MotoringFile Review: BMW Z4 M Coupe

We’ve tested quite a few MINI competitors over the years in an effort to keep a solid grounding in the automotive landscape. With today’s review we’re doing something a little different. We’re testing a car that retails for roughly $30,000 more than the stock Cooper. So rather than a comparison test, think of it as a glimpse into different category of automobiles that shares a few of the fun to drive attributes with the MINI.

For those that don’t know much about the car, the Z4 M Coupe is the relatively rare M Brand version of the Z4 Coupe. The Z4 Coupe (the basis of the Z4M Coupe) is the newly released coupe version of the Z4. The Z4 Coupe features a huge increase in rigidity, the addition of a hatchback, and gorgeous looks that (in these eyes) transforms the already good looking Z4 into something of an instant classic. The M version tested here features, in a word, more.

On paper the M Coupe (as it’s referred to by many) has it all. The E46 M3’s sensuous inline six churning out 330 high-revving horsepower. M3 CSL brakes – a healthy improvement over the stock M3 stoppers. Less weight (3230lbs) and more nimble than the M3. And finally a driver focused cabin and steering wheel that puts the M3’s to shame.

But how does this translate into the real world? Last week one evening, I had a chance to spend some time with the M Coupe and found out for myself.

The M Coupe is the most testosterone laced, (dare I say it) manly modern car I’ve ever driven. Upon entering the cabin you realize that this car is focused on one thing – driving and driver enjoyment. You sit relative low in the seats with the center tunnel higher than what is found in cars like the M3. The cabin fit my 6’2″ frame like a well formed glove, my hands falling at the controls as if the car silently confirgured itself around me. The shifters’ throws (no auto or semi-auto is available) reinforce the driver’s car feel and the hot-knife through butter actuation is what you’d expect from an M car. But it’s the steering wheel that steals the show. Thick, soft and perfect in every curve and stitch, it says driver’s car like few things can.

But the highlight of the interior for me are the sport seats. Incredible lateral support, extendable thigh support and quite comfortable, this is the type of seat we could only dream of in the MINI.

Turning the key you get the familiar orange glow on the dash (except the speedo and tach which are strangely white) that is found in all BMWs and MINIs. The Z4 uses the E46’s electronics system and thus vaguely similar to the R50/R53 MINI’s as well. So that means simpler radio controls and no iDrive available.

Like the R56 MINI, the M Coupe (like all Z4s) features a sport button that quickens response times from the accelerator. Unlike other Z4s the sport button does nothing to the steering. With the electronic steering being dumped by the M Division in favor of the M3’s hydraulically assisted set-up, there’s no alteration possible. Luckily the steering is just about perfect as is and a marked improvement over the standard Z4. Well weighted while offering exceptional feel and feedback, it’s hard to find fault on public roads. The accelerator w/sport button on however, borders on almost too aggressive. Driving the car smoothly with it on takes practice that will probably elude many owners. Luckily the off position leaves little to be desired in terms of performance.

As you release the clutch and give it gas, you realize (with the sport button on) that this car doesn’t do subtle. It is simply a beast. And while the acceleration fantastic, it’s the sound the engine makes at high revs that is truly addicting. I’ve always loved the sound of this engine in the M3 but it still seemed a bit muted in the cabin. The M Coupe doesn’t do muted. You can hear the double Vanos in all it’s glory as it sings through the rev range all the way up to 8000 rpms.

Braking is equally impressive. The CLS sourced set-up scrubs off speed without drama. And the DSC (yes I did have it on once or twice) is calibrated to intercede only at the last possible moment. And then only subtle enough to make you believe, just maybe, you’re that good.

Of course with the DSC off, creating oversteer is as easy as twitching your right foot around a corner. And (like all BMWs) the M Coupe is set-up to allow for easy control of power oversteer with it’s near perfect (50.2/49.8) weight distribution.

The BMW M Coupe is a rare car that appeals to only a small segment of the population. It’s a singular focused car that trades off space and usability for ultimate performance. Yet it’s these visceral thrills and the packaging trade-offs that give this car a personality that is hard to find in modern automobiles. It’s a throw back in all the right ways. The M Coupe is civil enough to be used a daily driver yet it has a soul that belies the hard and cold numbers we so often use to measure cars.

I’ve had the chance to drive a number of rather interesting cars over the years. Yet few have had such profound impact on me in such a short amount of time. It flatters, scares and inspires within the space of a single corner. And like few cars sold today, it has a soul that is thoroughly endearing.

  • Jon

    I am soooo drooling right now. I love this car. I sat in the Z4 M convertible at a recent auto show, and I came away extremely impressed. The best steering wheel I have EVER seen and felt. It is absolutely lust-worthy.

    I also love the dashboard’s black subtle carbon-fibre-esque look and feel.

  • ulrich diederich

    I traded a 2000 M-Coupe for my 03 MCS mainly because, living in Houston, the car had the worst a/c of any car (16 so far) I have ever owned. Owning an ultra high performance car in the city become somewhat frustrating as you can never let it loose. Mostly I miss the torque of the straight six and the car had about the sexist rear view of anything on the road.


  • ulrich diederich

    That would be “sexiest” not “sexist”. 🙂


  • Tough job 😉

  • TSizemore3

    This is one of the few cars that could ever get me out of a MINI! (If I could ever afford it, unfortunately)

  • the_copi

    Thanks for the great write-up, Gabe! Someday, I will have one!

  • Nice, different, review, Gabe!…..Our 01 M Coupe will probably stay with the GP for a long time. They are complimentary and both super vehicles!

  • Tough job 😉

    I’m not sure it would be fun if it was a job!

  • WxSquid

    Now you know why I didn’t even think of driving it prior to my new 335i…. I would have fallen for that engine!

    Is there room for a set of clubs?

  • Drill

    I was lucky enough to be at the 2004 Press Conference when BMW debuted the Z4 Coupe Concept and it is simply a gorgeous Auto! Adding performance to match it’s looks almost doesn’t seem fair 😀

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  • Jac

    ..that’s why I bough my MINI before any of the Z4 coupes came out! 🙂

    This car has lines that move me in ways that are reserved for very few autos: FD RX-7. the 2nd Gen Corvette Stingray Coupes, certain Aston Martins, and….and not much more!

    Very, very nice….Where is that US Spec 1 series hatch?!? 🙂

  • j

    Personaly iv always been a fan of the z4. and to give it the e46 engine is the icing on the cake. truth is though the car has been out for a while and i have yet to see one on the road. i hope that bmw is seeing success with the model range. i would hate for them to pull such a sharp looking car off their line up. P.S.- is their a sunroof option. i personaly would love to be able to opt for the roadster, but if the option isnt their i kinda wish that bmw would utilize the carbon fiber roof like that of the M6 and upcoming M3

  • Nathaniel Salzman
    But it’s the steering wheel that steals the show. Thick, soft and perfect in every curve and stitch, it says driver’s car like few things can.

    I enjoy your love of steering wheels, Gabe. You should start a collection – a shrine to Alcantara. Ha ha!

  • gz

    After owning a Z-4 I opted for a Cayman S over the M Coupe. Now I have the Porsche up for sale in order to get the JCW when available. I miss my 05 JCW sooo much I can’t wait to get back into the Mini life style.

  • Jim

    Nice write up Gabe. I still have not driven the Z4 M coupe, only the Z4 coupe and the Z 4 M roadster. Comparing the Z4 coupe to my M coupe the visability is much worse in the Z4. I felt cramped with the roof sloping down all around me.

    I don’t want to be dissapointed in my Z3 M coupe that I love dearly. Glad to see there are a few other M coupe and MCS owners our there!


    99 Estoril Blue M coupe 02 DS/W MCS with Dinan S1

  • Phantom

    I think the Z4 coupe and M Coupe are drop dead gorgeous looking machines. The hardtop really improves on the Z4 roadster design, that for some reason, does not tickle my fancy.

    Too bad it is a 2 seater. Yep, someday…

  • balboa

    Great write up. Wholeheartedly the Z4 is a beautiful car. Right after it showed up at my local dealer I went in to check it out and take it for a test drive, but never made it past the driver’s side door. If you’re over 6’2″ (I’m 6’4″) entry room is a non-starter. Pretty surprising for a European built sports car. I now have a Cayman S on order which will sit beside the ’06S as the daily driver.

  • Greg Zito

    Balboa. Did you put a deposit on your Porsche? I have a LOADED Cayman S for sale w/2900 miles cheap!

  • I’ll second the Cayman S thing. It’s also an incredible car that I have way too much fascination with.

  • balboa


    Ordered the Cayman S and placed my deposit several months ago.

    Why are you looking to sell? It’s only 400 miles past break in!

  • gz

    Yo Rock! I want a JCW! Pure and simple. I enjoyed my ’05 JCW and all the events and cruise ins I took it to. For every comment the Porsche gets I got 10 on the JCW. I checked and there is no Porsche meeting at the Dragon. It doesn’t have the same community with the fun attitude. I do find a snob factor which does not appeal to me. My decision was made by driving my gal’s MCSC and flat out enjoying it more than the Porsche. Ihope you enjoy yours AND your Mini.

  • mb

    Thanks for the review. I was at a dealer and sat in the 3.0si. Didn’t drive it, but I bet it’s more than enough for much of this car’s market segment. It’d be great to see a similar review of that car.


  • Brendan

    I know I’m late to the party, but I have to say the Z4 is a real beast. Great car. I had a really good test drive with it locally at EB BMW (right next to EB Mini). I just have to say that it didn’t have the character and charm of my ’02 M Coupe (S54 same engine as the Z4, but had 15 less hp). That car was GREAT. One of a kind. I sold it because A) I was really stupid and B) you can’t really enjoy a car like that in constant traffic and the commute I had.

    With that said I think my R56 is the closest to my old M Coupe in terms of charm and character. I love it.

  • I would LOVE to drive this. I loved my e46 M3 very much, particularly for the engine. The “sport” button was addictive.

    Owning an ultra high performance car in the city become somewhat frustrating as you can never let it loose. Mostly I miss the torque of the straight six…

    This is true.

    I do miss the mmmph that the engine had over the JCW we’ve got now. Not even in the same ballpark. I’ve love nothing more than to sit in a new M coupe, flip the sport button and let her rip!! Thanks Gabe for the write up. Now I have another car to lust after!

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  • theroyalwe

    as a MINI freak AND a BMW Client Advisor I have had the distinct pleasure of driving pretty much every M car and bimmer in the last few years. If I were to have a second fun car I’d probably have a nice M coupe… but it would always be my second fun car… not much else really needs to be said does it? no matter what I’ve driven or played with during the day at work I never feel bad getting into my MCS and blasting around the back roads on the way home!

  • tom mathew

    i am a former 2000 M5 owner who made the big mistake of switching to a 2007 750 Li! Looking for some driving fun again in upstate New York (snow country). Wondering if anyone out there has any thoughts about me using it as a one car solution even in winter with snow tires…

  • Art

    Gabe I’ve got to stop reading Motoring File and listening to WRR. My accountant is going to shoot me 🙂

    /Users/thomaspayne/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Modified/2007/Roll 1072/IMG_0083.JPG/Users/thomaspayne/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Modified/2007/Roll 1072/IMG_0079.JPG

  • BC

    Of all the BMWs I’ve owned, the M Coupe is “it”.

  • Hector

    I just got my 2007 Z4 m coupe past the 1200 mi “break in” period. This car is awesome. If you complain about this car, it’s because you don’t own one. It’s perfect-handles like a dream, aggressive and quick–and stops on a dime—I got rid of my new 6 series for this baby—and it was worth it. I can’t wait to take it out again tonight.

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  • Kenny

    I have owned Porsche’s 911 and M-3, but the 2007 Z4 m coupe is the car.