8.
The Z8 is a V-8-powered two-seater that recalls the styling of the BMW 507 roadster of the 1950s. With a base price of $128,570, the Z8 is four times the price of a Z3 and in the same league as the Aston Martin DB7, Ferrari 360 Modena and Mercedes-Benz SL600.
The Z8 is largely hand-built, and BMW advises it plans to ship only about 400 units of this limited-production sports car to the United States annually. Buyers can take delivery at BMW headquarters in Munich after watching the final assembly of their Z8. The purchase price includes free tuition to the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, S.C., where professional instructors will teach owners how to drive their Z8s.
Actor Pierce Brosnan was one of the first to drive the Z8, a perk of his role as James Bond in The World Is Not Enough.
The Z8s classic sports car lines include a long hood/short rear deck and smooth, road-hugging styling, along with a wide version of BMWs traditional twin-kidney grille. The integrated headlamps are the Xenon gas-discharge type, and the turn signals and brake lights are neon.
Aluminum body panels mount on an aluminum space frame, and the Z8 rides on 18-inch diameter, run-flat tires. The Z8 comes with a power folding soft-top and a removable hardtop.
In a nod to sports car tradition, the driver has to push a start button on the dashboard to fire up the engine, and the instrument cluster is in the center. The Z8 is thoroughly modern in other areas, including a standard navigation system, hands-free cellular phone and a 250-watt Harmon Kardon sound system with a CD changer.
Heated leather seats coddle the driver and passenger, and a power telescoping steering column helps tailor the driving position. BMW says the trunk can hold two golf bags.
Under the Hood
The Z8 comes with the 394-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8 engine also used in the M5 performance sedan, and it teams with a five-speed manual transmission. An automatic transmission is not available.
BMW says the Z8 reaches 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds, and the top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
The front airbags are the dual-stage type that deploy at one of two levels depending on crash severity. Side-impact airbags, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control also are standard.