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BMW Z4 M Coup? Review

Warning: Absolutely no IT content whatsoever
Mon Sep 04 2006, 12:15
FROM SOME ANGLES the BMW Z4 M Coup? looks a bit like an E-type. From others, a Nissan 350Z. But from most vantage points it looks like the sort of roadkill you see on the back of a recovery truck having been sideswiped and shunted from behind in a motorway pile up. It's hideous.

The few body panels without the dents, lumps and creases that are BMW chief designer Chris Bangle's trademark are more bland than James Blunt on valium. Judging by the woeful looks of BMWs since his arrival, I can only assume that Bangle's got entirely the wrong end of the stick after reading A Portrait of Dorian Gray and his attic is stuffed with pictures of achingly-beautiful cars while the horribly-misshapen ones are all on the road.

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Normally, being inside a car that's more Elephant Man than Scarlett Johansson is the best place to be as it's the only place you don't have to look at the damned thing, but BMW has managed to screw that up as well - the dashboard sports a ghastly slash of brushed aluminium that would shame a cheap 1980s Japanese HiFi. The test car had only covered a few thousand miles, but the dash was already covered in scratches and myriad sticky fingerprints.

Even worse, the limited amount of steering column and seat adjustment made it impossible to position the wheel - as thick as a baby's arm - anywhere that didn't obscure the top half of the speedo and tacho. You can see when you're doing up to 30mph or more than 130, but anything in-between is pure guesswork. This is just rubbish in a car costing almost £45,000.

Rear three quarter visibility is non-existent. Come to a junction that isn't exactly 90 degrees and you have to get out of the car to see if anything's coming. The rear view mirror is tiny, but were it any larger, all you'd see is more of the headlining because the rear window makes Luxembourg seem big.

But it's not all bad. The noise the thing makes is simply wonderful. It's one of the few cars where the loud pedal does exactly what it says on the tin. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Drive this thing with gusto past the Chipping Norton Home for the Incontinent and they'd be mopping the floor for weeks.

OK, so much for the good bit. The brakes feel as if they'd stop a supertanker, but they're so sharp I was worried they'd trigger the airbags. The ride is stiffer than ordinary Z4s, in fact so stiff that on a typically-well maintained Gloucestershire A road I wondered if it actually had any springs. On a good surface, the handling is excellent. The ride is almost, but not quite, harsh. The car is eminently-pointable, doesn't tramline and stays exactly where you want it, except when the rear end ricochets off a pothole.

But I really can't see who the thing is aimed at. It would be happier on the smooth surface of a race track than on ordinary roads, but it isn't a balls-out racer. You'd have to go to the supermarket every week because you wouldn't get a month's worth of groceries in the boot. If you fancied a round of golf you'd need to fit a roof rack for the clubs. That great noise would get pretty wearing on a long motorway trip, although you'd have to stop pretty often to fill up the undersized fuel tank.

It's certainly quick, but surprisingly not noticeably quicker than my old Jaguar XJR despite having a six speed manual box instead of an automatic and weighing about a ton less. As a weekend fun vehicle, a superbike would beat it every time and you'd have £35,000 change in your pocket.

The Z4 M Coup? is good fun, but it's certainly not the only car you'd need, so be prepared to add the cost of a sensible car as well. That bumps the effective price up to about £60,000. You'd really, really want to own this car for that sort of money and I honestly can't see too many people being tempted.

Oh, and it's horrible to look at. Did I mention that? ?

 

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