BMW Brings Back M Coupe With Great Style1
North American Introduction for the Latest in BMW M Series
At the 2006 New York auto show, BMW introduced the Z4 coupe and M coupe to the U.S. market, though this follows a worldwide introduction of the production car at the Geneva auto show in February 2006 and the concept at the Frankfurt show win September 2005.
The BMW Z4 coupe is a much more conventional execution than the first generation Z3 Coupe, which had a love-it-or-hate-it look along the lines of an MGB GT. While there were those who appreciated its odd look, there were not enough of them and the Z4 launched without a coupe companion for the 2003 model year. Of course, the Z4 styling itself was a lightning rod for further criticism of Chris Bangle’s “flame” side detailing, but most criticism was targeted at the weirdly proportioned rear end of the Z4. Where the old Z3 Coupe was weird from the rear, the Z4 coupe conceals the awkward detailing of the Z4 roadster and comes across as a more complete piece of design. Much, much better than the Z4 roadster and its predecessor Z3 coupe.
Given the terrific look of the newest BMW Coupe, this bodystyle of the sports car should experience far more success this time around.
Though Porsche managed to get its Boxster-based Cayman S coupe out ahead of the Z4 Coupe, BMW managed to give the M Coupe a launch price significantly below the Cayman S. More on the price difference later.
With BMW’s giving the Z4 coupe a staggered introduction, AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were able to see the coupe in concept form at Frankfurt as well as the facelifted roadster and M roadster at the 2006 Detroit auto show. Here’s our first take of the new model.
Frankfurt Concept Coupe Barely Different from Production Coupe
In Frankfurt last September, BMW showed off a Coupe concept with the 3.0L engine that serves as the base offering for the Z4 coupe in the States, a 255HP I6 introduced in several BMW models over the past twelve months. A 215HP version of this 3.0L inline six-cylinder is offered in the Z4 roadster, but not the coupe. On the Geneva stand in February 2006 was the production version of this sexy coupe, with the 3.2L M3 engine under the hood to create the latest M Coupe. The 3.2L delivers 330HP for the U.S. M Coupe and Roadster, though our European counterparts get a 343HP version. Both versions of the coupe are being shown in New York.
BMW gave the Z4 roadster a minor facelift for 2006MY, just ahead of the coupe launch. The M Roadster arrived at the same time as the rest of the convertible range, and the M Coupe arrives at the same time as the Z4 3.0si Coupe. Looking to bigger brother M3, the M-powered coupe and convertible get the E46 M3′s 3.2L straight six, tuned for 330HP in U.S. specification. The Z4 M cars offer only a six-speed manual at launch and the extra M power is tamed with the brake package from the limited edition M3 CSL variant and the speed-sensitive variable M differential lock, also used in the M3. The nose gives away the M’s more aggressive nature with an X-shaped front fascia with larger air intake scoops, standard eighteen-inch wheels, and four tailpipes and a horizontal diffuser in the rear. Doorsills, steering wheel, and gearshift knob are all from the M parts bin. Rather than wood or bright chrome to highlight the interior, BMW has chosen pearl gloss chrome for the air vent registers and door handles.
Pricing: BMW Coupe Enters Market Nearly $10,000 Below Cayman S
The Z4 Coupe 3.0si launches in the States with a base price of $40,795 while the M Coupe starts at $49,995. The first of these will arrive at dealers on May 27, 2006. Porsche’s Cayman was likely part of BMW’s inspiration for going ahead with a coupe version of the Z4, and the two give sports car buyers excellent reasons for purchasing this year. Having seen them both at the various auto show so far, we have said that choosing between them can be considered either easier or more difficult by the fact that there is not a bad choice between the two. Now that base pricing has been announced for the Z4 coupe and M Coupe, the decision might appear a little easier.
Porsche launched its Cayman coupe only in the 295HP S form, with a base price of $59,695, so it is more accurate to compare it with the 330HP M Coupe than the 255HP Z4 3.0si Coupe. The standard/optional feature list has not been confirmed for the M Coupe, but it will likely be very similar to that of the M Roadster (base price nearly $52,000). We expect standard items on both Porsche and BMW coupes will be six-speed manual transmissions, leather seats, eighteen-inch wheels and tires, keyless remote entry, a single-disc CD player, power windows, and anti-lock brakes. Optional for both the M Roadster and Cayman S are items like Bluetooth wireless technology, heated seats, auto dimming rearview mirror, a navigation system, and CD changer.
In Frankfurt, this correspondent walked back and forth between the Porsche Cayman S, also unveiled there, and the BMW Coupe Concept for two days without coming to a final decision on which I prefer. Seeing them again in Detroit was no help, either. These are both highly appealing coupes, with the Porsche offering a smoother, sleeker design and the BMW a more overtly aggressive stance. But the nearly $10,000 gap in cost may give an edge to the BMW for those really in the market, unlike daydreamers like myself.
Recap: Roadster Facelift
The facelift for the regular Z4 was minor, and arrived early in 2006. Exterior tweaks include a deeper front air dam, new fog lamps, new headlight reflectors, and new taillights. The powertrain is beefed up as the Z4 moves to the recently introduced 3.0L DOHC 24v I6 engines (already found in the 6-Series, 5-Series, and 3-Series). The Z4 2.5si gets the 215HP I6 while the Z4 3.0si gets the 255HP version; both are get standard six-speed manual transmissions and optional six-speed Steptronic automatic units. With the increased power output, the 3.0si gets bigger brakes and an updated Dynamic Stability Control III system replaces the current standard DSC for both models.