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      04-23-2020, 01:07 AM   #1
Zeef0ur
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Thinking about getting a Z4...

Hi guys - first time here. Wanted to get some opinions. If this thread belongs somewhere else let me know!

I've never owned a BMW before. In fact, I wasn't really into them very much until I took a ride in my friends E8X 128i convertible a couple years ago. I loved that thing. Unfortunately she loved it too much to let me drive it, so I had to enjoy it from the passenger seat (or the back - in one case - when me, her, and another friend went on a road trip...at least the top was down!). Not only was that my first time in a BMW, it was my first time in a convertible. I've always been one to put the windows down instead of switch on the AC, just for the fact that I love the open-air, wind-in-my-face feeling. But this was something else. It was amazing.

I'm sold. Ok, now just to wait till I can afford something like that.

As a college student, currently with a humble, dependable, just-fast-enough Hyundai Sonata, I wanted more. I wanted driving to be fun again.

So a few months ago I started to look into BMWs and various other convertibles/performance cars. Knowing that this would be my next car, which I'm currently thinking about buying myself as a graduation present in 2021 w/some financing, and that I'd keep the car I currently have (as nothing's wrong with it, it runs great, and it's very practical), I had to keep the price and maintenance costs within reason. I decided on around ~$10k. You can find German cars that are 10ish years old for decently cheap, but I've found that they can be a nightmare to maintain. Even my friend with the 1 would always comment on various things going wrong with hers. Ruled out Mercedes as I've never heard great things about their dependability. The A5/S5 looked promising until I read about some issues past 80k. I looked at a few Japanese manufacturers - Lexus and Infiniti in particular, finding that Lexus didn't make any decent convertibles. ISF looked interesting but I heard the ride is very harsh. I did look at the G37 a little though.

Then I came across the Z4. I saw the test drive of the new G29 in Car and Driver and it looked pretty promising, so I looked into the older Z4 models a bit. Damn, is the E85 stunning! I love the looks and everything about it. And it happens to be in my price range (seen several E85s on Autotrader, Truecar, Carfax for >$10k). I briefly looked at the E89, but it didn't get nearly as much love, and I like the E85 design a bit better anyway. The big question at this point is the maintenance costs. A quick google search led me here, where I found numerous threads praising this car's (and it's N52/M54 engine's) reliability, one even saying their Z was over 200k miles! Also, the abundance of DIY tutorials/posts was amazing. I'm pretty handy with a wrench and have fixed many things on my Sonata before, as well as done routine things like oil changes. I also love the detailed coding instructions. I'm thinking...have I found the perfect car?

Anyway, to get to the point:

Currently I plan to get an E85 Z4 roadster, probably the 3.0si, when I graduate in 2021. I would get the M but it commands a premium in price, consumables, and upkeep when the 3.0si would be more than amazing for me. I'm just wondering a few things:

1) I've read about the top motor issue and several posts about caring for the top. What else goes wrong with it besides the pump/motor and occasional pinched wires? So far it seems to me to be a fairly robust system besides those issues, and I wouldn't have to worry about a catastrophic failure like the G37's hardtop.
(It apparently has no safeguards against items being in the trunk, has no way to manually operate, and requires the switch to be held down the entire time it operates...which if you slip your hand off for even a second, it will get stuck midway and require you visit a dealer to fix it. One user put his top down perfectly normally one day, something went wrong, the back window smashed, and the entire top cost $12k to replace - they had to make an insurance claim!)

2) Any major engine issues with the 3.0si? I've read that the water pump issues were fixed with this model, and the VANOS/camshaft timing looks to be an M-only thing to worry about. Can you use regular oil in it, or what oil is recommended, and is it much more expensive than typical oil? I've got ramps but no jacks - would I need jacks to change the oil? I've read about some steering column issues with the non-M models. Has this been fixed for the 06-08 models as well?

3) How is the trunk space? Obviously it's going to be pretty small, it's a roadster. Would me and a friend be able to fit enough for a lightly packed weekend trip?

4) Insurance costs? I'm not getting an M or coupe, which are the rarest of the Zs, the car's not new, and it apparently has a pretty good track record, so I'd assume it would be fairly manageable.

5) As with every car there is going to be some stuff I'm not able to fix my own. Currently I'm not in a very metropolitan area (the nearest BMW dealer is 40ish miles from me) but I'm going to end up in the DC/NOVA area. Does anyone know a good indy shop around there? How much can I expect to pay for things like shocks/struts, rotors?

6) I plan to drive it fairly often. At least a few times every week. Living in an apartment, however, I may have to deal with outside parking. Is a garage a must for a Z4? Will it suffer from leaks on a rainy day? I hope that's not the case as I want to be able to use the car fairly often.

7) Bluetooth/aux support? How difficult is that to add to the stock head unit? Does it have call functionality?

8) What is a good mileage to look at? Is ~80k ok or should I go with less? Will I be able to keep this car for a while...upwards of 5 years or so?

-------------------------------------------------

What do you guys think? Is a Z4 a good idea for me?
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      04-23-2020, 10:17 AM   #2
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Nice choice, the E85 Z4 is a great car. The 3.0 or the 3.0Si are both good cars. The maintenance on these cars can get expensive. They, all BMW's, use a special antifreeze. For oil use synthetic. Now to address your specific questions.
1) The issue with the pump is due to the drain holes getting plugged and the pump gets submerged so it eventually rusts and fails. If your drain holes are kept open that will minimize that problem.
2)To date I know of no major issues with the engine. Changing the oil can be a bit trying. You do need to get under the car to get to the drain plug. Mine has the M Sport suspension so it sits really low. The car has no jack in it as they put run flat tires on the car. The oil filter is on top so it's easy to change.
3)Trunk space? It's actually pretty good. I have disappeared for a week in it and the suitcase I had fit fine. If you get the hard top convertible the top does take a lot of the space. Mine is cloth.
4) Insurance cost isn't bad at all but I have multiple cars and well over 25.
5)If you get a car with an excess of 100k miles you might have to redo the suspension. Parts alone can be close to $1000. Can't tell you what total cost would be as I work on my own cars.
6) It's always better to keep a car indoors if possible. Mine had to sit outside for its first year and had no issues with leaks. But having a soft top I always worried when it hailed.
7) Can't answer that as I don't even have a cell phone.
8) I would try to buy the lowest milage you can afford. But more importantly find one with as complete maintenance records.
For the most part these cars are reliable as well as fun to drive. They have a cup holder on the edge of the dash that usually is broken. They can be fixed and aren't too hard to replace. The "glovebox" between the seats has issues with the button that holds it closed as it's plastic and can break. There is a wind deflector for between the seats to lessen the wind in the cabin with the top down and they are worth getting. The Z4 is a great car and there are people put over 300k miles on them without major issues.
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      04-23-2020, 06:36 PM   #3
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I have an '06 3.0i with around 154,000 miles on it, and it has been nothing short of amazing. Based on my ownership experience, I have a few pieces of advice for you.

Firstly, I would highly recommend a cover for when your car is parked outside. Mine has had a California Pop Top cover kept on it for its entire life whenever it has been parked outside for more than half an hour. It only covers the top, and is easy to put on and take off by yourself. Because of this, the top is original and still looks new. Also, I've never had an issue with the roof drains clogging because everything lands on the cover. These covers are fairly inexpensive and have lasted about 4 years each in the GA sun.

Secondly, if at all possible, get rid of the runflats. I have switched from the stock Bridgestone Potenza runflats to Michelin Pilot Sport PS2's, and the ride and handling are much improved.

Thirdly, all the work you can do yourself, do it. I recently replaced my front control arms, control arm bushings, swaybar endlinks, swaybar bushings, and tie rods for a fraction of what the dealer quoted. I used genuine BMW parts ordered from ECS Tuning.

Finally, as a purist, I would suggest only getting one with a manual. These cars are not as easy to drive as something like a manual Honda Civic; they make you work for perfection. They also reward you like few other cars I've driven when you put forth the effort. I'm sure that while the automatic Z's are still superb, the feeling of driving the manual is a big part of what makes the Z so special (which is probably why there are no automatic Z4M's).
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      04-23-2020, 08:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeef0ur View Post
Hi guys - first time here. Wanted to get some opinions. If this thread belongs somewhere else let me know!

I've never owned a BMW before. In fact, I wasn't really into them very much until I took a ride in my friends E8X 128i convertible a couple years ago. I loved that thing. Unfortunately she loved it too much to let me drive it, so I had to enjoy it from the passenger seat (or the back - in one case - when me, her, and another friend went on a road trip...at least the top was down!). Not only was that my first time in a BMW, it was my first time in a convertible. I've always been one to put the windows down instead of switch on the AC, just for the fact that I love the open-air, wind-in-my-face feeling. But this was something else. It was amazing.

I'm sold. Ok, now just to wait till I can afford something like that.

As a college student, currently with a humble, dependable, just-fast-enough Hyundai Sonata, I wanted more. I wanted driving to be fun again.

So a few months ago I started to look into BMWs and various other convertibles/performance cars. Knowing that this would be my next car, which I'm currently thinking about buying myself as a graduation present in 2021 w/some financing, and that I'd keep the car I currently have (as nothing's wrong with it, it runs great, and it's very practical), I had to keep the price and maintenance costs within reason. I decided on around ~$10k. You can find German cars that are 10ish years old for decently cheap, but I've found that they can be a nightmare to maintain. Even my friend with the 1 would always comment on various things going wrong with hers. Ruled out Mercedes as I've never heard great things about their dependability. The A5/S5 looked promising until I read about some issues past 80k. I looked at a few Japanese manufacturers - Lexus and Infiniti in particular, finding that Lexus didn't make any decent convertibles. ISF looked interesting but I heard the ride is very harsh. I did look at the G37 a little though.

Then I came across the Z4. I saw the test drive of the new G29 in Car and Driver and it looked pretty promising, so I looked into the older Z4 models a bit. Damn, is the E85 stunning! I love the looks and everything about it. And it happens to be in my price range (seen several E85s on Autotrader, Truecar, Carfax for >$10k). I briefly looked at the E89, but it didn't get nearly as much love, and I like the E85 design a bit better anyway. The big question at this point is the maintenance costs. A quick google search led me here, where I found numerous threads praising this car's (and it's N52/M54 engine's) reliability, one even saying their Z was over 200k miles! Also, the abundance of DIY tutorials/posts was amazing. I'm pretty handy with a wrench and have fixed many things on my Sonata before, as well as done routine things like oil changes. I also love the detailed coding instructions. I'm thinking...have I found the perfect car?

Anyway, to get to the point:

Currently I plan to get an E85 Z4 roadster, probably the 3.0si, when I graduate in 2021. I would get the M but it commands a premium in price, consumables, and upkeep when the 3.0si would be more than amazing for me. I'm just wondering a few things:

1) I've read about the top motor issue and several posts about caring for the top. What else goes wrong with it besides the pump/motor and occasional pinched wires? So far it seems to me to be a fairly robust system besides those issues, and I wouldn't have to worry about a catastrophic failure like the G37's hardtop.
(It apparently has no safeguards against items being in the trunk, has no way to manually operate, and requires the switch to be held down the entire time it operates...which if you slip your hand off for even a second, it will get stuck midway and require you visit a dealer to fix it. One user put his top down perfectly normally one day, something went wrong, the back window smashed, and the entire top cost $12k to replace - they had to make an insurance claim!)

2) Any major engine issues with the 3.0si? I've read that the water pump issues were fixed with this model, and the VANOS/camshaft timing looks to be an M-only thing to worry about. Can you use regular oil in it, or what oil is recommended, and is it much more expensive than typical oil? I've got ramps but no jacks - would I need jacks to change the oil? I've read about some steering column issues with the non-M models. Has this been fixed for the 06-08 models as well?

3) How is the trunk space? Obviously it's going to be pretty small, it's a roadster. Would me and a friend be able to fit enough for a lightly packed weekend trip?

4) Insurance costs? I'm not getting an M or coupe, which are the rarest of the Zs, the car's not new, and it apparently has a pretty good track record, so I'd assume it would be fairly manageable.

5) As with every car there is going to be some stuff I'm not able to fix my own. Currently I'm not in a very metropolitan area (the nearest BMW dealer is 40ish miles from me) but I'm going to end up in the DC/NOVA area. Does anyone know a good indy shop around there? How much can I expect to pay for things like shocks/struts, rotors?

6) I plan to drive it fairly often. At least a few times every week. Living in an apartment, however, I may have to deal with outside parking. Is a garage a must for a Z4? Will it suffer from leaks on a rainy day? I hope that's not the case as I want to be able to use the car fairly often.

7) Bluetooth/aux support? How difficult is that to add to the stock head unit? Does it have call functionality?

8) What is a good mileage to look at? Is ~80k ok or should I go with less? Will I be able to keep this car for a while...upwards of 5 years or so?

-------------------------------------------------

What do you guys think? Is a Z4 a good idea for me?
Here you go, buddy. Let me know if you have any questions:


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      04-23-2020, 09:05 PM   #5
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I sold my Porsche 911 for a Z4. The Z is an awesome car.
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      04-23-2020, 10:25 PM   #6
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Great video - very informative. Hopefully the electric steering is not too much of a ride killer for me. I've read that it's improved a little in the later years...
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      04-23-2020, 11:53 PM   #7
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I can assure you that the electric steering is just fine. Way to many reviewers make ridiculous comments about a cars performance when the truth is they will run out of driving skills long before they run out of car. These people talk as if the car does not meet their driving skill level. Gimme a break. Most Z4 owners will take their Z4's on local 20 MPH roads to Walmart or on a highway at 65 MPH. That's it. They will never push the car to its limits, hence the 'steering feedback' is inconsequential. Just drive the car and enjoy it for what it is. The basic 2.5 engine will be more than you will ever need.
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      04-24-2020, 01:13 PM   #8
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^This is true. Also, reviewers naturally compare similar cars, so while the electric steering may not be as good as the hydraulic in an ///M car, itís still worlds better than the steering, electric or hydraulic, found in many of the everyday cars on the road. I can honestly say that I like the electric steering in my Z better than the electric steering in the Ď14 328i that I get to drive fairly often. I do find that the Z does not offer quite as much feedback as my hydraulic steering in my GTI, but itís really not a big difference at all.
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      04-24-2020, 05:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z4fanatico View Post
I can assure you that the electric steering is just fine. Way to many reviewers make ridiculous comments about a cars performance when the truth is they will run out of driving skills long before they run out of car. These people talk as if the car does not meet their driving skill level. Gimme a break. Most Z4 owners will take their Z4's on local 20 MPH roads to Walmart or on a highway at 65 MPH. That's it. They will never push the car to its limits, hence the 'steering feedback' is inconsequential. Just drive the car and enjoy it for what it is. The basic 2.5 engine will be more than you will ever need.
I concur with the 2nd and 3rd post, but your comments are definitely off the mark. Steering feedback is never inconsequential. When the weather gets over 90 deg or so my '04 3.0 will not go straight down the road with out serious attention. It's a real drag continually correcting left to right and back again to stay between the white lines. It feels like there is a spring loaded detent forcing the steering off center. I will be adding a grease zerk to the steering column this spring before it gets hot. I understand it is a DIY project, if you have the patience for it. So don't let this niggling problem that occurs in only some of the early Z4's deter you from buying a Z4.
Of course you could always buy a Miata. Not nearly as refined, but mechanically almost bullet proof. More noisy, not nearly as good in the paint quality, uncomfortable for some body types, underpowered in the NA and NB series. The '06 and newer are nearly as quick as the older Z4's. Handling around corners between my Z4 and my previous Miata's is about the same. The Miata being lighter felt a bit more nimble to me. Anyway, I now have the Beemer and have no plans to ever get rid of it. So good luck in your hunt.
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      04-25-2020, 12:01 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldmcst View Post
I concur with the 2nd and 3rd post, but your comments are definitely off the mark. Steering feedback is never inconsequential. When the weather gets over 90 deg or so my '04 3.0 will not go straight down the road with out serious attention. It's a real drag continually correcting left to right and back again to stay between the white lines.
..

My 2003 Z4 with 33K original miles, drives laser straight in 90 + degree weather with no input from me to keep it straight.
Since your car is having steering problems over 90 degrees, then it needs to get fixed. You might have a worn out suspension or a faulty steering column that needs to be replaced. I have driven many Z4's and what you are describing is not normal.

Last edited by Z4fanatico; 04-25-2020 at 12:13 AM..
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      04-25-2020, 08:48 AM   #11
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My input is if you don't want the extra cost of the M - never test drive one. Once you do you won't be able to live with a Non M version.
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      04-25-2020, 12:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z4fanatico View Post
..

My 2003 Z4 with 33K original miles, drives laser straight in 90 + degree weather with no input from me to keep it straight.
Since your car is having steering problems over 90 degrees, then it needs to get fixed. You might have a worn out suspension or a faulty steering column that needs to be replaced. I have driven many Z4's and what you are describing is not normal.
Not normal, but not uncommon. See "sticky steering ring fix" by "Unlucky" in this forum.
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      04-25-2020, 03:03 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DerE85Fahrer View Post
^This is true. Also, reviewers naturally compare similar cars, so while the electric steering may not be as good as the hydraulic in an ///M car, itís still worlds better than the steering, electric or hydraulic, found in many of the everyday cars on the road. I can honestly say that I like the electric steering in my Z better than the electric steering in the Ď14 328i that I get to drive fairly often. I do find that the Z does not offer quite as much feedback as my hydraulic steering in my GTI, but itís really not a big difference at all.
I will add that my wife has a 2014 328 XDrive sedan which I drive from time to time. While she loves the steering on her 328, it is definitely way lighter with noticeably less feel than the electric steering on my 2006 Z43.0si.
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      04-26-2020, 08:09 AM   #14
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I'll chime in. I have four BMWs at the moment. I had a fifth, an E30 I sold in 2006 when I picked up my E90. I've owned BMWs for 30 years and a total cumulated driven miles of over 928,000. I DIY almost everything. Everyone of my current BMWs has over 100,000 miles. I've taken one to 390,000 miles (I still daily drive it) and another to 257,000 miles (18 years with the E30) and my wife's 23 year old Z3 has accumulated 190,000 miles. Just trying to validate my experience and advice provided below.

If you are concerned about the cost of owning a BMW, then you've got to adjust that. BMWs are about the pleasure of the driving experience* and not the cost of ownership. Ask most any BMW owner and they will tell you the maintenance costs are excessive unless you do most maintenance and repair yourself. Ask me, and I will tell you evaluate the cost of ownership in the terms of cost per mile (i.e. how much does it cost to drive the car per mile). The cost per mile is the price paid for the car you've purchased plus cost of fuel, cost of maintenance, and cost of repairs. This goes for any car from any manufacturer and is a metric that accounts for the type of vehicle owned and the attributes thereof. The attributes being: the initial price, the resale value when you sell it, tire wear/costs, MPG, routine/preventative maintenance costs, and the car's characteristics of reliability (i.e. how often it breaks and needs repair).

My BMWs all cost around 30-cents per mile.

Now for your specific question, the E85 (knowing the chassis code and engine codes are a good start towards being a BMW enthusiast) is a damned stout chassis. The early non-M Z4 roadster models up to 2005 came with either the M52 or M54 (an update of the M52). The 2006 model year brought the N52 to the E85/86 chassis. Both the M52/54 and the N52 are great engines; I have examples of both. The E85/86 are based off the 3-series E46 chassis, so there are a lot of common parts below the skin, which is good for longevity of parts availability, because BMW sold millions of E46 cars. I can't speak directly to the E85 version because I have a E86 Coupe, but other than the top the cars are pretty much identical mechanically. I can say that of all my BMW ownership experience my Z4 has been the most reliable BMW I've owned; it just doesn't break. If you ask me, for a reliable daily driver I'd get a Z4 with the N52 only because it has less problems with the intake and CCV systems vs. the M52/M54 engine. But the M54 is a really great example of the classic BMW in-line 6. The N52 is closer in character to the M20, which IMO was the best in-line 6 BMW made. The M54 3.0L makes great power, but it has a bit of Lexus in it (i.e. too refined).

The M version of the E85/86 simply takes more commitment to maintenance and operational costs, but the trade off is more performance and possible better resale value; which may offset the equation of cost-per-mile ownership experience. The performance may translate better to track duty than regular street use.

If you can find a lower-mileage example of a Roadster, the better since it will delay some of the time for the onset of required repair items of the N52, which are (1) leaking oil filter housing gasket, (2) leaking valve cover gasket, and (3) leaking oil pan gasket. As far as the N52 water pump goes, the pump was updated in 2008, and is a longer lasting pump. The '06 N52 thermostat is known to fail, but that was cured with a '07 redesign of the t-stat. For my N52's my 2006 E90 need a t-stat at 130,000 miles and the WP went at 149,000. I replaced both with the updated parts and have not touched either since for the past 250,000+ miles. My '08 Z4 3.0si Coupe's N52 has needed no repairs and does not have yet any significant oil leaks. It sits currently at 104,000 miles.

If you get a manual transmission version, the better IMO, since any BMW manual transmission will last the lifetime of the vehicle with just periodic oil changes, and the differentials of BMWs are stone reliable. Outside of the driveline parts, the interior of the E85/86 is of great build quality and lasts a long time.

Now if you plan to DIY but are going to live in an apartment complex, that's not an ideal plan. You need a low-profile floor jack and four (4) jack stands to safely work on the car, and should work on a flat concrete surface. But if you are moving to the DMV (I'm from there), you have many good BMW specialists to choose from, but they are not much less expensive than the DMV BMW dealerships in the area, but perhaps more honest. The DMV is an expensive place to live, so the prices of BMW service reflect that. The best thing you can do is buy a BMW scan tool. A BMW scan tool is essential to up keep of a BMW.

That's what I know...

Good luck if you decide to get a Z4. You'll not go wrong with making the choice; they are great cars.



*I'll caveat that by almost every non-M model past the E90 3-series lost the BMW driving DNA.
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A manual transmission can be set to "comfort", "sport", and "track" modes simply by the technique and speed at which you shift it; it doesn't need "modes", modes are for manumatics that try to behave like a real 3-pedal manual transmission. If you can money-shift it, it's a manual transmission. "Yeah, but NO ONE puts an automatic trans shift knob on a manual transmission."
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      05-06-2020, 10:28 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Z4fanatico View Post
I sold my Porsche 911 for a Z4. The Z is an awesome car.
What year was your 911?
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      05-07-2020, 12:46 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kazansky View Post
What year was your 911?
I sold a 2006 911 convertible for the Z4. For me, the 911 was unnecessarily complicated and the driving experience just wasn't worth the price of ownership. For example, the 911 convertible top operation is much more complicated than the Z4. The rear clamshell has to open, the side wings have to swing up, the front and rear windows have to lower themselves...wayyy to many sensors and motors going on just to lower the damn top. And when it doesn't work, you are in a world of $$$ pain. The Z4 has no silly clamshell, no rear windows, and fewer sensors and motors to deal with.

But besides that, the Z4 is a much more comfortable car to drive and it's a true roadster not so much with the 911.
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      05-09-2020, 11:45 AM   #17
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I'd suggest you wait until you have your apartment. In that, you might find that there are auto repair restrictions in your apartment complex's parking lot. This unknown could have a large impact on the cost of ownership.

In the mean time, I suggest you simply follow the posting to this, as well as, the other Z4 forums which concern everyday problems confronted by actual owners. This will allow you to read advise given by fellow owners to correct the problem. You'll be able read what parts and tools may be need to repair the issue and the out of pocket costs involved. You'll also be able to tell which repair may be within your skill level and those which will require either a shop or dealer.
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      05-12-2020, 05:31 PM   #18
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Just adding a twist to the question.... would you buy a manual 3.0i or an automatic 3.0si?
So far I've never had any happy experience with manual BMWs except for the Z3M. The shifters do not have the rifle-bolt action that I am used to.

Also what about the SMG? Read it's best to avoid. It's quirkiness intrigues me.
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      05-12-2020, 06:48 PM   #19
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Ideally you should drive both and pick the one you like best. The SMG transmission has a reputation for problems and being costly to repair when it has issues.

Good luck!!
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