Future classics

Future Classic: 2006–08 BMW Z4 Coupé

by Antony Ingram
27 February 2024 3 min read
Future Classic: 2006–08 BMW Z4 Coupé
Photos courtesy BMW

You’ll be aware by now that the Toyota GR Supra isn’t entirely the Japanese company’s own work. Not in the 1970s “that Celica looks a bit like a Mustang” sense, but in the sense that Toyota and BMW worked closely on development and that the Supra’s platform fundamentals, any tweaks aside, are those of a BMW Z4.

Thus the ongoing and by now slightly stale joke that the Supra is basically a Z4 coupé, though it’s thankfully a joke that is going out of fashion as enthusiasts warm to the car. Amazing what not jumping to initial conclusions can do.

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If the Supra was merely a hardtop Z4, it wouldn’t be the first. The Z4 is in its third generation now, but only the first generation ever got a true fixed-roof variant. And it stands a fair chance of becoming a coveted classic in the not too distant future, its first-and-last-of-the-line status, the right badge, and truly distinctive styling helping it to stand out among its contemporaries. Values that are currently toward the bottom of the depreciation curve won’t hurt, either.

BMW Z4 Coupe profile

The Z4 Coupé debuted at the Frankfurt motor show in 2005, three years after the roadster debuted in Paris. As is so often the case with the products of enormous modern car companies, history is unclear as to whose pen shaped the Coupé: Chris Bangle was head of BMW design at the time and is often credited (or blamed, depending on your view) with creating the ‘flame surfacing’ trend embraced by the Z4; Adrian van Hooydonk (current BMW Group design director) was fairly senior at the time too; Anders Warming (currently design director at Rolls-Royce) is said to have designed the Z4 Roadster, and Thomas Sycha may be the man behind the roofed version.

Whoever it was – or however many it was – they did a cracking job. The Z4 will always be an acquired taste, thanks to the changes implemented in BMW design by Bangle during the period, but even if you’re not keen on the details, the long-bonnet, short-cab silhouette is perfect sports car stuff, a look adopted by everything from the E-Type to the latest Supra. The roof really ties the look of the Z4 together, and it was clearly less of an afterthought than the Z3 Coupé’s breadvan look.

BMW Z4 Coupe rear hatch doors open

The Coupé’s cabin was unchanged from that of the Roadster (extra luggage space courtesy of the hatchback design aside), and this is probably more controversial than the exterior design these days, as BMW also largely abandoned its driver-focused, cockpit-like feel during the period. Still, there’s an elegant simplicity to it, and unlike the current Z4, you get a proper pair of hooded dials to glance at. It’s airier than the pillbox-like Supra, too.

BMW Z4 Coupe cockpit dash

The Z4 was larger and more sophisticated than the Z3, with a 3-Series–derived multilink rear suspension setup rather than its predecessor’s semi-trailing arms. Less welcome was electric assistance for the steering, and the Z4’s use of run-flat tyres didn’t go down too well, either. Driving the car in 2006, Autocar criticised its “lifeless” steering and the tyres’ effect on ride composure, but otherwise enjoyed its engine and handling, calling it the “loveable rogue” of the BMW range.

Ah yes, the engine. While a four-cylinder was still available in the Roadster, the Coupé was six-pot only, adding to the modern-day Datsun 240Z/Triumph GT6 vibes. A 261bhp 3.0si was standard, but the truly covetable Z4 Coupé will always be the Z4 M, with its 343bhp 3.2-litre ‘S54’ straight-six lifted from the E46 M3.

BMW Z4 Coupe M engine

Not only was the M more powerful than the regular Coupé, but it also reverted to hydraulic assistance for the steering, immediately resulting in an improvement in feedback (if still not in the Porsche Cayman league). It ditched the run-flat tyres, and there was a variable-locking limited-slip differential, too. Its stiffer setup didn’t go down well with everyone – some magazines preferred the regular 3.0si – but today’s enthusiast, starved of suitable alternatives, probably won’t mind.

Actually, there is one alternative: that Toyota Supra. It has even stronger performance – Autocar timed it to 60mph in 4.4 seconds, compared to 5.1 for the Z4 M – and its modernity is highlighted in how much less fuel it uses, the magazine also seeing 10mpg better economy in everything other than track testing.

But then Supras are still hefty money to begin with, whereas a Z4 M Coupé currently starts at under £20,000, and a regular Z4 Coupé 3.0si at well under ten grand. It might even look a little better, too – and you can be absolutely certain, with the BMW badge on the nose, that this one isn’t pretending to be anything else.

BMW Z4 Coupe cornering front 3/4

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  • Paul Forbes says:

    I have a 2007 3.0Si manual.
    Love it…110k on the clock. Kms not miles.
    Fitted Pilot Sport 4s.

  • Edward Lichtenstein says:

    Does anyone know how to get a replacement for the drivers side window motor for a Z4M coupe 2007 model year?

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