REVIEWS: 2008 BMW Z4 M Roadster

July 7, 2008
0807 05 Z+2008 BMW M Roadster+front Three Quarter View
My time in the Z4 M Roadster was equally divided between a swelteringly hot summer evening and an absolute downpour the following morning. The roadster was much more fun with the top down, but incredibly stable during the downpour.
I really enjoyed the 3.2-liter inline-six. This engine was also used in the last-generation BMW M3 and is still a joy on twisty roads. According to BMW, it will sprint from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds and the top speed is 155 mph. Not every car needs a V-8 to be fun, especially on public roads. The inline-six also offers a type of smoothness that makes the Z4 M fun when you aren't flogging it.
I frequently forget this car exists, which is a shame. It's a great choice for topless driving and offers a superb combination of comfort and performance. Perhaps a touch soft for an M car, but that's not really a problem with our broken roads.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
0807 02 Z+2008 BMW M Roadster+rear Three Quarter View
Unlike Mr. Floraday, I was blessed with perfect weather during my short time with the M Roadster; the kind of weather that convertible owners dream about. Needless to say, I didn't do any top up driving in the M but my top down experience was top-notch. Even though this car is engineered to be driven at nine tenths, it is just as competent at two tenths. The engine is remarkably smooth and eager and the shifter is perfectly placed. The cabin is surprisingly tight even for someone of my small stature, which is only exacerbated by the heavily bolstered seats. This is not to say, though, that I don't like the seats. They are supremely comfortable and those bolsters do a great job of keeping you planted when the road gets curvy.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
0807 01 Z+2008 BMW M Roadster+rear View
If the Porsche Boxster didn't exist, I'd like the M Roadster a lot more. I just prefer the light, tactile feel of the Porsche. The BMW has a raw, muscle car feel to it. Fun, but I'm not sure I'd want to live with it every day. The throttle is aggressive, the shifter is heavy, and the steering wheel is far too thick for my liking. It was nice to once again drive the now old but powerful 3.2-liter inline-six. It has great character but it is not the smoothest of engines.
Also, the interior is a bit snug and the old-school, flip-up screen is looking, well, old. I've never been nuts about the styling of the Z4 but it is distinctive. I prefer the looks of the non-M version as long as it has 18-inch wheels. As with most newer BMWs, the styling is very wheel size sensitive.
Marc Noordeloos, Road Test Editor
0807 03 Z+2008 BMW M Roadster+front View
I enjoyed my time with our bright-red BMW M Roadster over the weekend, when I had plenty of top-down time in warm but not sweltering temperatures. But the weekend did little to dispel the conclusions I made about the M Roadster back in February 2006, when I conducted a comparison test between the then-new M Roadster and the Porsche Boxster S for our May 2006 cover story. The M Roadster is all raw speed and power, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it absolutely lacks the ultimate finesse of the Boxster, the ability to connect seamlessly with the driver. If you drive these two cars back-to-back on a very challenging road, as I had the privilege of doing in southern Spain, you will come away with all the evidence you need that, despite what some car magazines might tell you, the numbers do not mean everything. After all, in our tests, the M Roadster achieved a 0-to-60-mph time of only 4.8 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13.4 seconds at 108 mph, whereas the Boxster S managed "only" 5.4 seconds to 60 mph and took 13.9 seconds for the quarter-mile, at 103 mph. But the Porsche was, hands down, a more rewarding car to drive fast.
That's not to say that the M Roadster is charmless. On the contrary, that 330-hp, 3.2-liter in-line six is an amazing engine, and the car's straight-line speed is addictive. The fully automatic power top is easy to use, and the car still strikes quite a pose on the street. Although the front-engine BMW lacks the Porsche's dual trunks (one in front and one in the rear, behind the mid-mounted engine), its single trunk is reasonably spacious. I made two trips to the local nursery, both with passenger, and both times I carried a 50-pound bag of potting soil in the trunk plus a bunch of flowers, pot liners, and other stuff to dress my deck. On one trip, I even loaded in a large, heavy, 18-inch clay pot, which required me to tie down the trunk lid over it. Who needs an SUV?
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
0807 07 Z+2008 BMW M Roadster+dash
All of my time spent in the M Roadster was with the top up, what with the unseasonably cool weather we had yesterday and today and the threat of rain. That's a shame, because there's something about the act of lowering a convertible top and the sheer pleasure of driving an open car that makes you forgive many a vehicle's foibles. Had the wind been blowing through my hair as I drove home last night, I probably could have overlooked the rough edges of the M Roadster, like the heavy clutch and throttle and the rather stiff-legged suspension that crashes over rough spots in the road. Around town, the M Roadster moves more like a krumper than a ballet dancer. That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy driving the M Roadster, but it needs several miles of twisty two-lane to really stretch its legs and show off its best attributes. Alas, those kinds of roads are in short supply on my daily commute. I was, however, able to open up the throttle on the freeway, where BMW's 330-hp inline-six shined, delivering almost instant acceleration as I upshifted through the gearbox. I just wish I'd been able to lower that top.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
0807 04 Z+2008 BMW M Roadster+front View

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