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2008 BMW Z4 Overview

Twelve years ago, six years after the debut of the Japanese Miata, BMW again reinvented the European sports car with the Z3. In 2006, the Z4 replaced its sibling. The 2008 Z4 has minor changes and is available in roadster and coupe form with two trim levels - 3.0i and 3.0si - as well as the M series version.

The 3.0i comes with a 3.0-liter inline six that produces 215 hp with 185 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 jump with the six-speed manual transmission comes in 6.2 seconds; the automatic follows at 6.6 seconds. The 3.0si features the same base engine tuned to produce 255 hp and 225 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 manual experience takes 5.6 seconds, and the automatic gets there in 5.7. Top speed is 155 mph. The 3.2-liter, 330-hp M version can blast to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

Reviewers unanimously praise both the six-speed manual transmission - "silky smooth," "crisp," "pleasure to operate" - and the optional six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters - "decisive, but not harsh," "responsive," "sport-seeking algorithms." The EPA estimates 18/28 mpg with the manual and 19/28 with the automatic.

The Z4 handles. In front, forged-aluminum lower arms are incorporated into a strut-type suspension, while more aluminum in the form of cast-aluminum upper transverse links is used in the central-link rear suspension. The car's 50/50 front/rear weight distribution adds to its responsive handling. Combined with BMW's traditional benchmark steering - "quick, weighty, and precise" - the Z4's tenuous grip registered 0.93 g on Car and Driver's skid pad, thus earning a spot in the magazine's "Crazy Glue" road-holding class.

However, reviewers who emphasize overall ride quality complain about the Z4's "choppy," "nervous" ride on "imperfect" road surfaces. Part of that is certainly attributable to the sports car's short 98.3-inch wheelbase. The coupe configuration is naturally tighter, but reviewers had no complaints about "roadster flex."

Stopping is done in BMW's usual powerful, stable, quick style via four-wheel antilock disc brakes that include all of the automaker's electronic wizardry: Dynamic Stability Control, Brake Fade Compensation, Brake Stand-by with Dynamic Traction Control, Start-Off Assistant, and Brake Drying.

The Z4's interior theme - roadster and coupe - is what one might expect in a "true" sports car: simply practical. Another auto site points out that this is a "driver's car" in which attention is placed on the road. There is, of course, elegant wood or aluminum trim for those who want to divert their attention.

Reviewers are mixed regarding the seats and cabin feel. While some find it "cozy," others found "claustrophobia." Everyone seems to agree the seating is for adults, even if climbing in and out of the coupe takes some flexibility for taller drivers. Seats are wide enough and provide good lateral support, and there are the optional M-style seats for even more lateral support. Six-way manually adjustable sports seats are standard. The cockpit has good ergonomics - gauges are an easy read, with shifter and dashboard controls in easy reach.

The coupe contains an amazing 12 cubic feet of cargo space, or two moderately sized golf bags, in its uneven luggage bay. With the roadster, you still get a trunk with the top down, but it offers only 9 cubic feet of cargo space. A manual top is standard on the roadster, with a power top optional. Further, this top serves as its own tonneau cover and comes with a defroster-equipped glass rear window.

The Z4 is also safe, earning four out of five stars in government crash tests for frontal-impact protection and three stars for side impact safety. In addition to all the electronic wizardry connected to the brakes, the Z4's standard safety equipment includes run-flat tires, dual front air bags, active knee protection, and side impact airbags. The roadster also has a rollover protection system.

Fast, nimble, and safe, the BMW Z4 is a bargain when compared to its Porsche and Mercedes competition.

Updated by Anonymous

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