- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

JEREZ, Spain — Fans have been waiting some time for the M version of the BMW Z4 Roadster, but soon they will be able to drive the Z4 M out of the BMW showrooms.

BMW had no capacity to develop the Z4 M Roadster alongside the M5 and M6, but now the sporty model is ready to arrive in showrooms in June. I drove drive the Z4 M Roadster in the mountains in the Andalusia area in southern Spain and at the Jerez racetrack in order to fully appreciate its driving qualities.

The M Roadster is equipped with the high performance 3.2-liter six cylinder in-line engine and a manual six-speed gearbox. The high revving (7,900 rpm) engine has a power output of 343 horsepower and has 269 lb-ft of torque and propels the car from zero to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and on to a top speed that is limited to 155 mph.

Eighty percent of the torque is already available at 2,000 rpm and that gives the car its sophisticated driving character in daily traffic: you do not need to push it, as cruising is very comfortable. It is not only fun to step on the gas and feel the immediate response of the engine, but it also produces a nice sound. Obviously the engineers have put some effort to create a sound that is reminiscent of motor sport, while in the meantime they had to limit exhaust emissions for both the European and U.S. norms.

With a lowered suspension and more negative camber the Z4 M Roadster has excellent driving capabilities on the road, as well as on the race track. When you disconnect the DSC system, that has integrated ASC stability control and CBC Cornering Brake Control, the M Roadster provides sheer fun. With its rear wheel drive there is a lot of room to play and with the wide track the driving stability is very good. Overall the Z4 M Roadster has a more sophisticated handling than its predecessor. Shifting has a short and precise throw and goes absolutely without thinking. For the steering system BMW uses the traditional hydraulic type rather than the electric.

The M comes standard with 225/45 ZR 18 rubber in the front and 225/40 ZR 18 in the rear.

The tire pressure control system (TPC) provides peace of mind under all circumstances: it warns you when the pressure drops to less than 50 percent of the required level.

Instead of Dynamic Traction Control that is normally part of DSC in the Roadster, the M has variable, speed-sensing M differential lock. It is a carry over from the M3 and adjusts the car’s behavior at higher speeds.

Compared to the Z4 Roadster the M has some important structural changes: the underside of the car has an improved air flow to cool the transmission and rear axle and uses a diffuser and an air dam in the rear so the flow of air under car is optimised.

On the race track the brakes lasted just 22 laps. They are of the sturdy BMW type, but for this kind of driving I would have preferred the Brembo brakes that are widely accepted by the industry for its super sporty models.

On the outside the M version can be recognised by its revised front and rear fascias and special M badging. In the cockpit the M is attractive with nice shapes and materials of the best quality, such as the leather on the dashboard that has a carbon-look. The speedometer and rev counter have black faces with white numbers and red indicator needles and are illuminated by white light.

BMW has not announced the price of the Z4 MRoadster yet. We expect it closer to the arrival on the US market in June.

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