2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe Automatic E86

2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe Automatic E86

A big leap forward from its predecessor, the BMW Z4 aimed at Porsche and in coupe form is both affordable and practical right now.



“Z3 was more MX-5, whereas the Z4 is definitely more SLK and Boxster”


2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe E86

Above: Styling is from the Bangle era but to many eyes is better resolved than the Z4 roadster.

Given BMW said it would never build a Coupe version of the Z4 back when in 2002 when the Roadster was launched (yes, it really is that long ago!) it’s interesting how the Roadster spawned the prototype E86 Coupe first seen at the 2005 Frankfurt show looking really rather more production-ready than concept and very much of the ‘Bangle’ era of design, but fortunately without too much of the ‘Bangle’ about it.

Below: Interior quality is in a different league from the Z3.

2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe E86 - interior

As a result, production of the Z4 Coupe began in 2006, hitting UK showrooms in August of that year, with many expecting frantic sales as a result of its striking mini-GT looks, fruity 3-litre powerplant and strong performance credentials. But oddly, this was not to be the case, with many remaining almost as ‘showroom art’ for some time.

2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe E86 - engine N52 In Si spec the 3-litre six offers 262bhp

Above: In Si spec the 3-litre six offers 262bhp.

The Z4 Coupe E86 was launched with one engine option only, the proven and popular N52 3.0 Si straight-six petrol which developed 262bhp and 232lb.ft of torque, sufficient to provide a 0-60 time of just 5.7 seconds when combined with six-speed manual transmission, or about six seconds with the optional six-speed Steptronic automatic.

2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe E86

The car was launched with just two specs, with the more comfortable SE guise starting at £31,400 which saw 17inch alloys, standard (softer) suspension, comfier leather seats, DSC+, rain sensor, run-flat tyres, A/C and metallic paint as standard.

Alternatively, as about 80% of buyers preferred, you could, for £32,925 have your Z4 Coupe in M Sport spec, including 18inch M Sport alloy wheels, M-Sport suspension, anthracite headlining, thicker rimmed M Sport three-spoke steering wheel, M Sport leather interior with sports seats, brushed aluminium dash and more aggressive front bumper which is the version I’d suggest going for.

It’s hard to look at the Z4 Coupe and not think about its now legendary Z3 predecessor, seen in the UK only as the ZM Coupe, and known affectionately as the breadvan. That cool little coupe has rocketed in value, and much like the Z4coupe, was spawned from the Roadster.

Below: Boot is big enough to be useful. Ditching the run-flats means carrying a space-saver spare.

2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe E86 - SPARE wheel

The newer car though was aimed at a different market and very different competition. The Z3 was more MX-5, whereas the Z4 is definitely more SLK and Boxster. The Coupe is no different, and is aimed at the Porsche Cayman and Nissan 350Z, offering a similar package, power and price-point which means that BMW upped its game with respect to the package as a whole.

Some 16 years on, the Z4 Coupe remains a compelling car and very appealing. Yes, it’s a small package with strictly room for two and perhaps less luggage than you might think, but pack carefully with soft bags and you’ll manage a weekend away. More than an F-Type, less than a Cayman (two boots remember) but largely similar to a 350Z without the invasive rear strut brace of that car in the way.

You could order your Z4 Coupe in only a small range of colours, some at no cost and others at extra cost. They included Alpine White, Jet Black, Bright Red, Titan Silver, Sapphire Black, Montego Blue, Deep Green and Monaco Blue. Alternatively, you could pay for Phoenix Yellow, Midnight Blue or Ruby Black. Inside, you had Oregon leather seats available in Black, Red, Beige or grey. Extended leather was also a further option at a whopping £2200.

Other options included automatic transmission at £1525, Xenon lights at £415, now-obsolete navigation at £1495 or a staggering £700 for a TV function on the nav screen that now also doesn’t work. Bluetooth hands-free remains a desirable extra today though and cost £390 at the time. Other extras included different dash finishes, parking sensors, heated seats, electric seats and cruise control. Funny what was optional then that we look at as the norm nowadays.

What’s it like to drive you ask? Great in simple terms. The only let down is the standard fitment of run-flat tyres, the early designs exaggerating bumps and road noise, but that can be improved with the modern generation of run-flats and solved entirely with some different tyres and a can of gunk.

But really, genuinely, it’s a great car. Fast, tight, fun and responsive with that excellent N52 3.0 litre sat low, under that long sweeping nose, the car feels lithe and darty, with enough performance to give you the thrills you need without being scary, enjoyed to the max with the delicious six-speed manual box and lovely induction roar only a naturally aspirated engine offers.

It really is true, BMW does make some of the best drivers’ cars in the world for the regular Joe, with superb dynamics, sharp throttle response and superb rear drive six-cylinder powerplants with decisive manual transmission – absolutely divine. One of the few criticisms that could be levelled at the car, both when new, and now (bar the run flats, but that’s a part of it) is the electrically assisted power steering. Many would likely not notice, but for those who like to press-on and really enjoy the drive, it’s been said this set-up, which was one of BMW’s first attempts at this type, might not provide the feedback of other traditional hydraulic systems and when combined with run-flat tyres they are reputed to be a little jittery over rough surfaces.

Despite the engaging drive, enviable dynamics and mini-GT styling with added hatchback practicality, the Z4 Coupe didn’t sell in huge numbers, with around 2655 sold in the UK and 17,094 globally – of which 4275 were Z4M Coupes compared to 180,856 Z4 Roadsters.

Interestingly, BMW sold only 10,500 ‘normal’ Z3 Coupes (2.8 and 3.0 variants) and 6291 Z3M Coupes, a total of 16,791 – rather similar to the Z4 Coupe!?

Should you buy one? Yes, we think so. It’s a more decisive choice than the ‘obvious’ Cayman or even the 350Z, with typical Germanic BMW attention to detail and build quality, they tend to wear well, and don’t have any major vices. They also have rarity and retro appeal on their side with their styling – we don’t have to look to hard to see what’s happened to Z3 Coupe prices to see where these are likely to go.

They offer a great mix of performance, looks and praciticality for a two-seat Coupe given the and praciticality for a two-seat Coupe given the hatchback nature of the car with solid mechanicals and low running/maintenance costs for reasonable money, and, less than a comparative Cayman we think.

In terms of the ownership experience, there’s not too much to worry about. There have been some stories of higher mileage N52 engines suffering an expensive problem relating to the steel oil sealing rings at the front of the cams wearing a groove into the alloy cam carrier which can be ruinous, but this seems to generally affect poorly-maintained highmileage cars.

Others have reported a light chattering noise from the engine which is generally attributed to wear in the cam carriers allowing the tappets to rock slightly. This can be masked with thicker oil, so do check service receipts for signs of thicker than standard oil being used. The N52 engine should idle very quietly. Regular oil changes are paramount, annually, but certainly every 8000 miles with a quality synthetic oil is the key. The other weak point can be the water pump which is, unfortunately an electric item and as such, expensive if it breaks, which looks to be rare. The other irksome electric item is the electric column motor on the power steering which if it breaks can be a fortune involving re-coding to the car.

Discs and pads are affordable, despite being vented and drilled and common with other models as are other parts which helps keep costs down with many parts being of the E46 3-series genre. Clutch and flywheel kits are also surprisingly affordable so don’t skimp, buy the best you can to keep the car in rude health.

The Z4 Coupe doesn’t seem to suffer corrosion issues like its predecessor, and because it’s the Coupe doesn’t suffer the hood issues of the Roadster variant, an immediate bonus. The edge of the boot lip can become a bird-bath in heavy rain as it pools so make sure your seals are kept in good order.

What should you pay? Good, but leggier coupes are available from £5000 or £6000 for cars with 130,000 miles, but as with anything, buy the best you can afford: good, well maintained cars with 100k, or sub 100k miles are available for £7000- £9000 with the lower mileage, late model cars available for anything up to £13,000 or more. Remember though, low miles doesn’t always equal a better car – a Z4 that’s been regularly used and maintained is often a better and more reliable bet that one that’s seen random, irregular use and sporadic servicing. These cars do like to be used and driven regularly, so buy a nice one and do just that with it.

2006 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe E86


A lot more money for, in real world terms, not a huge amount more – yes, it’s a bit faster, but they are considered to be edgier, scarier, snappier and harder to live with than the 3.0 Si with a harsher ride, snappier, less linear power delivery, higher running costs and for more money: £15,000-£20,000 at least.

We’d put our money where our mouths are on this, and opt for the 3.0 Si in Sport guise, with a manual box (almost) every time. That said, the automatic variant we featured here is used as a daily drive — the auto box a cinch, quick, sporty and well suited to the local terrain and road type it offered a great mix of all styles as an M Sport model giving a more relaxed driving experience with Sport, or manual mode just a button, or flick of the lever away combined with the kick-down and tight handling it made a compelling case for itself particularly with the attractive red leather interior and black wrapped roof extenuating the gorgeous lines of the car.

But, yet, in an increasingly digital world, it’s the analogue manual box that gets our vote here.

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