BMW’s Z Series includes a range of production roadsters that have been manufactured since 1989, starting with the Z1 car. The ‘Z’ in German stands for ‘zufunft,’ meaning future.
The Z1 came out in 1989 and lasted until 1991. The two-seater roadster featured novel doors, which, instead of opening in the usual manner, were lowered into the cars sills below. It had a dipping nose, inset headlights, and a narrow grille. There were only 8,000 of these cars produced.
The popular Z3 came out in 1996 as a roadster and coupe model, which continued to roll off the production lines until 2002. This was the first time a modern roadster had been manufactured for general consumption, and its high sales coincided with its appearance in the James Bond film, ‘Goldeneye.‘ This was a more rounded car, featuring a fuller front, long wrap-around headlights, and distinctive side vents.
The first generation Z4 hit the showrooms in 2002 and was a softer, more rounded car with scooped headlights and a slightly more prominent grille. Once again, it featured a longer, dipping front end. The chassis was also stiffened up so as to counter criticism of the Z3’s handling. It was initially only available as a roadster but later models also included a coupe version. The second generation came out in 2009 and is still in production. It contained much of the styling of the earlier model but had a hard top roof, which could be automatically folded into the boot. Unfortunately, this does limit the boot space somewhat when it is down.
The Z8 was a limited run, production model of the late 1990s concept car, the Z07. It was designed to showcase the BMW style of the late 1950s 507 model. The Z8 saw 5,703 cars sold between 2000 and 2003, with the bulk of them being exported to the United States.
The Z4s were driven by either 2.0L or 3.0L turbo injected engines. The 2.0L produce around 110kW, with a torque rating of 200Nm. This is lower than the 3.0L Si, which runs at 195kW and 315Nm, and it is capable of taking the car from 0-100km/h in 5.0 seconds and has a top speed of 250km/h. The transmission systems available on the Z4 were an improvement on earlier models with 5- or 6-speed units available in both the manual and automatic. They also had greater stability, being fitted with ABS, traction control, power steering, four-wheel disc brakes, and electronic stability systems.
The Z3 fitted with a 1.9L engine runs at around 103kW and the same M engine that is used in the Z4 was only capable of generating 231kW against the 252kW of the later model. The Z3 was linked up to either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual gearbox and had a more sophisticated multilinked suspension system.
The Z-Series always came with plenty of equipment as standard, and the latest Z4 model is no different. All models have a sporty feel to their interiors, and this reflects their roadster image.
The Z4 comes with 18-inch star-spoke alloys, as well as wood and leather interior. They have dual-zone climate control, leather seats, bright xenon headlights, full connectivity with Bluetooth, MP3/iPod port, touchscreen technology, and much more.
It is possible to select a sports package in the Z4, which gives a much stiffer suspension, larger wheels, and more responsive sports-tuned steering and throttle.
The Z-series from BMW has proved, over time, to be a good, quality roadster and sporty coupe, available to most. While not always beating the competition for performance, it definitely provides a stylish look to the class. The Z cars see themselves sharing the catwalk with the likes of the Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, and Mazda MX-5 – all excellent cars in their own right, but the BMWs somehow seem to edge out in front on design.
The Z-Series are roadsters so practicality isn’t on their menu. They are meant to look good, handle well, and turn heads. Transporting kids football teams or loading up with DIY materials isn’t what they do. The popular Z3 and the newer Z4 are the mainstay of the range, but there are still a number of the rarer models to be found. They are good, reliable German-engineered cars, so they hold their value well.