AT THE WHEEL REVIEWS
2006 BMW Z4
This Land Shark Continues the Roadster Legacy
By Frederick Staab Cruise Control Radio.Com
The legacy of the drop-top roadster is filled with the likes of MGs, Triumphs, Jaguars and of course the original Cobra. Small, light, sporty cars that were usually low on frills and high on driving excitement. All of them had one thing in common, however: find a sunny day, fold the rooftop fabric, and after the first couple of miles click by on the odometer, all the stress, arguments and trivialities of the week neatly fade into the background of your mind.
It was just one of those beautiful balmy days that I decided to put the Z4 3.0i to the test on the strip of asphalt laid down on a thin peninsula bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the right and the bay of the left.
But before we fold away the top, a short history lesson is in order. The year was 1996; BMW re-entered the roadster business with the new-at-the-time Z3. The mildly retro-themed ragtop soon earned the admiration of the female demographic as a “cute” car.
Jump ahead to 2003: the next gen Z4 bows with “flame surfaced” styling from the hands of “love him or hate him” chief designer Chris Bangle. The wheelbase has been pushed out two inches over its predecessor and overall length has grown by the same amount. The hood is long and prominent, the tail short and bobbed. A stamped-in kick-up rear
spoiler graces the trunk lid, while incredibly curved formed fenders leave you asking, “Just how did they get that from a flat piece of sheet metal?” This time around, the term “cute” did not come as part of the package; it was replaced by a more fitting nickname, “Land Shark.”
Enough about the Z4’s exterior; time to open this car up to the atmosphere. Push and hold the console-mounted button, and 7 seconds later your roof will be neatly stowed behind you with no need snap on boots or covers. The 3.0-liter straight six fires up with a deep-tuned tone. This dual-overhead cam 24-valve inline makes 225 hp at 5,900 rpm and 214 ft-lbs@3,500 rpm.
By design, it runs smoothly, and if you are not paying attention, it will rev to the red before you get to pull the shift on the six-speed manual. Clutch effort was light with a noticeably long throw. A five-speed automatic or a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) are also available.
These days 225 hp might not seem like its up to playing in the first string of the enthusiast drivers game, however the 3.0 liter combined with the well selected gearing was more than capable of motivating this 2998lb. rag top. A quick 6 to 5 downshift added another 20mph on the speedo in a flash. Top speed clicks off at 155 mph due to electronic limitation.
Once again BMW has managed to make a car handle, but not ride like it left its suspension back on the garage floor. Our Z4 tester included the $1200 sport package which brings on 18”X8” ellipsoid wheels wearing performance run flat tires.
In addition there’s Dynamic Driving Control (DDC). A press of the DDC button yields noticeably heavier steering effort for control at speed as well as a more aggressive throttle tip in. Acceleration tune ability is a side benefit of electronic throttle control that eliminates mechanical accelerator linkage. Wind noise and buffeting that are sometimes a convertible headache were minimized and traveling with side glass up and top down to made conversations with the passenger easy, and there is not one iota of cowl shake on this coupe.
And price maybe an issue for potential Z4 buyers since the base $40,900 price climbs quickly to the 50K level when adding desirable options. At that point you can get into A number of V8 powered heavy hitters, but you won’t get the panache of a BMW or some of the swoopiest sheet metal that every came out of stamping machine.
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