Used 2006 BMW M
Edmunds' Expert Review
The combination of a powerful engine and a little car never gets old. The new 2006 BMW M is a solid choice for a sports car in the $50,000 range.
As the BMW Z4 enters its fourth year of production (the automotive equivalent of middle age) the company gives the lineup a shot in the arm with the injection of the M treatment. As enthusiasts know, BMW's in-house tuning firm goes by the letter M (for motorsport), and whenever its engineers lay their talented hands on a vehicle, good things happen.
The 2006 BMW M features much of the same go-fast hardware used in the M3 coupe. We're talking everything, from the engine, steering system and brakes to the variable differential lock and a handful of suspension parts. The M (which includes the Roadster and new-for-'06 Coupe body styles) also has unique 18-inch wheels and bodywork, not to mention about 200 fewer pounds to carry around compared to the M3.
Naturally, the M's status as a BMW is pretty much a guarantee of a high fun-to-drive quotient. A ripping 330-horse inline six coupled to a sweet-shifting six-speed manual makes straight-line acceleration a blast, literally speaking, while a taut chassis and telepathic steering make slicing through the curves in the road just as enjoyable. BMW enthusiasts will likely recall that this same engine was also featured in the previous, Z3-based M Coupe and Roadster. Though its horsepower ratings are pretty similar to the previous generation's, the new M's more sophisticated suspension and roomier interior make it a better package overall.
In the niche market of high-powered roadsters and coupes, the 2006 BMW M's arrival has made the final purchasing decision that much harder. The Mercedes-Benz SLK55 offers the security and comfort of a retractable hardtop but no manual transmission and a higher price tag. The Porsche Boxster S and Cayman S offer much more handsome styling (unanimous opinion among our staff) and a bit more athleticism, but less performance in a straight line. And while a Corvette will give you 400 horsepower and more performance than you'll ever need for less money as well, it lacks the panache of the German trio. In other words, there's not a loser in the bunch, and we suggest buyers choose based on their own particular set of desires.
Trim levels & features
The 2006 BMW M is a performance version of the Z4 and is offered as both a convertible and a coupe. Special styling details, such as a more aggressive front fascia with larger air inlets, a pair of ridges in the hood and a set of quad exhaust outlets flanking a rear diffuser separate the M from its less potent Z4 brethren. Since the M is at the top of BMW's line, virtually everything that's optional on a Z4 is standard. Standard fitments include xenon HID headlights, leather sport seats, auto-dimming mirrors and power seats (with driver's memory). A sport suspension with firmer calibrations and 18-inch double-spoke wheels shod with 225/45 front and 255/40 rear performance rubber is likewise included with all Ms. A navigation system is one of the few options.
Performance & mpg
The M's 3.2-liter straight six is identical to the M3's, save for a slightly more restrictive exhaust that shaves off 3 horsepower, leaving it with an official rating of 330 hp at 7,900 rpm. Torque remains the same at 262 pound-feet at 4,900 rpm. A six-speed manual gearbox is the sole transmission offering and a variable differential lock helps put the power to the pavement. BMW claims a 0-60-mph time of 4.9 seconds and EPA fuel economy estimates are 16 mpg city, 24 mpg highway.
The M comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, a stability control system, rollover protection, side airbags, active knee protection and child-seat anchor points for the passenger seat. In NHTSA crash tests, the virtually identical BMW Z4 earned four out of five stars in frontal-impact crash tests along with a three-star rating for side-impact safety.
Although the M shares its steering system, brakes and numerous suspension parts with the M3, most of the parts were tuned specifically for it. The ride quality is noticeably better than the M3 on the street. In fact, although the M is remarkably stiff for a convertible, you seldom get any harsh impacts. Steering feel is about perfect and the brakes are way more than you'll ever need for the street. As stiff and precise as the M is at normal speeds, rip through a corner fast enough and the car does exhibit some body roll. Nothing off-putting, just enough to let you know when you're approaching the M's considerable limits.
The cockpit features a pair of aggressively bolstered sport seats, a chubby M edition steering wheel and a Motorsport spec tachometer with a variable redline that settles at 8,000 rpm when the oil is fully warmed up. The speedometer reads to 180 mph, but the computer will cut you off at 155 mph. Although you sit deep in the cockpit, the view over the arched dash is still good. There's enough legroom for 6-footers but the cockpit feels tight even for smaller folk. There's a new trim option BMW calls "Carbon Leather," which is black leather with a carbon-fiber pattern. Everything else is similar to the Z4 in design and feel except for the automatic climate-control knobs, which get extra rubber trim around the edges. With the roadster's top up, the trunk has a capacity of 9 cubic feet, 1 cube less than a Benz SLK. Fortunately, folding the top down does little to diminish the M Roadster's capacity, whereas stowing the hardtop steals much of the SLK's capacity.
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Features & Specs
More About This Model
In BMW's 2006 M Coupe, it's all about the steering wheel.
As anyone who's ever driven a BMW knows, the steering wheel represents a crucial element in cars wearing the blue-and-white roundel. In other automobiles the steering wheel merely serves as a directional control device. But in BMW automobiles it's more like an ergonomically shaped syringe — injecting the car's soul directly into the driver's cerebellum.
In the new M Coupe, the strikingly large diameter of the rim is wrapped in supple leather, providing a sumptuous yet brawny place to land your grip. That same luxuriant, meaty feel is maintained throughout every aspect of the car — from its hefty steering effort and shifter action to its heavily bolstered leather seats to its love-it-or-leave-it styling.
Brewed with a 'tude
This overtly edgy character is paired to one of the world's preeminent engines. As an heir to BMW Motorsports' magnificent 3.2-liter, inline-six drivetrain, the M Coupe could rightly be described as the M3's little brother. This choice power plant makes the M Coupe transition with 330 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque intact. And it continues to provide unrestrained gyrations up to the 8,000-rpm redline, along with a broad torque band that thrusts the car forward with the immediacy of a 1960s muscle car.
But where the M3 went to finishing school on a full-ride scholarship, the M Coupe dropped out early, told his guidance counselor to pound sand and hooked up with a traveling blues band. This attitude is apparent the moment you fire up the engine. A low-frequency rumble, more in line with Milwaukee V-twins than Munich straight-sixes, has supplanted the M3's high-pitched exhaust squeal. Burly shifter action has long been an M3 hallmark, but the M3's optional SMG tranny is not lurking on the M Coupe's option list to rescue wannabe Villeneuves from the task of actually driving this feisty two-seater.
A track-tive design
We were fortunate enough to do just that around the 4 miles and 14 turns that make up the Road America race circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. With an aluminum chassis as rigid as Republican legislation riding on
18-inch M Double-Spoke alloy wheels, the M Coupe offers the kind of instant response and at-the-limit confidence normally associated with track-ready models like the Lotus Exige. Numerous tweaks to the
base Z4 coupe, including a wider front track, stronger rear subframe and hydraulic power steering (the Z4's is electric) conspire with M-specific suspension calibrations to create an incredibly tossable, leather-lined
go-kart wearing BMW badges.
Total vehicle weight is 3,230 pounds, with an aluminum hood and upgraded aluminum front suspension pieces contributing to the car's svelte nature and 50.2/49.8 weight distribution. Slowing the M Coupe is accomplished via the same brake system offered on the M3 Competition Package. That means dual-compound, cross-drilled and ventilated rotors at each corner, with 13.7-inch discs up front and 12.9-inch units in back. Tire specifications are yet another point of deviation between the M Coupe and lesser models, with the base Z4 Coupe's run-flats replaced by traditional Z-rated Continental tires sized 225/45-18 (front) and 255/40-18 (rear).
Like many M products the M Coupe features two throttle-response programs. The default "Normal" setting is in use whenever the car is started, but pushing a console-mounted button easily accesses the "Sport" mode. This mode increases the ratio of throttle opening to pedal movement and, in conjunction with BMW's double VANOS variable valve technology, provides nearly instantaneous access to the engine's highest performance levels.
There's a potential dark side to this much power and torque in a lightweight, short-wheelbase coupe, but BMW has tried to ensure those 330 horses cause more joy than sorrow. A mechanical limited-slip differential uses viscous fluid to balance power between the rear wheels, and Dynamic Stability Control can do everything from reducing engine torque to applying individual brake pressure when it senses abnormal understeer or oversteer. Of course the latter feature can be deactivated for those times when you want to experience oversteer, a circumstance the M Coupe seems rather well suited to.
Can't escape its roots
Despite the M Coupe's somewhat gangsta attitude — at least in comparison to the rest of the BMW family tree — there remains a wealth of premium features on both the standard and optional equipment lists. Every car, for instance, comes with automatic xenon headlights,
rain-sensing wipers, heated outside mirrors and automatic climate control. For buyers who like their iron fists in a fully lined velvet glove, there are
fat-cat items ranging from DVD navigation to three-stage heated seats to walnut interior trim. There's even a premium THX-certified audio system with eight speakers and dual subwoofers. Pricing starts at $49,995, which includes the $695 destination charge.
But don't let the Nappa leather fool you; the 2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe isn't a car for posers. Ride quality is about as stiff as any BMW we've driven and, as stated, steering and shifter action require a firm hand — make that a firm hand, arm and shoulder. But if you actually buy ultimate driving machines because you enjoy driving, the car will not disappoint.
In fact, while we know that guidance counselor won't admit to it, little M has made him proud.
Used 2006 BMW M Overview
The Used 2006 BMW M is offered in the following submodels: M Coupe, M Convertible. Available styles include 2dr Convertible (3.2L 6cyl 6M), and 2dr Coupe (3.2L 6cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2006 BMW M?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.