Vehicle Spotlight: 2008 BMW Z4-M Coupe/M Roadster

*Originally Published 6/2008

Oh, S54 Engine, how we love thee.

Six sonorous cylinders of power send a raspy tone into the night, fed by six individual throttle bodies metering such a precise amount of precious air.  Almost like poetry, it seems.

Any motor that produces over one hundred naturally-aspirated horsepower per liter of displacement is considered heroic.  Muscular.  Poetic.  Such is the case with this particular motor, reserved for duty now only in the Z4 M coupe and roadster.

You may be familiar with this engine from when it saw duty in the 2001-2006 M3 coupe and cabriolet.  Mated with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed SMG, it would rip the coupe to 60mph in 4.8 seconds; the cabriolet in 5.4.

Imagine, now, this engine in a shell hundreds of pounds lighter.  Add to that an ultra-communicative rack-and-pinion steering setup, and a body that wraps around  you and enlightens your every sense.

Hit the sport button alongside the manual transmission gearshift, and the edge of the world approaches at an even more rapid pace.

Never before has three hundred thirty horsepower felt so natural; so alive.

It isn’t just about the motor, though.

Like its siblings the Z4 3.0i and 3.0si, the M Roadster and Coupe can carve through the twisties with aplomb.  The thick rim of the steering wheel feels fantastic flying through your hands.  The red and blue stitching around the rim reminds you that this is no ordinary car.

The recipe for all of this greatness is simple.  Slip into the generously-bolstered M Sport seat, turn the key and let 330 horsepower roar to life.  Slip the shift lever into first gear, engage the clutch, nail the throttle and off you go.  Once you are cruising on the highway, you will see fuel mileage in the mid-20’s.  Fantastic, indeed for such a machine.

Don’t forget, of course, to lower the power-assisted top to open up the sky above; it only takes eight seconds.

Infused with fantastic incentives, as it is coming ever closer to the end of its model cycle (2010), the Z4 M Roadster and Coupe remain, now and forever, true performance bargains.

330 horsepower has never felt so good.

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Of Baseball and Power Distribution

*Originally Published 6/2008

Here I sit aboard an American Airlines flight to Chicago in a middle seat between my Fiancé and a total stranger wearing a White Sox hat.  I have a Cubs hat on; I knew this would be ugly from the moment we sat down.  At the moment, though, all I can think about is how different the automotive demographic is in Denver versus Chicago.

I grew up in the windy city.  Seeing a rear-wheel-drive 3-series or M3 cruising down the road was commonplace.  You see, we knew how to drive in the snow the ‘right’ way.  Mind you, this was purely admitting that sliding into the curb in your parking lot was your fault, not Mother Nature’s.  Yet in Colorado, it seems as though X-drive constitutes an appearance in no less than eighty percent of our vehicles.  I see so many X5s and X3s; so few rear-drive performance vehicles.

Is it that we fail to even bring these exotics to light when shopping for a car?  I think not.  We have the mountains, after all.  I could not even imagine traversing Vail Pass in mid-December in an M3.  Or could I?  Studded snow tires and DSC are powerful tools in the fight against the cold and slick.  Just ask some of our customers who live above 8,000 feet.  They do it nearly every day.

Nonetheless, I have driven both and can attest to both the strengths and weaknesses of each system.  Regardless of whether I’m skidding around a corner on Lake Shore Drive or struggling up Eastbound Vail Pass, I’d be caught driving nothing but a BMW.  The ingenuity behind their drive train engineering, regardless of which wheels are under power, is astounding.  Besides, if the Cubs win the World Series, our entire landscape will be frozen over anyway.

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Mutations Drive Evolution

(Originally published 6/30/08)

I am inspired by the title of an article written recently in a major news publication.

Of the new X6, Ezra Dyer of the New York Times wrote, “…It can tow 6,000 pounds, and the V-8 version can also lap the Nurburgring track right on the heels of the last-generation M3 performance car.”  The article focuses on how, in a post-Hummer pre-Hybrid world, these ‘mutant’ SUVs are taking shape and quickly revolutionizing our visions of what sorts of visual boundaries there are and just how far they can be pushed.

Over the last seven years, BMW has been criticized for releasing more ‘mutant vehicles’ of their own.  Chris Bangle, chief designer for BMW, introduced the ‘mutant’ butt of the ’02-’08 7-series.  He brought forth the ‘mutant’ flame surfacing of the Z4.  He penned the ‘mutant’ killer coupe on steroids look of the X6.  Each vehicle, though, has been a tremendous sales success in its own right.

This is such because with each new BMW vehicle comes a revolution.  It may not initially appeal to a generalized visual repertoire, but long gone are the days where a 3 looks like a downsized 5; a 6 like a shrunken 7.  Say what you will about the way they look, I am merely interested in how they drive, and boy do they ever.

The 7’s active-damping suspension helped it to corner with almost no body roll.  The Z4 can be tossed around at unbelievable velocities.  The X6 nearly doubled the Porsche Cayenne’s closed-loop turning numbers.

Next time you are in a BMW showroom, just do me a favor.  Glance back and forth along the side of a Z4.  Note how the ‘flames’ seem to dance about.  Then get in, crack the throttle and fly away.  If this is evolution by mutation, count me along for the ugly ride.

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