The BMW Z4 - typical German efficiency

The predecessor to BMW's 2002 Z4 was, hardly surprisingly, the Z3 and this was another of those cars that dear Mr James Bond was good enough to publicise. Pierce Brosnan played our hero in this film and he drove a Z3, and although he was not as photogenic as other actors who played him it was still good publicity and in the first year that the car was available every one that was manufactured was pre-sold.

By 2002 the Z4 was launched, at the Paris Auto Show, to replace it. Again this was a two seater sports car with rearwheel drive but it was very different in appearance. The soft lines of the Z3 were replaced with much sharper styling and although it had its critics Automobile Magazine (more a lifestyle magazine than a car one, and now discontinued) gave it it's 2002 Design of the Year Award; so they, at least liked it.

It was designed by BMW's chief of design, a gentleman called Chris Bangle, who despite once having an ambition to become a Methodist preacher, joined BMW in 1999 and over the next 10 years had a part in the design of the whole BMW range. He must been good because during his time BMW knocked Mercedes off their perch as the worldwide premium car manufacturer.

The Z3 had been a fairly popular car but had never really been all that much fun to drive. The Z4 was a different proposition altogether. A stiffer chassis and updated suspension gave it much better handling and it was fast as well. In fact many independent raters have claimed that it is amongst the best handling cars in the world with almost exactly 50/50 weight distribution.

The straight six cylinder 3 litre engine gave a nought to 60 acceleration time of 4.8 seconds, and a top speed of 155 mph; whilst there was a less powerful four-cylinder engine for those who wanted to save a bit of money both in the cost of the car and on fuel.

To complete the 'driver's car' experience there was a six speed manual gearbox and performance was so impressive that it gained a nickname of the 'land shark'. This was a serious competitor to the Porsche Boxster and the (albeit cheaper) Honda S 2000.

First launched as a roadster, in 2009 a retractable hardtop was added. This was raised or lowered electronically and whilst the additional weight affected performance slightly it was well received for it's build quality, comfort and, to some, good looks.

The Z series (Z stands for the German Zukunft; or Future) is now on it's sixth generation, with roadster, sports car, and coupe models produced.

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