In recent years, BMW has gone through a host of iterations. Back in ’85, BMW unveiled something new, the M3 – a muscled up, track-centric version of the popular 3-series saloon cars born in the 70’s. The M3 did not quietly tiptoe onto the market, it instantly became recognized as a legendary sports car and quickly racked up more victories than any other road race car, cementing its legacy.
Between then and now, BMW explored many developmental pathways, sometimes sequentially and other times simultaneously. They transformed into an SUV brand, an electric-powered pioneer, and a full-blown sports car manufacturer via the M Sport division, all while working to attain a luxury moniker soaked in exclusivity and increasing production year after year. This ambitious approach created a moment of less beloved cars that robbed the thrill of the drive with numbing, technological intrusions and led to the creation of oddball cars like the 5-Series Gran Turismo.
The Z4M Coupe however, is a unicorn of a thing. There aren’t many of them in circulation, but the quirky two-seater, born of a convertible, always found a home at Classic Car Club. While most drivers would name a dozen other cars before adding the M Coupe to the list of all-time greats, those that have had a go behind the wheel are happy to wax on about its incredible handling, sparse circuitry, and connected drive.
Introducing the newest addition to our fleet – the Z4M Coupe track conversion, a wildly-aggressive M Coupe that has undergone a significant transformation from simply a sweet road car, to one that’s also handy on track. It’s street legal and roll caged. Since it’s new to CCC, we’re spending proper time going through it to ensure all upgrades are playing together nicely, but we’ve put a few miles on the odometer and are ready to share our thoughts about its road worthiness. Part two of this review will cover its on-track capabilities.
Batmobile. Stock, the Z4M Coupe has always been incredible looking (even if in a slightly ugly way). Upon launch, it won both the Red Dot Design Award and Automobile Magazine’s “Design of the Year Award” so while different, it was respected. The enormous, forward jutting hood unbalances the proportions of the demure rear. Swoops and hard lines combine to create a complex shape. This car here, takes those lines and exploits them with aggressive stance and aerodynamic anger.
The most obvious add-on is the massive APR Performance wing on the rear deck of the M Coupe that’s far from cosmetic. This fully adjustable piece of aero produces a variable amount of downforce to keep the M Coupe squat in the corners, allowing the driver to squeeze in a few more miles per hour. Up front, jutting out from under the angry grill, is a splitter that shares the same adjustability and acreage to balance out the wing aft. Together, when dialed in properly, the splitter and wing combination push the car down hard at speed, giving the gooey Bridgestone tires more bite. Lightweight BBS wheels, carbon race seats, race-ready brakes, bushings, a two-pound battery, in-board tire pressure management system, dayglow green half-cage, and a host of other race-minded bits transform the Z4M Coupe into Classic Car Club’s newest handmade weapon.
Savage – a word used frequently to describe speed, in this case, used appropriately. Once fired up, the legendary 3.2 liter, straight-six engine snaps at you through a custom exhaust, helping it rev up to 8,000 fast and freely. The entire car comes alive, buzzing everywhere but never rattling. It buzzes so much in fact, that it knocked the winter congestion loose from our lungs. Once unleashed, the M Coupe is animalistic at every moment. Slowly working through the revs, one notices that the M Coupe doesn’t specialize in off-the-line supremacy, but BMW inline sixes never did, they rule the revs. Put your foot down and once the needle passes 3,000 rpm, the M Coupe jumps to attention and starts to wind out an aggressive display of power and relentless acceleration. At this point your passenger is probably screaming, but no matter, your ears are assaulted with a sonic wall of sound as the M-Sport engine manages thousands of explosions a minute.
In the corners, the Z4M Coupe Road and Track behaves just like a stock M Coupe, but turned up to 11. We’re very pleased to see that what we consider to be the M Coupe’s signature characteristic, the way it rotates around the driver’s waist, is still intact. Thanks to that long hood and snub rear, the driver sits right in the sweet spot of power delivery and turning. It becomes telepathic after a few miles and you wear the car as one would wear a custom pair of trousers. This car is crafted around the driver and as the speed rises, so does the sensation.
Corners are cannibalized. In town, we never came close to the control envelope offered by the M Coupe. Mostly, we just dance around uneven surfaces. But it’s incredibly entertaining on bendier backroads. This car loves to dive into the apex with almost no effort. The buzzing and bristling of it all lends another level of “racy” stimulation – you’re no longer on the Taconic, you’re powering through Eau Rouge.
The suspension is expectedly rock hard, but that hardness keeps the tires glued to the tarmac. Put a dime in a parking lot and roll over it and you’ll be able to feel through the steering wheel when you’ve touched it. While the suspension is hard, it isn’t as punishing as most track cars are, it’s compliant and comfortable. Unless you hit a big pothole that is, but since you’re responsible for that mega splitter up front, potholes are a bad idea all around.
Power and poise – two characteristics this car has in equal measure. It’s up to the driver to balance both aspects in order to extract driving nirvana from the M Coupe. It’s happy to dance through a corner swiftly, but don’t modulate that throttle and unleash more power, or you’ll oversteer into a boulder. Hint the direction you want the car to go, let it load up the weight, then continue to dial in the steering and you’ll be amazed how far you can go. Be slow on the pedals – squeeze, don’t stomp and the chassis will absorb the irregularities in the road and the hesitation of your hands. This car lives on a razor edge, ride that line correctly and you’re awakened to the performance that can come from a road car. Cross over that razor edge and a stabbing is in your future.
So far, the Z4M Coupe Road and Track is shaping up to be a true CCC legend. Definitely one you want to drive when there’s no destination – find the backroads or join us for a track day and elevate your sports car driving experience.