What's New for 2008
Changes are light for the 2008 BMW Z4 roadster and coupe. The 3.0i Sport Package now includes 18-inch wheels rather than 17s, while the price of optional HD radio has been lowered.
BMW reinvented the European roadster 12 years ago with the Z3, an instant classic driven by hairdressers and James Bond alike. It not only beat its Mercedes and Porsche competitors to the market, it beat their prices as well. While the 2008 BMW Z4 isn't quite the classic its predecessor was, it maintains that price advantage while being a much more adept driver's car, boasting a high level of handling and performance.
The Z4 is available in roadster and coupe body styles, the latter being a recent addition to the series for driving enthusiasts who appreciate the fixed-roof model's added rigidity or for folks who just want something different. While the unloved Z3 Coupe looked like it had been cooked up in Herr Frankenstein's lab, the Z4 Coupe's fastback profile lends it a compact, sinewy appearance that some feel is better sorted than that of the roadster.
Still, it's hard to beat top-down motoring, and for that, the Z4 delivers in droves. After all, the only thing more fun than a convertible is a BMW convertible. Just roll back the fast-retracting roof (available with manual or power operation) and settle into the supportive, roomy driver seat for some high-speed fun in the sun. Even if the weather turns chilly, flip on the optional heated seats, and in fine roadster tradition, don a tweed cap and wool scarf.
It's not very often a BMW is considered a budget buy, but the Z4 is. While the Porsche Boxster/Cayman and Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class enjoy about the same prestige, they cost thousands more than the Bimmer. Of course, the SLK's retractable hardtop provides many of the benefits offered by both the Z4 coupe and roadster, while the Porsches have a lead in the arena of handling excellence. Still, if you're looking for a two-seater that delivers outstanding performance and the glamour of a high-end nameplate at a reasonable price, the 2008 BMW Z4 is the best candidate to consider.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 BMW Z4 is available as a two-seat roadster or coupe. The roadster has a traditional, manually operated convertible soft top with a defroster-equipped glass rear window. Two trim levels, 3.0i and 3.0si, are available. The 3.0i (roadster only) comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers with heated wiper jets, heated outside mirrors, full power accessories, manually operated six-way adjustable seats, vinyl "leatherette" upholstery, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The 3.0si version adds leather upholstery, a center armrest, aluminum interior trim, a premium audio system, a trip computer and automatic climate control. Most of these features are available on the 3.0i as options.
The optional Premium Package includes a one-touch power operation feature for the convertible's top, auto-dimming mirrors, xenon headlights, power seats, memory for the driver seat and Bluetooth. Other options for the BMW Z4 include sport seats, heated seats, upgraded leather upholstery, a navigation system, satellite radio and HD radio. The Sport Package includes upgraded wheels and tires, a sport-tuned suspension and BMW's Dynamic Driving Control feature that quickens throttle response and reduces power-steering assist.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-drive Z4 is available with one of two engines. The 3.0i features a 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 215 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The 3.0si boasts a high-output version of the same engine making 255 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. Each trim comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is an available option. According to BMW, a manual-equipped 3.0si can achieve 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. For both trims and body styles, 2008 fuel economy estimates are 18 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for manual-equipped cars.
Every BMW Z4 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, run-flat tires, rollover protection (for the convertible), stability control, side airbags and active knee protection. In government crash tests, the Z4 roadster earned four out of five stars for frontal-impact protection. It received three stars for side impact safety.
Interior Design and Special Features
Simplicity is the prevailing aesthetic within the 2008 BMW Z4's cabin. This is a driver's car, and as such, the cockpit's furnishings offer little to shift your focus from the road. The cabin offers a broad dash, pleasant gauges, firm sport seats and not much else. There's lots of standard metallic trim, though, and wood trim is available for those seeking a more classic look.
Drop-top drivers will find the manual or power-operated convertible tops intuitive and a snap to operate. Unlike the Z3's roof cover that literally required several snaps to operate, the Z4's roof conveniently serves as its own tonneau cover. Also, lowering the top doesn't result in compromises with regard to storage space in the trunk. With the top down, the roadster's 9-cubic-foot trunk capacity remains almost unchanged. For comparison, the Mercedes SLK offers 10 cubic feet of cargo space with its hardtop up, but considerably less in top-down configuration. The coupe can feel a little confined, but even those a few inches north of 6 feet should have just enough headroom.
In nearly all performance aspects, the 2008 BMW Z4 shines. Acceleration, braking and handling are all excellent. The Z4 is in its element on lightly trafficked roads where one can push the car toward its limits and enjoy the engine's sonorous exhaust note. From an everyday driver standpoint, the Z4 is still mostly agreeable. Wind and road noise on the roadster can be bothersome at highway speeds, however, and some drivers might find the ride quality produced by the optional Sport Package's suspension to be a bit too stiff.