Monday, February 20, 2017

All About That Base: 2003 BMW Z4

As speed freaks, it is our nature to gravitate towards the most maniac version of whatever car we are looking for -- but for a few reasons you might be better served with the plain Jane version. First, you'll find that you are ability to mash the loud pedal in an M badged BMW is limited to a few stretches of cop-free highway, but get the base version of the same car and you can pretend you are Michael Schumacher on your local backroads with minimum fuss.  Find this 2003 BMW Z4 here on eBay offered for $7,900 buy-it-now or make offer, located in Philadelphia, PA.

The thing you are looking at here was about the cheapest way to get into a Z4 back in 2003 -- with a base price around $34k, you didn't get much other than a simple 2.5 liter inline-6 and a manual gearbox...but, what you didn't get was excessive grip and the consequences that come with it.

The inline-6 under the hood had 189 horsepower and 181 ft-lbs of torque -- meaning 0-60mph took 6.7 seconds -- not a slow number, but not like the blistering 4ish seconds from the M version.   Fuel economy will be decent (20 city, 28 highway) and the M54 is a basically good engine with cast iron cylinder liners in an alloy block.

Shod in 225mm wide tires on 17-inch wheels (all the way around) gives the base Z4 a great balance and the ability to have a little fun without becoming a triple-the-speed-limit menace like an M version. The best part of the el cheapo version is that you save quite a few grand on the asking price and more in insurance/maintenance/gas costs. 

See a better way to drive slow and enjoy it?


  1. To my eyes, the styling on these cars has really held up. Definitely doesn't look like a 15 year old design. Many years ago I was craving something interesting to drive and bid on one of these (except in red with the 3.0 engine and six speed) on eBay. I didn't win outright but the winning bidder backed out so I was given a second chance offer. Fortunately (unfortunately?!) my brain kicked in and I realized that it being on the opposite coast plus me having little kids made it the right car at the wrong time so I walked away. I'd still love to pick one up some day.

  2. As the owner of a Z4 M Coupe, I lust after these basic convertibles. I'd love to have a more efficient drop top to roll into work. Problem is, the later models get even better fuel economy, and if you go for the 3.0si, not only do you get the incredible magnesium block N52, you get an extra cog in the box. Problem with that though, is that despite the fact that the engine saves you almost 200 pounds over it's iron block bretheren, you miss out on a dipstick and a limited slip differential, so really the M is the model to buy. If you're going to get an M, you're probably taking it to track days, so you need the hard top. That's cool, though, because there's a lot of little-unadvertised benefits to the coupe. The chassis rigidity is 32,000 NM/Degree vs the roadster's 14,500, plus the steering ratio is quicker in the coupe. So if you're scared that replacing all 4 of the M's brakes will cost you a grand (assuming you find cheap parts online and do the work yourself) what you do [what I did] is you buy something stupid and less fun to drive to work.

    Fun fact: the Z3 chassis was only good for 5,600 NM/Degree, while its coupe almost tripled those numbers to 15,000. The cool part is that the Z4 roadster chassis was almost as stiff as the outgoing coupe. If you can put up with owning something below the ultimate model (the fact that I struggle with that is one of my many personal failings), z4s are happy little fun machines.


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