M is for missing

It’s not the ul­ti­mate Beemer, but it’s pretty close, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

ONLY one thing is missing from the hot new hero of BMW’s Z4 posse. It’s an M badge. The new road­ster has plenty of M stuff, and the per­for­mance to match a man­ual M3 coupe, but BMW Aus­tralia says it’s not a true M car and not en­ti­tled to the badge which brings ul­ti­mate BMW brag­ging rights.

In­stead, in the con­fus­ing BMW world of 2010, the rapid twin-turbo road­ster is called the sDrive35is.

To trans­late into the stuff that mat­ters, it has a force-fed six that makes 250kW/500Nm, a seven-speed dou­ble­clutch sports auto gear­box, adap­tive M sus­pen­sion, 18-inch al­loys and a unique bark from its twin-pipe ex­haust.

The car is priced from $129,900 and aimed straight at the Porsche Boxster, though BMW Aus­tralia con­cedes there could be some peo­ple who will shop it against an Audi TTRS, some­thing AMG from Benz, or a Nis­san 370Z.

Value

THE price hardly mat­ters be­cause BMWAus­tralia only has 25 cars for the rest of the year and is ex­pect­ing a sim­i­lar tight sup­ply through 2011.

But it’s $129,900 with­out an — in­evitable — ex­tra dip through the op­tional-equip­ment list. That puts it straight up against the Boxster, which starts at $105,000 these days, and it even un­der­cuts the Boxster S, which is the real choice for keen driv­ers. Then again, there will be a new Boxster next year which prom­ises a lot more— in­clud­ing space — than to­day’s car.

Piers Scott, spokesman for BMW Aus­tralia, says: ‘‘It’s the Boxster we’ve re­ally got in our sights. It raises the per­for­mance to the stan­dard of the Porsche.’’

He touts the changes and par­tic­u­larly the unique-de­sign al­loy wheels, M lo­gos on such things as the steer­ing wheel and scuff plates in­side the wheel, as well as the lower ride height and the unique ex­haust note. But he con­cedes the Z4, across the board, is not a big seller in Aus­tralia. This year’s run­ning sales to­tal is 188 against 126 in 2009, de­spite the ar­rival of a new model.

‘‘They’re not fly­ing out the door. Glo- bally it’s been a huge suc­cess story and leads the seg­ment by far, but in Aus­tralia it’s still to find its feet,’’ he ad­mits.

Technology

THE key to the car is the twin-turbo six, which uses one tur­bocharger each for three cylin­ders, to de­liver peak torque from only 1500 revs and over­boost of 500Nm un­der high-load con­di­tions. Peak power comes at 5900 revs, rel­a­tively low against M cars with red­lines around 8000 revs.

The dou­ble-clutch gear­box is the right choice for the car, though it still has the silly auto-style shift levers of the cruisey BMWs, and the adap­tive sus­pen­sion is set lower with the abil­ity for more firm­ness and grip. The driver as­sist sys­tems are also switch­able to en­sure max­i­mum fun. As for the ex­haust note, it’s not a pureMsys­tem, but it has been tuned to give a bet­ter note.

De­sign

THE lat­est Z4 is slightly big­ger and

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