Some of you may know me from the m3post.com. I just told my dealer today that it's unacceptable choice for me to 1) Have to pay the full 115k euros price for the new M3 after it has been test driven by people during it's break-in period, 2) That it's manual, when I was strictly expecting SMG gearbox with it - V8 needs an SMG, if I wanted a manual, I would have bought a car with an inline six, those need a manual. (in my opinion.), 3) That I'm not going to buy it for these reasons.
So, it looks like I'm off to realistically looking at Z4 M Coupé now. The new M3 will be 2-3 years off for me, perhaps I will wait until they put out a CSL if they ever do and then jump on the bandwagon, and that would be conveniently perhaps 2-3 years from now.
As far as the Z4 M Coupé, I love everything about it, as I have had the good fortune to drive several already, starting when it first came out. The gearbox is just STUNNING, probably the best manual gearbox that BMW has ever built. They had to build a new manual M gearbox for the Z4, because the one from the E46 M3 didn't fit, but in typical M fashion, they also built it better, not just smaller. It's so smooth, fast and fascinating to shift that one can never get tired of it. The S54B32 engine is now mature and problem-free, but still a killer at 343hp/365Nm out of a 3.2 liter straight six block. True, it could be a little less fuel-consuming, but it's an M engine after all. This car is INSANELY fast when you drive alone and optimally shift in summer conditions with good tires. You'll be hitting 200km/h mark before you really even notice it... 150 is nearly just an eyeblink away from 0. The engine feels like it could rev up forever, but even the 8000 rpm is very sweet music to one's ears...
And last but not least, it's the best value for money M car in a long time. The Coupé cheaper than the Roadster? Okay with me! The Coupé is 10 times more interesting than the Roadster to me, since I live in a country where open-top cars have maybe (at best) around 30-90 days a year when you can really use them top down - and winters are real harsh. Also, the Coupé chassis is much more rigid than the Roadster, having been built from the already reinforced open top, rather than vice versa, having extra reinforcement from the roof. In fact, so much that it is the most rigid BMW chassis out right now at 32000Nm/o of torsional stiffness. (Roadster is at 16000Nm/o)
The visibility is great unlike some magazines have complained, the cockpit is roomy enough when I'm driving alone (95% of time) and okay even with 2 people with it's large back-storage compartment between the seats. Lot of Z4's technology is mostly really E46 technology, which I cannot but love. My only gripe with the Z4 would be the gauges. The dashboard has been designed, in my opinion, in a stupid kind of look that makes is harder to use instead of having the usual BMW functionalism. It should be like a E39 5-series dashboard, or E46 M3. I understand the need to keep light reflections out of the Roadster model's gauges with the tubes that they're buried into, but that could have and should have changed for the Coupé.
There's more than enough room for me, even though I'm almost exactly 6'1" - I have to adjust the chair a little to the front, so it is not in the rearmost position. The door side gives a comfy hand support for my left elbow and the center for the right one, I can rest my right hand nicely on the center pad, keeping it close to the shifter. The cockpit never feels claustrophobic. It's more like, you drive the car and wonder how good the rear window visibility is, and then when park and you step out, you remember that you didn't have a back seat at all.
The classic M hydraulic steering is sharp as a razor, as always with the best possible BMW's. The steering wheel is on the small side, but especially with it's whole feel and excellent grip, large enough and probably one of the best M steering wheels so far, with a very thick hold and great partly perforated leather that gives a good, comfortable holding feel. The perforation lets you know without looking at the wheel which part you're holding onto when you're spinning the wheel doing a pocket-parking or some other such maneuver. You feel at one with the car through the steering wheel and the shifter when you hold on tightly to both. And they don't rattle and vibrate even when you're standing still on idle (even if you rev up all the way to redline), because this straight six is silk-smooth and doesn't have any extra vibration to it. Just sometime try how a shifter of a V8 manual will vibrate when at neutral and you're standing still, with the engine at idle, then perhaps rev it up a bit. Do the same thing with the Z4MC or nearly any other BMW straight six. You''ll see what is meant by the oft-quoted fact that a straight six engine is naturally free of vibration.
I could go on forever underlining how good this car is based on my experiences, but that's enough for now. Now to personal reasons and personal choices.
For me, it'll be a great car to buy because it's still a reasonably new model - no major upgrades or changes are to be expected in the first 1.5-2 years of my ownership. The engine won't be changing either. And the engine is now mature - some of the early third party caused problems it had in the E46 M3 are long gone, fixed and forgotten - so with a properly performed M engine break-in process, it will give out it's best, and be problem-free for hundreds of thousands of miles, with the appropriate service of course. The resale value will not be lowered by the fact that it's a S54B32 engine, it'll be increased by it at this point, since it is now a staple of reliability.
There aren't a ton of options for the Z4MC - just a few. A quite manageable amount. All the important ones are there by default, as usual with M BMW's. But the ones that exist as optional are very important to me. For example, I really want the Piano Black interior panels, knowing how stylish they are in real life vs. the usual metallic panels which will make the interior look boring and lacking of style (or the plastic wood-look-alike, which is always horrific in a modern car.) The only other decent option is the black leather panel, but the Piano Black is still much more stylish. It will especially fit well with the full leather (Vollleder) seat color options which will also add some leather to door panels and a few other places. Unfortunately the "full leather" is not the same absolutely luxurious "full leather" option as on the M5/M6, where the tops of instrument panels, door plastics and nearly everything on sight gets wrapped and sewed in beautiful soft leather, but then again, it isn't as insanely expensive either.
iPOD interface will be a must, as well as the best possible factory stereo system, which will require the (fortunately it's fold-away on top of the dashboard and isn't operated with iDrive) navigation display for the DSP adjustments. And I will thus have to get the display, so I might as well get the pro navigation DVD kit with the DVD player for the navi and a single CD player for the occasional CD that might get played. CD changer will be useless and can't even be installed because of the iPOD interface. 80GB car-specific iPOD will be purchased and loaded full of music at the maximum possible sample-rate uncompressed.. How I hate compressed music. And even CD-quality sucks. Since the navi display will be on the top of the dashboard (but can be folded down, yes!), I might as well also get it to be able to receive digital TV through DVB-T and buy the TV-reception feature on it too. I don't watch a lot of TV, but it might be nice sometimes if one has to wait for somebody in the car, or stay parked for a while for some reason. Also, I can imagine situations on long road-trips where an onboard TV might be useful. And since it uses the same screen and won't add much weight at all... it's really a no brainer - take as much advantage of the screen as you can.
Since I get to choose straight from the factory, just like I want it, exterior color will definitely be very much blue - in this case Interlagos Blue that is. Not because it's an M-specific color, but because it's the only blue color option that is blue enough but still stylish. The Monaco blue color available for the Z4MC is really almost black and I can imagine when it gets dirty, it'll look black. I used to have a 330Ci with almost the same style of color (forgot it's original name) and it didn't look blue at all. The Interlagos Blue is beautiful real blue color and I like how it changes contrast in different lights. The interior color shades will be black with some carbon on the full leather Walknappa leather black color. (and the Piano Black trims.) - No tacky metallic shades visible anywhere inside or outside. The only other color will be blue and red strings (the M color) sewed on the steering wheel. M imprints will be on the head-rests of leather seats. A black tinted rear window will filter out any excessive sunlight from the rear in the summer.
Externally, M signs will be removed. They're a bit tacky on the Z4MC since they're all around the car - on the sides as well as the back. I just like to leave the (very stylish) BMW logo side blinkers alone on to the sides - I think they will look best that way. Especially when the bottom color they're attached to is blue. The quad exhaust with a 40 liter muffler on it will speak for itself, especially with the tones this engine emits - especially at over 3500 rpm when valves are opened on the muffler to increase the tone of the engine sound to nearly diabolical levels. So will the fact that on dry weather with proper tires under it, the car will exit a scene from standstill to 100km/h in severely under 5 seconds. In it's size class and in my country, competition will be minimal. Some Honda R-Types and Subaru Impreza owners may occasionally be drawn by the fact that it's a BMW, but the lack of M insignia should get them quite badly, especially since the 4 tailpipes are not that agressively displayed as on, for example, the M5. Since they will probably think that it's a bodyworked 3.0si Coupé (or even smaller engine if they don't know BMW's lineup that well), their subsequent weeping and the lies they will have to tell to their fellow hobbyists about the encounter will be joyous to imagine. As will the pulling away from them over 100 yards ahead at about 6 seconds from when both cars were still at standstill, changing from 7500 rpm@3rd to 4th gear and getting 150 or so into the speed-o-meter.
Folding mirrors and every other comfort-option will be included, most by default, but with the exception of automatically dimming outside mirrors. The rear-view mirror can be automatically dimming, but I need to keep the side mirrors non-dimming, as they are needed when driving in the city at night and keeping an eye out for the police. When I had an E46 330Ci with all the mirrors self-dimming, it was real pain in the ass to keep track of possible police vehicles right behind you or in traffic behind you, and I got a few notices (but fortunately avoided tickets) because I happened to kick down the gas pedal in a sportier way than usual after some red lights turned green with a police car right behind me. With an M car, it'll be even more important to monitor police activity. Which reminds me: the car will need an ECM-suite, unfortunately not available as a factory option. In other words, besides the 80GB iPOD I will also need purchase a new state-of-the art radar detector: http://www.beltronics.com/sti.html
- which has been tested to be undetectable to the detector-detectors that the local police in this country uses, and to reveal X/K-band pig radar traps from over 1.5 miles away. These electronic countermeasures and driving the Z4MC on public roads only by night when driving in the most aggressive way should guarantee that I can still hold my B and C-class drivers license with the M. Otherwise the risks would be too great. Finally, sometime after break-in period and good amount of kilometers on the engine, I plan to dyno the engine, remove the top speed governor and put in a new ECU software for 358hp and 385Nm (relatively tame tuning, not to risk the engine) and then dyno it again. With that, the real top speed should be 275km/h, which of course has to be verified...
That is what I have been thinking about the Z4MC. I'll list the individual option numbers later. Next week I'll get the offer for it. And best of all, if I order now, I will have it here in late May/early June - just in time for the best summer driving weather to have begun, and will have all summer with it. Break in within the first 3-4 days, have a break-in service and then carefully increasing the revs, After giving the engine enough time to break in properly, take a track day some weekend with a few friends who also are BMW nutcases to give it it's first baptism of fire on the track. Also, line it up against 350Z and MB AMG E55. Track and straight line.