Why Is the BMW Z8 Roadster so Expensive?

Many used BMWs are surprisingly cheap to buy, arguably excessively so. Yet some have only increased in value over the years, becoming not just expensive used cars, but genuine collectibles. The 1M Coupe springs immediately to mind. But even it doesn’t hold a candle to the convertible that many already consider a modern classic: the BMW Z8 roadster.  

A gorgeous homage to the 507, the BMW Z8 roadster still stops traffic with its all-aluminum looks

A dark-blue 2000 BMW Z8 parked in a city
2000 BMW Z8 | Ahmed Qadri courtesy of RM Auctions

Whether two- or four-wheeled, BMW vehicles are no strangers to artistic expression. The German company has a whole Art Car series, after all. But the BMW Z8 roadster is in a class of its own. And it’s not just because it had a starring role in a James Bond movie.

Besides describing it as “something out of a designer’s fever-dream sketchbook,” MotorTrend says the Z8 is a modern take on a 1950s or 1960s car. And that’s because it is. Penned during the retro-heavy 1990s, the Z8 takes inspiration from the classic and classy BMW 507 roadster. But it’s not a carbon copy of that car, Hagerty notes. Just like the original Boxster, the BMW Z8 is beholden to the past, not a full-on recreation. And underneath those Art Deco-looking lines is a thoroughly modern car.

It’s a thoroughly aluminum car, too. The BMW Z8 roadster’s space-frame chassis, body panels, knobs, switches, and most of the interior touchpoints are made from aluminum. So is the accessory hardtop. And apart from the leather-upholstered seats, the only major part of the vintage-style interior that isn’t aluminum is the gauge mounting panel, MT says. Speaking of, the Z8’s gauges are mounted in the middle of the dashboard, because classic-style car.

What isn’t classic about the BMW Z8, though, is its performance.

Whether in base or Alpina form, the BMW Z8 isn’t a 911 rival—but it’s not supposed to be

The rear 3/4 view of a black 2003 BMW Alpina Z8 Roadster with a red-leather interior
2003 BMW Alpina Z8 Roadster rear 3/4 | Rafael Martin courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

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2000-2003 BMW Z8, Alpina Z8
EngineZ8: 4.9-liter ‘S62’ V8
Alpina Z8: 4.8-liter ‘M62’ V8
HorsepowerZ8: 394 hp
Alpina Z8: 375 hp
TorqueZ8: 369 lb-ft
Alpina Z8: 384 lb-ft
TransmissionZ8: Six-speed manual
Alpina Z8: Five-speed automatic
Curb weight3494 lbs
0-62 mph timeZ8: 4.7 seconds (claimed), 4.0 seconds (Hagerty)
Alpina Z8: 5.3 seconds (claimed), 5.0 seconds (RM Sotheby’s)

Contemporary reviews reported that the BMW Z8 wasn’t quite as sharp as the Porsche 911. However, that’s selling the Z8 short. Underneath those retro body panels is a genuine BMW sports car and grand tourer.

While the BMW Z8 isn’t light per se, its aluminum chassis is surprisingly rigid, even without a roof. Also, the Z8 has the same S62 V8 and six-speed manual as the E39 M5. Furthermore, it has a 50:50 weight distribution, fully-independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. Add in a communicative steering rack, and you have a luxurious GT that’s “a blast to drive,” Hagerty says. It doesn’t hurt that the V8 sounds great, too.

The 2003 Alpina BMW Z8 was a slightly different beast. Alpina replaced the original V8 with a 4.8-liter version of the E39 540i’s M62 V8, RM Sotheby’s says. The tuner also gave the Z8 softer shocks, bigger wheels, different Michelin tires, some interior upgrades, and an automatic transmission. As with many other Alpina-modified BMWs, the goal was to make the Z8 more comfortable to drive at speed. And while the Alpina Z8 took more time to hit 62 mph, it had a higher top speed: 162 instead of 155 mph.

But whether you drove the regular BMW Z8 or the Alpina, you were behind the wheel of a stylish, sporty, and luxurious roadster. And that statement still applies 20 years later.

You might have to mortgage a house to afford a Z8 today

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To summarize, the BMW Z8 roadster has a vintage-inspired design that still looks modern and performance that blends comfortable touring and canyon-carving. Plus, it’s rare: BMW only made 5703 examples, with 2543 sold in the US. And only 555 of those Z8s are Alpina models; 450 made it to the US.

That rarity stems in part from the Z8’s price. It originally cost $128,000—that’s just over $201,000 in today’s money. And the Alpina version was even more expensive at $140,000 (about $211,500 today).

It’s not like the Z8 has gotten any cheaper, though. For all the reasons mentioned earlier, these stylish roadsters have appreciated drastically over the years. Today, a good-to-excellent condition BMW Z8 costs $163K-$209K, Hagerty says. And it’s not uncommon for Alpina models to fetch over $300K, RM Sotheby’s notes.

Admittedly, there are cheaper Bond cars, including BMW ones. But one look is all it takes to understand why the Z8 costs so much.

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