- Post is under moderationAn updated version of BMW’s excellent turbocharged ’six keeps the 4 Series Coupé fresh, even before its #2017 MY updates. Words: Shane O’ Donoghue. Photography: Nick Maher. The Definition of a BMW Behind the Wheel. The 4 Series might be about to be face-lifted but we couldn’t resist the charms of the 440i.
While I know I’m preaching to the converted on these pages when advocating the advantages of rear-wheel-drive, we must remember that there are many drivers, a very many, that see it as a negative. One such person is part of my extended family and he describes BMWs as ‘skittish’ – tarring them all with the same broad brush. The less charitable among you might suggest he gets some driving lessons, but the sad truth is that the majority of motorists have zero interest in which axle is driven. That’s probably why we’re seeing a slow but sure move away from focus on the layout from BMW. The 2 Series Active Tourer kicked things off and there’s more than a slight rumour that the next generation 1 Series will adopt a front-wheel drive set-up. On top of all that, xDrive four-wheel drive is being made more prevalent across the #BMW line-up, as evidenced by the focus on it at the launch of the G30 5 Series.
So it was a pleasure to return home from that event to an awaiting car that, in reality, should be considered old-school-BMW. The model in question was a 440i Coupé, pre-LCI, in M Sport specification, which (if you know your BMW-flavoured onions), you’ll know is only offered in rear-wheel-drive guise. Ah bliss. None of your diesel or namby-pamby four-wheel-drive here thanks, just the latest iteration of BMW’s creamy smooth turbocharged straight-six, a hike in power to 326hp coinciding with the name change from 435i to 440i, accompanied by a solid 332lb ft of torque from just 1380rpm. It warms my heart that there’s still a manual version of this car on the BMW UK price list, but most will pay the one-and-a-half grand more it takes to upgrade to the eight-speed ‘Sport’ automatic for future resale value. It also drops the carbon dioxide emissions considerably, reducing VED tax and, if you’re fortunate enough to be buying a car such as this through a business, Benefit-in-kind taxation – the latter by a significant four percent. Theoretically the auto is more economical too, though we suspect there’s little in it in the real world.
Although the 4 Series is undergoing its midlife nip and tuck soon, and this car’s analogue instruments and non-touch iDrive screen appear old-fashioned next to its newer big brothers, it’s still a remarkably good cabin. It’s simple to use, well laid out, tactile to the touch and, perhaps still of some surprise to many, quite spacious inside. Sure, the rear seats aren’t as capacious as those up front, but the boot is large by any measure and the generously glazed areas make the whole car feel airy in any case.
Oddly, the ‘old’ 4 Series cabin has, in my book, one preferred item over the new 5 Series, and that’s the indicator stalk. The new G30 reverts to a simple ‘stays on in position’ stalk, while the 4 Series has what I consider to be a more modern design and operation. Strange.
And while I love a manual gearbox as much as the next petrolhead, BMW’s eight-speed auto is, as I may have mentioned once or thrice on these pages, an absolute gem. The characteristics change brought about by selecting the various driving modes is very well-judged. By default, the transmission is smooth, comfortable and quick to use the higher gears in a bid to improve economy. Choose the Sport mode, however, and it helps the car come alive. Leave it to its own devices and the shifts are snappier and precise, while the engine is allowed to rev for longer before the next change up. It’s still silky-smooth, mind, even if there is a gratuitous flare of revs accompanying each down-shift. We approve.
Now go for Sport Plus and take control for yourself via the deliciously metallic gearchange paddles; that’s the 440i at its best. The upshifts are more assertive and response to the paddles is instantaneous. At the same time, the engine becomes more audible, though, I confess, I’d like it to be considerably louder again when in this setting. Response to the throttle is sharpened, the power steering assistance is reduced (shame the good-looking steering wheel is so large though) and by default the stability and traction control systems are switched into a mid-setting. This is wonderfully useful for within-the-law public road driving on interesting roads, especially when it’s a little damp underfoot. It’s possible on tighter corners, exiting in second, to provoke a momentary rear slide that the electronics then allow you to gather up intuitively for yourself, or, if your brain was otherwise occupied, intervening to prevent embarrassment. At higher speeds, this leeway translates into a lovely rear-led stance out of curves as you unwind the steering and let the rear axle do part of the work. You don’t need to be on track or at licence-shredding speeds to enjoy the delicacy of this chassis in a highly rewarding fashion.
With the #DSC and #DTC system full engaged, it’s a completely different sensation. In the dry there’s so much grip and traction available that the electronics have little to do unless you’re being a complete hooligan, but in the wet they are simply brilliant, cutting power almost presciently before loss of traction at the rear wheels translates into even the slightest of ‘moments’. It’s virtually fool-proof, and I reckon even my aforementioned ‘skittish’ family member could be talked into giving it a go. The best news of course is that you, the converted, don’t lose out on what makes a #BMW coupé like this special in a bid to make it safe and sanitised for the masses. Hallelujah to that.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-F32 / #BMW-440i-Coupe / #BMW-440i-Coupe-F32 / #BMW-440i-F32 / #BMW / #BMW-4-Series / #BMW-4-Series-F32 / #BMW-4-Series-Coupe / #BMW-4-Series-Coupe-F32
Engine: Turbocharged straight-six, 24-valve
Max Power: 326hp @ 5500rpm
Max Torque: 32lb ft @ 1380-5000rpm
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy : 42.8mpg emissions (CO²): 154g/km
Weight (EU): 1630kg
Price (OTR): £43,755Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationMagical Mystery Touring / #BMW-M3-CS-Touring-E46 / #BMW-M3-CS-Touring / #BMW-M3-Touring / #BMW-M3-Touring-E46 / #BMW-M3-E46 / #BMW-E46 / #BMW / #BMW-E46-Touring
Of all the M Cars BMW never built the one that we all lust after is the E46 M3 Touring. If you were to see this E46 M3 Touring out and about, you may well perform a cartoonish double-take. And you’d be right to do so, as the amount of work that’s gone into making Knut Siring’s example look factory-standard is actually quite astonishing… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photography: Tom Begley.
The idea of an M3 Touring is one that consistently gets BMW fans whipped up into an excitable lather. Googling that phrase (‘M3 Touring’, that is, not ‘excitable lather’ – that’ll return rather different results) reveals pages upon pages of forum posts and blog entries along the lines of ‘the best car that BMW never built’. It does, after all, seem rather unfair that the station wagons were left off the product planning chart, particularly given the proven global enthusiasm for hot estates; the RS4 and RS6 have paid for more than a few posh dinners in the steakhouse next to the Audi factory. And the E60-generation M5 was offered as a capacious load-lugger – V10 up front, Labrador in the back – so why not the M3?
Well, it’s complicated, and probably involved a lot of meetings and flipcharts and tutting accountants. The crux of the matter is that the E46 M3 Touring that you’re looking at here doesn’t really exist. Except that it does, as we’re able to see it, nestle our posteriors into its welcoming soft leather, and experience all of the hedonistic thrills that the S54-powered M3 has to offer, along with the knowledge that we could stop off at any point we fancied and buy a new wardrobe without having to worry about forking out for the delivery charge. This car, the vision-made-real of serial car-twiddler Knut Siring, is a bona fide M3… that just happens to be a Touring.
“It started out as a fully-optioned 320i Touring that I’d had for a few years,” he explains. “It had just about every option that was available on the E46 in 2000, and I like the design of the Touring very much – I wanted to convert it into something special.” Well, it’s safe to say that he’s achieved that with some degree of success. But this was always bound to be the case; when we get Knut talking about his former projects and successes, we’re treated to a comprehensive and jaw-dropping list of greatest hits, ranging from Caterhams to Audi Quattros, via a 1960s Opel Rekord and a handful of Nissan Patrols, along with quite a few BMWs – most of them Tourings. And as with so many project cars across the world, this one began with a fleeting but indelible glimpse at a concept car; namely BMW’s M3 Touring concept of 2000, which acts as a sort of unicorn for E46 fanciers with track days to conquer and hedge clippings to dispose of. “I loved the idea of that, and I wanted to build something similar,” says Knut. “The goal was to do it as if it had been built by BMW’s M division itself, and to keep all the M3 specs original.” So this wasn’t a case of shoving a big engine into an estate in order to create either a sleeper or a balls-to-the-wall dragster, nor was it to craft a scene-friendly show car. He wanted to wrap an M3 up inside his 320i, and authenticity had to be key.
At this embryonic stage of the process, Knut found himself approaching Southways Automotive in Fareham, thanks to the build thread of another feisty Touring they’d had a hand in. Now, Knut doesn’t live all that close to Fareham. In fact, he’s from Norway.
So why engage the services of a custom builder in the UK? “Quite simply, your M3s are very reasonably priced!” Knut laughs. “In Norway you can’t get an E46 M3 for less than £30k, even a knackered one. If I was to find the donor M3 I acquired for this project back in Norway and pay all the taxes and duties, we’d be looking at… well, rather a lot more than that.” In addition to this, the skills of Southways’ experts spoke for themselves, with a long line of high-end bespoke builds under its belt, so the reasons stacked up pretty high to source the donor car in the UK, have it all built in Fareham, then ship it back home to Norway afterwards for certification.
So, that donor Knut mentioned – that is, in itself, something rather special. “It was a 2005 M3 CS in Interlagos blue that I found on Pistonheads,” he explains. “It had low mileage, but also Cat D damage. For this reason, I got it at a good price and wasn’t too sad to break it apart, it was never going to be a collector’s item with that history. And the M3 CS is a rare enough car in itself, but an M3 CS Touring? That’s one of a kind!” With Southways excited about being involved, the madness could now commence. Oh, and what madness it turned out to be.
The M3 CS Competition Package is a tasty thing to be using for a project base, as it offers a sort of globalised reflection of the fabled CSL; a number of the lightweight E46’s signature features found their way on to the CS, including the spincast BBS wheels in staggered widths, the CSL steering rack (which offers a ratio of 14.5:1 rather than the usual 15.4:1), bigger brakes, an Alcantara steering wheel, and various other bits and bobs. All of this was to find a new home in Knut’s passion wagon, staying faithful to his brief of creating something that would effectively be a CS with an extra bit of glazing at the back.
With the two cars sitting in Southways’ workshop, the fellas wasted no time in stripping them back to first principles and drawing up a plan of attack. There are a number of essential considerations in a graft-job like this that may not seem immediately obvious – it’s not just a case of bolting the wider wings on and shoving an S54 under the bonnet, the architecture of the two cars is quite different. One of the first things they did was to cut out the boot floor of Knut’s Touring, in the knowledge that the M3’s quadtailpiped crossbox wouldn’t fit under there, and it’d make far more sense to slot in the entire M3 rear subframe – suitably reinforced, of course, as you might as well do stuff like that if you’ve got the thing apart already. The team retained as many original fixing points, brackets, heat shields and so forth as possible in order to keep everything as legit and OEM as it could be, which of course made the job all the more tricky, but Knut was keen for this to be a holistic, authentic and thorough reimagining.
With the rear subframe stitched in, the front was soon to follow, and the bullish S54 with its SMG-II transmission were eased into the gutted shell, giving the car an interesting appearance from afar; a bumperless silver Touring with M3 CS wheels standing unfortunately proud of the arches. But of course, this inbetween phase represented a leap in the project – with all the oily bits in place, it was a simple matter of rerouting around five miles of wiring in order to get it all up and running. C’mon, how hard can that be…?
“I was keen to run the CSL M track mode DSC system too,” Knut recalls. “Originally on the CS and CSL there’s only the one M track mode button on the steering wheel, but I wanted to keep the cruise control and radio buttons. So now there’s an E39 wiper stalk with intensive cleaning feature – this way the M track mode button is easily available on the end of the wiper stalk!” Handy, that. And all extra fun for the wiring guys.
Meanwhile, back to the aesthetics, the CS donor had been liberated of its bonnet, bumper, wings and mirrors, while the rear wings had great swathes of steel carved from them in readiness to transplant into their new home. As the body parts began to pile up, it became increasingly clear that the engineering prowess of Southways might need to be augmented by a coachwork specialist to get everything lined up to BMW-quality tolerances, as items like the bonnet and rear bumper were nowhere near fitting properly (it seems that the M3 coupé and non-M Touring are pretty different shapes, who’d have thought it?) and so Dorset’s Kustom Kolors was consulted with a view to perfecting the aesthetics before slathering it all in Estoril blue (“…which is a pretty rare shade in Norway,” says Knut, “and, in my opinion the most beautiful BMW colour”).
Thankfully, the company was equally enthused about getting on board with the project, and happily threw a Herculean amount of effort into hybridising the front wings, welding in broader flares to the rear arches that flowed accurately into the doors and crafting gorgeous bespoke swage lines, widening the rear bumper and recessing it to allow the tailgate to close, flaring out the fuel filler aperture – the amount of careful craftsmanship required here is truly mindboggling. And the genius of it all is that you can’t tell from the finished product how torturous and fiddly a process that bodywork was, it all just looks neatly factory-stamped. The mark of a job well done.
Inside the freshly reworked E46, the shenanigans continued apace. Further wiring was wrestled with – no small task, when you’re splicing a right-hand drive, #SMG -equipped fly-by-wire throttle S54 into a left-hand drive, automatic transmission, cable-throttled 320i – and the M3 dash was artfully bolted into place. The pedals put up a bit of a fight, as it wasn’t just a case of losing the clutch; they all needed swapping, and the removal of the accelerator pedal requires the removal of the steering column! Although thankfully the car was in bits anyway. Small mercies, eh?
The finished interior is a neat fusion of the coupé’s embellishments and the estate car’s architecture; the M3 dials and buttons function as they should, the oval mirror is in place and the CS seats are sitting on the Touring rails – all sublimely cohesive.
In fact, that’s a pretty neat summary of the car overall: sublime cohesion. It’s very easy to come up with an idea and say ‘sure, I want to make it as good as BMW would have,’ but that loaded statement sets you up for endless agonising workshop hours of fiddling, modifying, fitting, swearing, removing, reworking, refitting, and so on ad infinitum, all with the aim of ending up with something that looks so factory-standard, it wouldn’t elicit the slightest hint of a second glance from someone who didn’t know what they were looking at. This is a car Knut commissioned simply because he thought it was a good idea and wanted to own one, and there’s only an infinitesimal percentage of people who’d spot that it’s something out of the ordinary. That said, he’s doing a pretty good job of drawing those people in like a tractor beam.
“The most common comments I hear are ‘nice car’ and ‘nice colour’, although there’s also a lot of ‘wow, I didn’t know they made an M3 Touring’ from the #BMW enthusiasts,” says Knut with a smile. And you can see from this that he’s satisfied with his creation. This is an M3 that was built to be fun, usable, and of impeccable quality – the hidden benefit is its uniqueness, and the idea that every now and then someone might pick up on that. When they do, they’re in the club. A nod and a wink, some junk in the trunk, and a ticket to the inner circle of M3 lore’s most oft-cited cliché: this is arguably the best car that #BMW never built.
TECHNICAL DATA BMW E46 M3 CS Touring
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION: Factory-standard E46 M3 #S54B32 / #BMW-S54 / #S54 3.2-litre straight-six, #SMG-II transmission.
CHASSIS: 8x19-inch (front) and 9.5x19-inch (rear) M3 CS #BBS spin-cast alloys in shadow chrome, 225/40 (front) and 225/35 (rear) Continental SportContact M3 tyres, M3 CS/Competition suspension, reinforced rear subframe, CSL steering rack, CS/CSL brakes all-round, CSL M-track mode #DSC system.
EXTERIOR: Custom hybrid M3 Coupé/Touring front wings, M3 front bumper and bonnet, modified #Touring /M3 rear wing sections and doors, #BMW-M3 rear bumper widened and modified to fit around tailgate aperture, House of Kolor 335 Estoril blue paint, DiamondBrite paint sealant, glass sunroof, climate comfort windscreen with rain and light sensor, bi-xenon headlights.
INTERIOR: M3 electric memory seats in black leather, M3 dash and dials, original 16:9 Professional Navigation with CD changer, radio and TV, M3 CSL/CS Alcantara steering wheel and handbrake cover.
THANKS: “I want to thank the guys at Southways Automotive in Fareham (especially Richard Kitchen) for their efforts in making my dream come true. I also want to thank Kustom Kolors in Dorset for the body work and paint job.”Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation
EVOLVE BMW F82 M4 / #2015 / #BMW-M4-F82-Evolve / #BMW-M4-F82 / #BMW-M4 / #BMW-F82 / #Evolve / 530hp / #BMW / #BMW-M4-Evolve /
White Heat Those wizards at Evolve have given the M4 an extra 100hp! Evolve has worked its magic on the F82 M4 and equipped it with significantly more power and torque Words: Adam Towler. Photography: Gus Gregory.
There was a time when an extra 20, maybe 30hp, squeezed out of a BMW M3, was considered good going. That held for the E30 variants, but also the six-pot models right up to the last – the fabulous, buxomarched E46. Without going really bespoke with the engine’s internals, and hence at hideous expense, an E46 M3 that made a genuine 360hp was running near the top of its potential. And didn’t we all know it from the glorious noise it made (although that’s a whole new debate I suppose).
So it’s almost surreal when you consider that this #Evolve-tuned M4 boasts 530hp. Just think about that: no more than ten years ago that was supercar power; twenty years ago it was more like the hypercars of the age. Moreover, Evolve’s M4 combines that stunning amount of power with a solid 500lb ft of torque, something an old S54 engine could only dream about. By way of a comparison, that’s around 100hp more than the standard M4 (with 431hp), and just under 100lb ft more (the standard M4 produces 406lb ft of torque). The F8x M cars have lifted useable performance on to a whole new level, and Evolve’s modifications promise to ramp that up yet again. Given the regular M4 can crack 0-100mph in just 8.6 seconds, it’s clear that this car should be into the realms of the modern day supercar.
At the core of Evolve’s work on this M4 is its Evolve-R Stage 1 remap. Evolve say it plots its own power graph figures from a rolling road for both a standard and modified car only after taking the average of many runs, to compensate for a variety of atmospheric conditions and heat soak. The inherent message is that Evolve is confident in the claims it is making with regard to the numbers.
The remap has been combined here with an Eventuri (Evolve’s sister company) carbon fibre air intake system, although when we get to try the car that particular part isn’t fitted and the car has a standard BMW air intake in place. That’s a shame, because the new induction system is really something special to look at – in fact, if you’re so geekily inclined, it’s the sort of thing you might have in an automotive man-cave just because it’s a lovely piece of motorsport sculpture realised in carbon fibre.
Eventuri creates the systems by first taking a 3D scan of the M4’s engine bay, and loading that into a computer modelling software. Then, by using sophisticated modelling techniques, it can design the new intake to not only maximise the flow of air, and retain the appropriate cross section throughout, but also to fit neatly around the components packed so tightly into the F82’s engine bay (when you see under the bonnet of one of these cars up close, you do tend to appreciate just how much is now crammed in there with a modern turbocharged car).
The main point of difference with the Eventuri system is that the cone-shaped air filter is turned through 180 degrees, so that it runs from a large mouth into a smaller diameter that’s the same as the intake tube, which the designers believe is less restrictive to airflow. The filter element is housed within a gorgeous carbon ‘bell’; the initial design is first made on a 3D printer, where rapid changes can be made to minor aspects of the design, and then retested, before it’s eventually manufactured in carbon fibre off site. It’s a clever, efficient and effective approach, and an attractive end result to boot.
This particular car also features a range of BMW M Performance goodies, including the full M Performance exhaust system. So configured, this M4 makes no attempt to hide its potency when I fire it up. The turbocharged ‘six has a flat, thick note that suggests militaristic power over everything else, although I can’t help but miss the complex, multilayered sound signature of previous M Power engines. Gone is the chain rattle and tappet thrash of old, but I suppose that’s what they call progress…
Never mind: with Drive selected in the #M-DCT ‘box we’re up and running with all the ease you’d expect of a modern car. It’s incredible to think that over 500hp is lurking up front because apart from the drone of the exhaust, this M4 is as docile as you might want it to be in an urban situation. In fully auto mode the ‘box shuffles up and down the ratios quietly yet briskly, and just a brush of throttle is required to keep pace with traffic. That’s either a very good thing – especially if you’re using the car everyday – or something of an anti-climax.
Visually, the car is not quite so subtle. There’s the M Performance carbon fibre splitter, diffuser, side sills and rear spoiler, but more eye-catching of all are the massive 20-inch #Vossen alloy wheels shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sports measuring 255/30 ZR20 on the front axle, and 285/30 ZR20 on the rear. #KW height adjustable springs lower the ride height but allow the #EDC dampers to be retained, not requiring any reprogramming of the system despite the drop in ride height. Evolve must be a fan of the KWs because they’re also fitted to the F10 M5 we drive on the same day. So equipped on a white M4, there’s no shying away from the street presence this car has.
Unfortunately, the day of our test drive is very wet – in fact it’s tipping it down. This poses the Evolve M4 with a few serious problems: it has volcanic levels of thrust, seemingly at any revs and on instant demand from the driver, and all of that energy is being channelled through just the rear wheels – and with stiffer suspension as well. The result is that the M4’s traction control system is working overtime almost from the first application of throttle. If you’re brutal with the right hand pedal it’s possible to steal a march on the #DSC system, which then frantically jumps to attention and reins the car back in, although not before it’s got out of shape already. Today’s going to require careful metering of that 500hp.
Quite what the power and torque numbers are without the new intake system in place we can’t exactly say, but this M4 certainly feels appreciably quicker than standard. It’s a civilised map too: there are no misfires or tantrums during our drive, and nothing to suggest this is anything other than as BMW intended, albeit with considerably more venom to the delivery. That alone is a triumph for any car remapped in the aftermarket industry. The turbo ‘six gets going early and then never really gives up until the limiter is approaching; you can choose to surf the low-down and mid-range torque curve, clicking rapidly through the seven gears with the paddles at your fingertips, or keep the accelerator nailed and relish the outright shove. On a typically tight, slippery English B-road in autumn, this feels like a very fast car indeed.
For me, the modifications to the M4’s running gear are more of an acquired taste. So equipped, the ride becomes fidgety over every single detail on the road’s surface, even those that aren’t obvious to the naked eye. It’s as if the car’s tyres are reading braille, but it never settles in this state and always feels on edge – the rebound is particularly aggressive, and with such low profile tyres there’s very little the rubber can do to aide the springs and dampers in this regard. Traction is predictably at its most marginal at low speeds and in a low gear, where any enthusiastic throttle application has the rear wheels spinning and the electronic systems stepping in to take control. Without them, the Evolve M4 will slither this way and that all day long until the axle thumps in furious protest. With rivulets of water making their way across the road, it takes a moment of bravery or foolhardiness to switch off the DSC, and if you do then you suddenly become very aware of every twitch made by your toes on the right foot. On drier, smoother, Tarmac it would probably feel significantly different.
Of course, you don’t have to choose the wheels or the suspension modifications: as ever they are a matter of personal taste, and I’m sure that for some buyers the ‘enhancement’ to the way the M4 looks will be reason alone for making their purchase. However, if anything, a standard-looking M4 – or in particular an M3 – is possibly even more appealing when you have the knowledge that it possesses 530hp under the power-domed bonnet. Given this Stage 1 map costs £999, it’s a very cost effective way to have over 500 horsepower in a modern saloon/coupé, and if it wasn’t for the M Performance exhaust, not one that was immediately obvious to an onlooker. If you’re looking to extract more out of your turbocharged M3, M4 or M4 Convertible, it’s well worth a consideration.
CONTACT: Evolve Automotive / Tel: 01582 573801 / Web: www.evolveautomotive.com
Eventuri carbon fibre intake system is a work of art and packing it into the M4’s crowded engine bay is no mean feat; in combination with the remap the M4 now develops 530hp.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderationThe Last Emperor
A look back on the legendary #BMW-Z4M-Coupé , the last of the naturally aspirated six-cylinder M cars. Emperor The last. If you follow the mantra that M cars should come with a naturally aspirated screaming straight-six then the Z4 M Coupé represents the last of the breed… fortunately it’s rather good, too Words: Bob Harper Photography: Steve Hall
It feels slightly odd to find myself for the second time this month writing about a car that I haven’t universally heaped praise upon in the past. Yup, the Z4 M Coupé has not always been on my list of ultra-desirable BMWs and I even remember it being the subject of a very heated argument in the office when we were selecting the cars for our Car of the Year test at the tail-end of 2006. I favoured the ‘M-lite’ 3.0si model whereas everyone else in the office thought the M Coupé should be on the short list. In all honesty I think the 3.0si is the better all-round car, certainly from the prospect of using it as a daily driver as it offers virtually the same performance as the M car, significantly better economy, a more compliant ride and much lower running costs all wrapped up in a similarly visually arresting package.
However, while that was my view then – and still is if you want to use a Z4 Coupé everyday – these days the M Coupé is starting to be appreciated for what it is: a mad, bad and brawny hot shoe – the last in the line of naturally-aspirated M cars that can trace its parentage all the way back to the original M1. Increasingly they’re becoming squirreled away as weekend cars, something to cherish and polish and then, when the mood takes you, to excite and exhilarate on an early morning cross-country dash that will have you grinning from ear to ear. The Z4 M is blistering quick – and still feels it – but it takes a strong and fully committed hand to fully tame it. To drive one quickly requires your full attention. Give it that and it’ll be hugely rewarding.
Under the M Coupé’s shapely bonnet was the last resting place for the venerable S54 straight-six, itself a development of the S50 ‘six that first saw the light of day in the E36 M3. It was a car that #BMW claimed would never be built when the E85 generation of Z4 was created, claiming that the new Roadster was so torsionally stiff that a coupé wasn’t needed and that the regular 3.0i Z4 was so quick that there was no need for an M version. Fast forward a few years and the Z4 Concept Coupé was shown at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show and when we questioned one of BMW’s press bods at the time he more or less said, ‘if a BMW Concept has towing eye-covers, it’s production-ready.’ Then it was just a matter of time before the production version appeared, and at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006 the fully-fledged cars were shown for the first time with serial production starting just a month later. It wasn’t a particularly longlived M car, though, as just over two-years later it had disappeared just as quickly as it had arrived and the E85/6 generation of Zed was replaced by the less driver-focused E89 with its fancy folding metal roof, effectively killing the need for a coupé version. Of course, BMW M had form for making slightly crazy Zed cars by the time the Z4 appeared on the scene and despite the fact that the Z3 Ms were fairly deeply flawed pieces of kit they had a big following and their shortcomings could easily be overlooked thanks to their brawny characters. Quite why BMW changed its mind and decided to eventually offer the M versions isn’t fully known but perhaps the top brass wanted to have one last try to knock the Boxster off its perch, or perhaps the Zed Ms were seen as a useful way of filling the gap between the departure of the E46 M3 and the arrival of the E92 version. The Z4 Ms ensured BMW still had a presence in this section of the market, albeit with a less practical twoseater but we can’t really see it as being a fully commercial decision as with less than 5000 cars built in just over two years it’s likely the car didn’t recoup its development costs.
Knowing that the Z4 M was effectively going to be a limited production machine BMW could perhaps have been forgiven if it had scrimped slightly on its specification but by now we should know that M doesn’t generally do things by halves so the Z4 M Coupé was a fully-fettled M car. The engine was lifted directly from the E46 M3 and while it’s a familiar unit it should be remembered that it’s still an absolute peach. Double Vanos, an 11.5:1 compression ratio, individual throttle butterflies and an advanced engine management system ensured a high specific output and even today a normally aspirated engine that develops nearly 106hp per litre is something to write home about. Even within BMW M’s hallowed halls this is an outstanding achievement and betters the specific output of the later S65 V8 from the E9x M3 (including the GTS’s 4.4-litre) and even the E60 M5’s mighty S85 V10.
Unlike in the E46 M3, the straight-six was mated to a #ZF transmission (the E46 used a Getrag unit) and the six-speed manual was the only option for the Z4; none of your fancy #SMG gubbins here thank you very much. Naturally enough for an M car there was a limited-slip differential, BMW’s M Differential Lock, which despite being a fully mechanical item uses pressurised viscous silicon fluid to operate a multi- disc clutch to direct power to the wheel with the greatest traction. It also featured the latest version of BMW’s #DSC traction control system along with the most up-to-date version of Dynamic Brake Control which added items such as brake fade compensation, brake standby, brake drying and hill-start assistant.
While the Z4 Ms used the same basic suspension setup as the regular production Z4 it was fine-honed by M to try to bring the best out of the car. Without a doubt the biggest change was the adoption of hydraulic power steering, as the electric setup of the normal Z4 was deemed not feelsome enough for an M car. The majority of the Z4 M’s setup was lifted more or less directly from the E46 M3 CS and it had an overall ratio of 14:5:1 which, interestingly, made it more direct than the rack that was fitted to the Roadster version of the Z4 M.
The rest of the M’s underpinnings were also beefed-up and while it still retained the basic MacPherson strut/multi-link setup of the Z4 it had a wider front and rear track, revised lower front arms and steering knuckles bolted directly to the front struts. Spring and shock absorber rates were unique to the car (and slightly stiffer than those fitted to the M Roadster) while anti-roll bars had larger diameters at 27mm and 22.5mm, front and rear respectively. At the rear there was a more heavy-duty rear subframe required to accommodate the larger M diff and there were also enhanced wheel bearings and reworked longitudinal links in the rear suspension.
That the Z4 M was going to go well was a given – it was, after all, nigh on 100kg lighter than the E46 M3 – so to ensure it stopped equally well M equipped it with the braking setup from the E46 M3 CSL with 345x28mm vented and drilled front discs and 328x28mm rears that were gripped by single piston swing callipers all-round.
Naturally enough there were exterior changes to the Z4 M and as we sit waiting for the sun to set for our cover image there’s plenty of time to take these in and while it’s perhaps not quite as outrageously distinctive as the Z3 M Coupé the Z4 version is still a stunning-looking piece of design. The beefed-up front and rear bumpers with their various cut outs and grilles for air intakes and exhausts add some much needed visual drama to the shape. The wide rear haunches seem to work particularly well with the sweeping rear hatch and with the exhaust pushed further out to the edges than in most other M cars it gives the rear end a feeling of real width and presence. The ‘Zorro’ slash in the front wings with the BMW roundels hiding the indicator side repeaters in the centre catch the dropping sun and create areas of light and dark – there always seems to be a little something extra to the shape that you’ve not seen before. Altogether it combines to create a machine that if I owned it I’d definitely have a sneaky glance over my shoulder at as I walked away after a spirited drive as the sound of hot metal ticking away to itself reminded me of the fun we’d just had.
Slipping into the cockpit reminds me of just how low these cars are and while the cabin is slightly on the snug side everything you could want falls nicely to hand. The leather-clad and M-logo’d gear knob is just a hand span away from the steering wheel, and while the latter item is nice to hold it’s perhaps not the most visually appealing item ever fitted to an M car. Instrumentation is minimal as per the standard Z4 but there’s the rev counter with illuminated segments that remind you not to thrash it from cold and an oil temperature gauge tucked away by the fuel gauge and the car’s performance potential is made clear by an 180mph speedo.
Where the Z4 M really scores over the 3.0si, though, is in the sense of occasion – a palpable sense of drama when you slip behind the wheel. There’s that dramatic view down the heavily sculpted bonnet (that the 3.0si didn’t get), and once you twist the key the straight-six sends tingles up your spine and gets the hair standing up on the back of your neck. To experience a fully wound-up S54 ‘six is a aural treat and you feel that you’re genuinely a witness to something special, and let’s not forget that it’s not something we’re expecting will be available for a long time to come with all the manufacturers following the turbocharged eco-friendly route.
The engine dominates the driving experience and you can make very decent progress without wringing the car’s neck and those sampling the car for the first time can often be caught out by short-shifting up the gearbox and even if you use 5000rpm the Z4 will be travelling very rapidly but you’ll be missing out on the best part of another 3000rpm. Hit the Sport button that sharpens up throttle response still further and use the full extent of the rev range and you’ll feel like you’re sitting on top of a low-flying ballistic missile.
You sit so much lower than in an E46 M3 that the sensation of speed is much greater and that’s before you factor in that the Z4 M is actually a quicker machine, too. 0-62mph at 5.0 seconds is 0.2 seconds faster than the M3 and 50-75mph in fourth gear is despatched 0.3 seconds quicker in the Z4, too, while over the standing kilometre the Z4 is again halfa-second quicker. Small increments, perhaps, but coupled with the low-slung Z4 and it feels like more.
This is compounded by perhaps one of the less likable aspects of the Z4 M: its ride. It’s pretty uncompromising and an M3 is more compliant and this can ultimately temper your pace on roughly surfaced roads. On first acquaintance it’s easy to feel that the Z4 M is attempting to throw you off the road and a tendency to understeer on the standard fit ContiSportContact tyres didn’t help to endow you with confidence in the chassis, but with greater familiarity it becomes clear that you can lean on the Z4 M pretty hard and it will reward the confidence you show in it. It’s a car that requires real commitment to get the best out of. Sure it’s a little rough around the edges when it comes to ultimate handling finesse but get it right and it’s hugely rewarding.
A few choice changes can also make it a better steer, too. Ditching the original equipment tyres for something with more grip – later generations of Pilot Sport work well – help to counteract that initial understeer, and the addition of a front strut brace also helps here. As standard the Z4 is fitted with a clutch delay valve and this can combine with a slightly notchy ’box to make gear changes less than perfect, but deleting it or fitting a modified one can really smooth out a jerky gear change. Many owners have also fitted 19-inch CSL rims in place of the 18-inch M Double Spoke Style 224 rims and this really does work wonders for the look of the car. If money’s no object you could fit aftermarket suspension, but ultimately when these machines start to become really collectible it will be the standard examples that will be worth the most.
When it was new the Z4 M Coupé cost a not insignificant £41,285, just a smidgen less than an E46 M3, which made it seem quite expensive when the M3 was a far more practical and almost as quick proposition. However, by the time the Z4 was discontinued its price had only risen by £1000 yet the E92 M3 that was then available cost over £50k which conspired to make the #BMW-Z4M look like a bit of a bargain! These days prices start at around £13k for higher mile examples and rise to high £20s for really low mile examples being sold by franchised dealers.
The majority of cars fall in the mid-to-high teens bracket and represent excellent value for money. If you look after one and use it regularly but sparingly we don’t reckon you’re going to suffer much in the way of depreciation and if you hold onto it long enough you may well see values rise. Remember, only 1052 right-hand drive examples were built so rarity value certainly counts in their favour.
You could still use one every day if the fancy takes you, and bar the high cost of Inspection services there isn’t too much to worry about. The head gasket failures that afflict high mileage M3s are less of a problem with Z4 Ms as they were originally often purchased as a second car. However, I reckon you could become bored with its harsh ride, slightly cramped cockpit and brawny nature. Used sparingly, though, and every journey becomes an event, something to be looked forward to and savoured. It was the last of the line of great naturally-aspirated straight-six M cars and while it wasn’t perfect it’s still a marvellous machine to punt down a challenging bit of road. Nab one now before it’s too late.
Once you twist the key the straight-six sends tingles up your spine and gets the hair standing up on the back of your neck.
There’s a palpable sense of drama when you slip behind the wheel.
TECH DATA #2015 #BMW-Z4M-Coupé-E86 / #BMW-Z4M-E86 / #BMW-Z4-E86 / #BMW-Z4
ENGINE: #S54 / #S54B32 Straight-six, 24-valve, DOHC
MAX POWER: 343hp @ 7900rpm
MAX TORQUE: 269lb ft @ 4900rpm
0-62MPH: 5.0 seconds
STANDING KM: 23.7 seconds
50-75MPH (4th): 5.0 seconds
TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
WEIGHT (EU): 1495kg
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, #LSD
STEERING: Rack and pinion
SUSPENSION: MacPherson struts (front), multi-link ‘Z’ axle (rear)
WHEELS: 8x18-inch (front), 9x18-inch (rear)
TYRES: 225/45 ZR18 & 255/40 ZR18
BRAKES: Single piston swing callipers front and rear gripping vented discs, 345x28mm (front) and 328x28mm (rear)
PRICE: £41,285 (2006)
Even today a normally aspirated engine that develops nearly 106hp per litre is something to write home about.
Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.