BMW Z8 Short Take Road Test & Review & Car and Driver

28 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on BMW Z8 Short Take Road Test & Review & Car and Driver

With just 400 of these remarkable sports cars bound for the U.S. and all of them spoken for, can you say ‘instant classic’?

There’s a lot of clucking about BMW flying around the auto industry these days. The Bavarian firm’s purchase of Rover in 1994 hasn’t worked out well at all, resulting in a multibillion-dollar drain that cost the jobs of BMW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder and head car guy Wolfgang Reitzle in January ’99.

Furthermore, even with Rover added to its output, BMW remains one of the world’s smaller carmakers. And in this era of automotive whales rapidly swallowing one another and leveraging their common platforms to generate economies of scale worldwide, many industry experts believe that BMW is too small to survive in its current form.

BMW has just thumbed its corporate nose at these prophets of doom in the most eloquent way possible–by introducing its most distinctive, most charismatic, and most exclusive car since the 1979 M1 supercar, or perhaps even the 1957 507 roadster.

That this new car, the Z8, is scorchingly fast comes as no surprise. It employs the potent 400-hp M5 powertrain, which endows the M5 sedan with the acceleration of a Corvette. Weighing about 500 pounds less than the two-ton M5, the Z8’s performance is beyond question.

Neither were we surprised by its striking styling. Based on the Z07 concept car that BMW revealed to the world at the 1997 Tokyo motor show, the Z8 is intended to evoke the famous 507 roadster with that car’s characteristic twin-nostril grille and uniquely shaped front-fender vents. The only question was how closely the production car’s styling would hew to the concept.

As the photos demonstrate here, BMW did not stray far from the sensuously sculpted shape that stole the Tokyo show almost three years ago. Even the design of the alloy wheels is virtually identical.

What did surprise us, however, was how artfully BMW translated the Z07’s retro interior into production — and how much this added to the excitement of driving the car.

The dashboard is a painted plastic panel (black, blue, or taupe) that runs the full width, recalling the steel dashboards used in cars almost a half-century ago. The instruments are mounted in the center of this panel, shaded by a neatly integrated hood and angled toward the driver but still quite legible to the passenger. The steering wheel has three spokes, each of which consists of four thin metal rods, another styling gesture recalling a bygone time.

The switches and buttons, the shifter knob, and all of the metal trim are fabricated from brushed aluminum. Much of the rest of the trim is polished chrome. To preserve the clean interior, the climate controls are straightforward and the electronic panel that controls the excellent stereo and uncomplicated navigation system is neatly tucked behind an aluminum door.


Despite its homage to interiors of old, the Z8 layout works remarkably well. We quickly adjusted to glancing down slightly and to the right to scan the instruments. And we appreciated that this instrument placement allowed an unobstructed view of the Z8’s long hood.

In this roadster, you definitely feel as though you’re driving the car, not the dashboard.

The retro touches are combined with excellent switchgear placement and a power telescoping steering wheel and power seats, allowing for a modern and comfortable driving position. There’s plenty of room for two adults in the sumptuously inviting interior, with leather covering almost every surface that isn’t finished in chromed steel or brushed aluminum. Even the roll-bar hoops behind the seats are sheathed in beautifully stitched cowhides.

In truth, the Z8’s visual charisma is so powerful that just sitting in this car with the engine off is more fun than driving many other cars. Then when you press the starter button — set apart, also a tribute to the past–another entire level of excitement begins.

The 4.9-liter V-8 fires instantly and generates the same muscular exhaust burble that we enjoyed on the M5, except that the volume is higher when you lower the convertible top. The progressive clutch, in combination with the precise gearbox, makes the Z8 a breeze at takeoff. Acceleration is nothing short of effortless, with the M5 engine’s power multiplied not only by the Z8’s relatively light weight but also by a differential ratio shorter than the M5 sedan’s (3.38:1 instead of 2.81).

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