Forgotten fast cars 2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe E86

Forgotten fast cars 2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe E86

The boss of BMW M, Markus Flasch, refers to them as ‘submarine projects’; namely the sort of after-hours labours of love that created cars like the E86 Z3 M Coupe. That car, revered for its sheer left-field quirkiness was never going to be replaced like-for-like. “I don’t think we can do entire models with this process,” Flasch accepts. “The homologation process is just so formal.” As a result, the Z3 M Coupe’s successor was a little more buttoned down, in appearance at least.

Like the Z3, the Z4 M was offered as both a coupe and a convertible, and carried over the later Z3 M’s S54 3.2-litre straight-six powerplant.

At the time, the car received a warmish review, but given that the wild proportions of the old Clown Shoe had been replaced by something more Munich corporate, it wasn’t a car that instantly resonated with fans of the Bavarian marque.

The basic formula was shot through with promise. Put the best engine that BMW had into the stiffest chassis, driving the rear wheels via a six-speed Getrag manual and a limited-slip diff. Hydraulic steering, a basic switchable stability control system and a proper handbrake mean the E86 Z4 M Coupe sits in that zone that many drivers today go a bit gooey-eyed over. It has the elements you need to have fun without overegging the pudding.

The brakes (from the E46 M3 CSL) are a little undercooked by today’s standards and the ride is distinctly firm, with spring and damper rates beefed up compared to its open-topped sibling. No twin-clutch transmission option was ever offered, largely because of physical packaging issues within the real estate available to the gearbox casing.

Neglected for some time by enthusiasts, values of the Z4 M Coupe have been marching steadily skywards of late, with the best cars nearing near six figures. The early drive-by-wire throttle system can, somewhat strangely fall out of tune. Resetting it can improve throttle response and it’s straightforward to do. Just CTRL-ALT-DEL: turn the ignition on and wait for 10 seconds, then turn it off for 10 seconds, then turn it on again for 10, and start the engine. Reboot complete. There are other odd anomalies. Whereas every other Z4 uses an E46-style front strut, the Z4M uses the older E36 style units. Why? Because the inherent design is a good deal stiffer.

The ride quality that many so disliked at launch was at least partly accounted for by the implacable sidewalls of the Z4 M’s run-flat tyres. Virtually all owners have subsequently ditched them and invested in a set of decent modern rubber to get a win-win in terms of ride and grip.

As a vehicle with one foot in the past and one tentatively tickling its toe into a bold new future, the Z4 M Coupe is a tantalising prospect and one that becomes ever more appealing every year. It had a hard act to follow but if you don’t fancy a Cayman and miss cars that can bare their teeth, try tracking one down.

ABOVE Finding one in Australia is pretty hard, but expect to pay between $40-$75K for a good Example.

  • ENGINE 3246cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v
  • MAX POWER 252kW @ 7900rpm
  • MAX TORQUE 365Nm @ 4900rpm
  • 0-100KM/H 5.2s
  • WEIGHT 1450kg
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