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Click to view picture gallery“So has BMW trumped
  Porsche with its new
  Z4 Coupé? You’d need
  to drive them back-to-
  back to settle that.
  But what we can say
  is that the new Z4
  Coupé more
than lives
  up to BMW’s ‘Ultimate
  Driving Machine’ tag...”

"A POCKET GT," is how Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Brand Design, sums up the new Z4 Coupé. "The car has been designed to feel shrink-wrapped around its components and occupants, to create the tightest-packaged, high-performance long distance GT car ever."

BMW UK's managing director, Jim O'Donnell, is equally enthusiastic: "Most cars in the sporting coupé sector try to be jack of all trades
but end up being masters of none. The Z4 Coupé is different. It is a focused sports car aimed fairly and squarely at drivers who love driving."

And, he added: "The Z4 M in particular — the top model in the new Z4 Coupé range — is an unashamed performance car as much at home on the race track as it is on the road. This is not a car trying to be all things to all men."

With its classic coupé silhouette and the 'Hofmeister kick' on the rear side windows so typical of the brand, this new two-seater BMW coupé — which goes on sale in August — looks low, dynamic and fast. Prices start at £31,400 for the 3.0si SE, rising to £32,025 for the 3.0si Sport variant and £41,285 for the top version in the three-model range,
the 3.2-litre Z4 M. No 2.0-litre variant, as in the Z4 Roadster range,
is planned.

Although the Coupé is only just being released for sale as a niche model, it was initially conceived at the same time (in the late 1990's) as the popular Z4 Roadster. In the remaining four months of 2006, BMW expects to sell around 1,000 Z4 Coupés of which 200 should be the Z4 M variant. In a full year, around 1,900 Z4 Coupés will be avail-able to the UK market and around 30 per cent of these will be the ultra-desirable M variants. BMW in the UK estimates that in a full year the Z4 Coupé will account for one third of all Z4 sales.

The UK is the second largest market in the world for BMW M model sales, behind the USA and in front of Germany. In the UK, BMW expects that 75 per cent of customers for the new Z4 Coupé will be retail buyers and that a typical customer will be male, married and be aged between 35- and 45-years-old.

In true BMW tradition the two-seater Z4 Coupé is — like its Roadster stablemate — a front-engined, rear-wheel driver; only now with a fixed-head roof and hatch-style boot. The 3.0-litre petrol engine powering SE and Sport models is the lightest volume production six-cylinder engine in the world and has won the Engine of the Year
Award several times.

It serves up a 265bhp at 6,600rpm along with torque that peaks at 232lb ft consistently all the way from 2,500-4,000 rpm. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 5.7 seconds, with the Z4 accelerating from 50-75mph in fourth gear in 5.2 seconds. Top speed is cut off electron-ically at 155 mph. Despite this level of performance, the combined cycle mpg figure is an impressive 31.7, with CO2 emissions of 213g/km. A 6-speed, close-ratio manual gearbox is standard with this engine, although BMW are also offering their new Sport automatic transmission.

The M-badged Z4 Coupé uses BMW's familiar 3.2-litre Motorsport six-cylinder petrol engine, which delivers a potent 343bhp at 7,900rpm and 270lb ft of torque at 4,900rpm. Zero to 62mph takes exactly 5 seconds and the top speed is also limited to 155mph. The combined cycle fuel consumption is 23.3mpg with CO2 levels at 292g/km. Drive to the rear wheels is through a six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox, but with the addition of BMW's Variable M differential which delivers anywhere from zero to 100 per cent of available power to the wheel that can most use it in any given situation.

With its well-developed coupé body, the Z4 looks even more of a missile than the Roadster models. The low, wide muscular stance, with its long bonnet and short rump capped by the tailgate hatch, leaves nobody in any doubt as to the dynamic credentials of this new BMW sports GT.

The Z4 3.0si SE and Sport models I drove return refined and responsive driving at all speeds. The Z4 M is more raw, has a harder edge to it and needs traffic free open roads — or better still, a trackday event — for it to perform to its true potential. The 'M' version needs to be driven hard to appreciate its capabilities, both from the handling point of view and the engine power. Both maximum power and torque are developed further up the rev range than on its 3.0-litre counterparts, so it needs space and freedom from legal requirements to really strut its stuff.

That's not to say the 3.0si versions aren't thoroughly entertaining. They're far more accommodating and socially well-mannered for day-in, day-out driving. Smooth and flexible at low speeds, responsive in the mid-range and quite fast enough at the top end to bring a heartfelt smile to the driver's face. At the same time, it's sharp enough to wipe any smile off the face of a fellow road user who might foolishly think to give you a run for your money in something that is less of a sporting thoroughbred than the Z4 Coupé.

The Coupe's cockpit is simple but well equipped, and on the snug side. Would-be buyers should try out the car just to see if they can live with the rather cocooned conditions. Thanks to the low-slung seats — even with the fixed roof — there is plenty of headroom once you're behind the wheel, but six-footers' will find getting in and out calls for a little care. Legroom is limited, and the driving seat could not be reclined far enough for me to enjoy the GT quality, long journey cruising capabil-ities the Z4 Coupé offers. The cabin is, as you'd expect, well equipped with the usual high levels of specification, including climate control.

The handling is impeccable. No real surprise; this is a full-blooded BMW sports car with a low centre of gravity and rear-wheel drive with
lots of rear wheel grip allied to predictable and precise body control.
The Z4 Coupé is packed with electronic driving and handling aids which, fortunately, do not blunt the pleasure of fast driving and you can, should you wish, switch them off.

Both models have knife-sharp steering although the front wheels will tramline on ridged surfaces, so you need to be aware whilst driving at higher speeds. The suspension does give a firm ride, more so when being driven at speed over poorer roads. The Z4 M is firmer still and better suited for smooth-surfaced racing circuits.

In cruise mode, the less potent 3.0-litre version is to my mind the best overall performer. Even the reasonably traffic-free roads in the very north of Scotland showed these models to be the best to buy for the vast majority of customers who could, and would, buy this kind of car.

The power delivery and high levels of torque delivered from further down the engine rev range by this new 3.0-litre engine make it a strong performer at any speed. With its slick, six-speed transmission and high torque, the car is equally at home in traffic as it is scorching along open roads — a significant trait. So good, in fact, that it begs the question: Why pay £10K more for the 'M' unless you can exploit its marginal extra performance? And it's good news indeed if financially
you can't stretch to the range-topping model.

Being a dedicated two-seater, Z4 Coupé owners won't be expecting — or wanting — to transport the proverbial kitchen sink in their car. How-ever, there is 285 litres of space beneath the integrated roll-up cover in the boot. With a total capacity of 340 litres, it is sufficient for two golf bags. The tailgate is opened via the lock housed, conveniently and out of sight, in the BMW logo.

So, who will buy the Z4 Coupé? Drivers who love driving, that's who. They'll adore its great handling. For them, the restricted rear visibility and smallish boot will be of no consequence whatsoever because what matters above everything else is the driving experience. And that is exactly what the Z4 Coupé delivers every time you get behind the chunky leather-wrapped wheel. A memorable drive. — David Miles

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BMW Z4 3.0si SE Coupé | £31,400
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Test MPG: 31.7mpg | Power: 265bhp | Torque: 232lb ft

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-------------------------------------------------------------------- BMW Z4 Coupe