The E86 Z4 M Coupe Was the End of an Era for BMW

The original M Coupe—aka the ‘Z3 M Coupe’—isn’t necessarily the best-looking BMW. However, the somewhat awkward proportions of the ‘clown shoe’ are part of its appeal, as is the way it drives. And while it wasn’t necessarily a best-seller, it made enough of an impression for the German automaker to make a somewhat lesser-known sequel. It’s called the BMW Z4 M Coupe, and it closed the book on an important part of the M Division’s history.

The 2006-2008 BMW Z4 M Coupe was the last hurrah for naturally-aspirated M cars

A blue 2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe on a racetrack
2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe | BMW

These days, all BMW M cars feature some form of forced induction. Even the 1M Coupe, often held as one of the brand’s best cars, has a turbocharged engine. But once upon a time, all M cars had naturally aspirated engines. That tradition ended with the 2006-2008 ‘E86’ BMW Z4 M Coupe, Road & Track reports.

Still, considering the specific engine the BMW Z4 M Coupe uses, it was a fitting swan song. Under the Coupe’s hood is a 3.2-liter inline-six engine, the same ‘S54’ engine used in the E46 M3. The S54 won ‘Engine of the Year’ awards and ranks highly among BMW fans, Top Gear and Bimmer Life report. And in the Z4 M Coupe, it makes 330 hp and 262 lb-ft, sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual. That’s enough to let the car go 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds, Car and Driver reports.

The rear 3/4 view of a blue 2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe on a racetrack
2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe rear 3/4 | BMW

Although the S54 engine is “beautiful to hear…and feel,” MotorTrend reports, it’s not the Z4 M Coupe’s only party trick. Like the ‘E85’ Z4 M Roadster, the Coupe is based on the contemporary Z4. However, because of its fixed roof, the Coupe is stiffer than either of the convertibles, Autoweek reports. And while both M Z4s have sportier suspension than the base roadster, the Coupe has different springs and damper settings, Car and Driver reports.

Speaking of the suspension, that’s one of several components the BMW Z4 M Coupe borrows from the E46 M3. Other shared parts include the electronically-controlled limited-slip differential and larger vented cross-drilled disc brakes, Autoweek reports. But, while the Z4 M Coupe is slightly heavier than the Roadster, it’s about 200 pounds lighter than the M3, Autoweek reports.

It’s a “more intense” rival for the Porsche Cayman, Automobile says

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Compared to the contemporary Porsche Cayman, the E86 BMW Z4 M Coupe isn’t quite as fluid, Automobile reports. Its stiff chassis and suspension do “make it a harsh daily driver,” R&T reports, though not necessarily overly punishing, MT reports. And to some, it can seem a bit skittish, Autoweek reports.

Plus, it’s possible to shift the manual too quickly, though there is a fix for it, Evo reports. And the fixed roof does cut down on visibility, Car and Driver reports. Also, the stock brake pads can lack some initial feel, PistonHeads reports.

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All that being said, the BMW Z4 M Coupe is most assuredly “a driver’s car,” Autoweek reports. Even if you turn the stability control off, it’s hard to get in trouble with it, MT reports. That hydraulic steering gives the driver plenty of feedback, and the 50:50 weight distribution means the car is easy to rotate. It’s a car that rewards you more the more you push it.

And then there’s the engine. It’s responsive, smooth, flexible, and every reviewer heaped praises on the way it sounds. Plus, it doesn’t suffer from the connecting rod bearing failures that early E46 M3s experienced, R&T reports. And it redlines at 8000 RPM.

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On the downside, that high redline means valve adjustments, ECS Tuning reports. And like many BMW engines of this era, it can develop VANOS- and water-pump-related issues, BMW Tuning reports. Still, considering it’s the last naturally-aspirated M engine, it might be worth it. Plus, compared to the version in the E46 M3, it’s significantly more reliable, Autocar reports.

BMW never made the Z4 M Coupe in large quantities, but it’s still relatively affordable

The E86 M Coupe is a fairly rare car. BMW only sold 1815 examples in North America, Cars and Bids reports, compared to 2858 Z3 M Coupes. However, compared to the ‘clown shoe,’ the later car is cheaper.

The white-leather-upholstered seats and carbon-fiber-trimmed dashboard of a 2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe
2006 BMW Z4 M Coupe interior | BMW

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Most Z4 M Coupes go for $20,000-$40,000 on Bring a Trailer. And as of this writing, there’s a 2008 example listed on Cars and Bids for $14,200. However, $40,000 is close to the bottom of Z3 M Coupe prices on BaT. And unlike the earlier car, the Z4 has traction and stability control, as well as things like heated seats, navigation, and rain-sensing wipers.

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