The Ultimate Modern ///M Car?

Recently Car magazine had a brief post about the discontinuation of the inline six that powered everything from the E36 through the E46 and E86. And that got us thinking about that engine, the cars it powered and how they stacked up against all the other M offerings through the years.

There are countless opinions about what an M car should be and what truly is the best yet. In my mind there are a handful of cars that exemplify the qualities of the Motorsports division. First and foremost there ‘s the original E30 M3. Created with incredible pedigree and highly successful motorsport history the E30 M3 in some ways is the pinnacle of the brand. That would probably be out pick for the ultimate ///M car across the entire range.

But what modern M car deserves this title? While we love the last two generations of the M3 they ‘re simply too heavy a car in our minds. And as much as we love the E39 and E60 M5s, it ‘s hard to argue that they haven ‘t become bloated as compared to the original E34 example. The modern M6 also exemplifies this all too well.

With that rational the Z3 M and Z4 M seem start to seem like obvious choices. But the convertible tops do way too much in limiting ultimate performance. Decreased torsional rigidity make these less than ideal choices for attacking mountain roads let alone track days. They are inherently flawed as any gorgeous classically proportioned roadster is.

The coupes are the natural answer then. The Z3 coupe was brutal and (in my mind at least) a gorgeous yet almost vulgar looking car. But it ‘s the Z4 M Coupe that is both looks and performs the part of the ultimate modern M car. It ‘s mechanical sounding inline 6 will never be equalled in it ‘s character or purity now that we ‘re in the V8 and forced induction era at the M Division.

The first generation of flame surfacing seems as if it was meant for the Z4 M Coupe. The long hood and the elegant yet aggressive looking rear quarter is full of the kind of design tension that make the car look fresh for decades.

Inside the interior is the last of the pre-iDrive BMW ‘s. It ‘s worth noting that I ‘m a long-time iDrive supporter, but the lack of it just goes along with the car ‘s simplistic nature. Thiscar was BMW and even the M engineers getting back to their basics. It only ever came with a manual and good luck getting anything remotely resembling a golf bag in the hatch. This car was designed and engineered to be driven in anger.

And the engineering of the E86 M Coupe wasn ‘t an afterthought. The car took the best of the then current generation M3 (including the CSL braking system) and shoe-horned it into a smaller lighter package. Based on a conversations I ‘ve had with those who work within the ///M division, engineers took over a week at the Nürburgring tuning the suspension alone.

While the new E89 Z4 is impressive and undoubtedly more refined and sophisticated, it can never be the car that the E86 was. Due to it ‘s larger body, aluminum hardtop and subsequent bump in weight, there ‘s a loss in purity to the overall package that cannot be overcome with even the wonderful twin turbo 3.0L petrol engine.

And as much as we here at BF love the new 3.0L twin turbo, it cannot touch the 3.2L in character. There is no engine in BMW ‘s current line-up that can match the power, sound and even efficiency of this now seemingly ancient powerplant.

And it ‘s because of all of this that the Z4 M Coupe is my ultimate modern ///M car.

Related:

+ BimmerFile Review: 2007 Z4 M Coupe

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  • lava

    I can’t wait till you explain how this fills the need for a larger car that forced you to sell your Mini – HA!

  • JonPD

    I really enjoyed the article Gabe. I do have to counter though that the new ///M V8 while not having the same character as that of the fantastic straight 3.2 I think this new motor has a outstanding character of its own. I love the deeper and throaty sounding of the high revving V8. I think if ///M would produce the E89 ///M with a coupe variant and the V8 it would have the best of all worlds. The design of the side repeaters on the E86 still make me gag, I think BMW has done a great thing with the E89 all in all.

    Still have to say that a E89M with the new V8, a coupe, and some work being done to lighten the package would be out of this world!

    Btw have you ever asked any of your BMW or ///M contacts about the ever increasing weight of their products. In these days of demands for high efficiency one of the best routes to performance is lite weight.

  • ERSTD

    Too bad Z4M coupe was never offered with DCT transmission in NA…

  • RJ

    Minor comment….I think it was meant to say the brakes were taken from the M3 CSL, versus the M-B CLS!! lol…..happy new year!!

  • One of my best friends has a Z4///M Coupe that was produced right before the line was closed for good. His car is in my opinion is a classic, it is a raw sports car which has one intention: to be driven like you stole it. While it has a few quirks and not for everyone due to its size and lack of tech gizmos, it does what it is supposed to; Drive! Everything had a simplified purpose with driving in mind and while some people do not like the looks or its quirks I love it and if it fit my needs for size I would have been all over one…. instead I went with something a bit more roomy including four doors but that is for a different discussion. The Z4 ///M coupe just makes me smile every-time I see one, as in my mind it is a true driver’s car and you have to truly like driving to own one!

  • JonPD

    I share that too Michael, the Z4 ///M coupe for me just rocks my world every time I see one. Just wished that seriously homely side repeater would disappear. I can handle the old lines of the trunk but never have been able to deal with a 3×3 Logo that looks like its an after market stick on component.

    Driving the car though is out of this world. Depending if we see the E89 ///M in a coupe form might have to pick up a E86 ///M coupe instead although I adore the redesign. For me a convertible always be the mark of questionable handling compared to the coupe version.

  • Dave

    I love this car. Especially in alpine white with CSL wheels!

    There is a youtube video of the Z4M with the gruppe air intake… pure motoring nirvana!

    http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=krSPw4SmR6Y

  • Too bad Z4M coupe was never offered with DCT transmission in NA…

    It was never offered with DCT period.

    I love this car. Especially in alpine white with CSL wheels!

    That is exactly the car I’d get if I had ordered one when new.

    Driving the car though is out of this world. Depending if we see the E89 ///M in a coupe form might have to pick up a E86 ///M coupe instead although I adore the redesign. For me a convertible always be the mark of questionable handling compared to the coupe version.

    We won’t see an E89 in coupe form.

    Minor comment….I think it was meant to say the brakes were taken from the M3 CSL, versus the M-B CLS!! lol…..happy new year!!

    Ok – not sure about this one. It’s CSL in the article above so I’m not sure what you’re referring too.

  • JonPD

    Sad to hear, guess unlike the E86 we won’t see BMW bring out a race format E89 car since convertibles don’t lend themselves to racing. I totally agree about the E86 ///M in white really stands out.

  • Dylan
    That is exactly the car I’d get if I had ordered one when new.

    I wonder if Gabe’s next car will be the Z4 M Coupe rather than the 135i?! Guess it will depend on what his second car is – what with the baby and all 😉

  • lava
  • epbrown
  • Those CSL wheels are amazing, love them! Those are some great looking rides.

  • Dammmittt

    Can you please change all of the E84s in the article to E86? It’s a little annoying.

  • Great article. I guess the best tribute I can make to my 2006 M Coupe is that when I was looking for a car to match it’s looks and surpass it’s power, the only thing I could find with the same character was my 996 GT2. Now I own both, because the GT2 is not a replacement, just a companion.

  • Bob

    Love your comments because I picked up a 2008 ZM Coupe last March; Interlogos Blue, Light Bronze leather, nav, seat heaters etc. I wouldn’t have it with anything but a 6 speed. The DTC works with the V-8 but not the inline 6 M motor, in my opinion. It has great sound starting around 2500 rpm especialy when you hit 2nd gear. The space issue hasn’t been a problem. I can even get 2 saltwater fishing poles in it. A 78 quart cooler fits in the trunk with room for a medium size overnight bag and some other stuff. I’m up to 9,000 miles and average 21 mpg. I only hit the power button once. It does work! Yes I have a big GMC for the winter. The MZ will sleep untill April in the garage. Can’t wait for spring!

  • karmasabish

    The roadster is actually LIGHTER as it was designed first. The hardtop M Coupe is heavier. Altogether cool article, i can tell you as an owner of both E30 M3 and the z4 M Roadster, that in terms of viceral experience and fun factor you are dead on in your comparison..

  • outrun

    sweet review Gabe. It’s the best car i’ve ever owned (and i’ve had 993 tt, 996tt, z3mc, 993 c4, 928gts). If only you could tell me why BMW have allowed such a push in the prices to see it drop to being worth 50% of it’s value in one year.

    I guess i’ll just have to keep it forever.

  • R

    Happy z4 M coupe owner, clutch delay valve deleted, suspension retuned, otherwise bone stock. It’s a joy on backroads, an experience in heavy city traffic, and a beast on the track. Glad it wasn’t offered with that DCT, at least that way you know any M Coupe you see on the road is being driven by someone who has some slight ability to drive, not just some luxury tosser. Before the automatic tards attack me, I have an e90 M3 sedan DCT for a family hauler and winter driver, great car, but it’s no sports car. M3s haven’t really been ‘sports cars’ since the e36, and nothing really compared to the e30! (I prefer the SMG to the DCT, but then again I wasn’t expecting it to be a torque converter automatic like so many M3/M5 buyers apparently were!)

    To end my long long post, the Z3 M coupe is actually more enjoyable to drive, even after doing the CDV delete on the Z4, it never has the wonderful feel the Z3 did, and the steering, despite being razor sharp, just doesn’t have enough feedback. Cheers!

  • MCoop

    Been driving my 07 z4m for just over a year. Alphine white. Use it every single day. Drive the living daylights out of it. Ur driving ability increases exponentially with this car because if u don’t kno what ur doing, it will backhand u like a byach. And wen u hit 6500rpm’s it starts to howl like a rabid dog. The most visceral sound u will hear from a car. Screams like ur beating it.

    If u love to drive, and u want a car to astound u and scare u everyday there’s only one choice. For the price there is nothing out there that even comes close

  • James D

    I put off finding a great example of an E30 M3 for too long and am now hard pressed to justify paying $60K+ for a mid-milage example, let alone $40K+ for a high milage one at 100K miles. I think these 2nd gen M Coupes are ready to start the climb upwards and I for one will get one soon while the prices are reasonable for essentially low milage examples in the $30K range. Beautiful and very capable automobiles, and currently flying under the radar… but not for long, IMHO.