M is for missing
It’s not the ultimate Beemer, but it’s pretty close, writes Paul Gover
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.
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.
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.
THE latest Z4 is slightly bigger and