2007 BMW Z4
2007 BMW Z4. Click image to enlarge

Test Drive: 2003 BMW Z4 2.5i
Test Drive: 2007 BMW Z4 3.0si
Feature: Toronto to Spartanburg in a Z4

Manufacturer’s web site
BMW Canada

By Chris Chase; photos by Andrew McCredie

Successor to the Z3, the BMW Z4 roadster improved upon the Z3’s cramped cabin, unsophisticated rear suspension and lack of structural rigidity, but it drew plenty of flak for being far less pretty, even though the Z4’s styling was more distinctive. The first-gen Z4 might have held some appeal for North American (and particularly U.S.) buyers, as it was built at BMW’s Spartanburg, South Carolina plant.

While the Z4, like many BMW models, was offered with a wide variety of engines worldwide, only three variants were sold in Canada. These were the 2.5i and 3.0i models, which used 2.5 and 3.0L six-cylinder engines (code-named M54 by BMW, and rated at 189 hp and 228 hp respectively). The high-performance M versions — sold in roadster and coupe form — used a 3.2L six borrowed from the M3 that made 338 horsepower.

The 2.5L engine was paired with a five-speed manual transmission, while the 3.0L came standard with a six-speed, and a five-speed automatic was available with either motor. M versions only came with a six-speed manual.

Starting in 2006, the 2.5L engine was dropped and the Z4 got BMW’s (then) newer 3.0L engine, a more powerful unit rated at 255 horsepower (code-named N52). With this motor, the Z4 was still offered in two trims: 3.0i and a sportier 3.0si.

2007 BMW Z4
2007 BMW Z4. Click image to enlarge

For non-M cars, fuel consumption ratings average around 11.6/7.6 L/100 (city/highway), with small variances depending on engine and transmission choice. These numbers would come closer to 11.0/7.0 closer to the end of the car’s run. M versions (coupe and roadster) earned much thirstier ratings of 14.5/9.0 L/100 km (city/highway), owing to their high-strung engine.

Surprisingly for a high-end German car, the Z4 appears to be quite reliable, earning Consumer Reports’ “good bet” rating for used vehicles. Their reliability data shows few trouble spots and nothing to indicate any serious, common issues. TrueDelta.com also shows the Z4 to be a fairly reliable machine. Like any mechanical device, though, things break, and there are a few things to look out for.

Many Z4 owners complain of electric power steering units that don’t provide enough power assistance in hot weather, and steering that flat-out behaves oddly. And that odd behaviour might be related to this recall to address failed electric power steering motors (which drives a hydraulic pump).

An electronic component in the power-top mechanism commonly goes bad. Thankfully, according to this thread, the repair isn’t too difficult.

As with many convertibles, the Z4’s side windows are designed to drop slightly when the doors are opened, and zip back up when the door is shut. Frequently, though, the windows “forget” to do this, and the window either won’t drop or won’t roll itself back up. Again, the most common cause is minor and the fix, easy.

2007 BMW Z4
2007 BMW Z4. Click image to enlarge

It’s not uncommon for the convertible top motor to fail due to exposure to water.

A top that won’t fold away can be caused by a bad switch in the cargo area.

BMW issued a service bulletin to address noise from the N52 engine’s hydraulic lifters.

The M54 engine is known for oil leaks from the valve cover gasket, and where the oil-filter housing meets the engine block. (This housing also serves as a mounting point for the alternator and power steering pump.)

Here’s a DIY fix for wipers that work erratically.

The 2003 Z4 earned four stars for driver and passenger protection in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) frontal impact tests, and three stars in side impact testing. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) didn’t test the Z4. All Z4 variants came standard with side airbags and stability/traction control.

According to Canadian Black Book, a Z4 should be among the less-expensive German roadsters, with resale values similar (somewhat surprisingly) to those for a Honda S2000.

The original Z4’s styling was polarizing, but more distinctive than the second generation, which arrived in 2009. The new car signifies the end of an era in a way, as the second-gen Z4 will no longer be built in South Carolina — BMW chose its Regensburg, Germany plant to build the newer model.


Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) May 2012:

Price today
Price new
Z4 3.0si
Z4 3.0 w/leather and power top
Z4 3.0 w/leather and power top
Z4 2.5 w/leather
Z4 2.5 w/leather
Z4 2.5

Online resources

A couple of the usual suspects turned up in my online search for BMW Z4 information. The Z4 discussion sections at BimmerForums.com and Roadfly.com figured in my search, as did a more specialized source, Z4-forum.com.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004123; Units affected: 456
2003-2004: Certain vehicles contain a defect involving the electric fuel pump. Under certain environmental conditions, for example, driving during high outside temperatures in combination with high altitudes (over 5,000ft.), vapor lock in the fuel pump could occur. This could cause the engine to stall. If this were to happen, the engine could be unable to be restarted for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Correction: Dealer will install a resistor in the electrical line leading to the fuel pump. This will reduce the power output of the fuel pump and preclude an occurrence of vapor lock.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2008307; Units affected: 16,112
2004-2005: On certain vehicles, the front passenger’s seat occupant detection mat can fatigue during field usage depending on the seat configuration, vehicle geometry, manner and frequency of front passenger’s entry/exit. Over time micro cracks could develop in the side flanks of mat, which could lead to a break of the conductive path and the system will recognize a failure and with exception of head protection system the front passenger air bag will be deactivated. The air bag “On/Off” lamp will be illuminated to make the occupants aware of the deactivation. Correction: Models will receive an extended warranty of 10 years on the related occupant detection mat only.

Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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