Sibling Rivalry – BMW M Roadster vs. BMW Z8 – Road & Track

20 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Sibling Rivalry – BMW M Roadster vs. BMW Z8 – Road & Track

By the RT Staff January 1, 2001 / Photos by Jeff Allen and Jay McNally


The M Roadster is the bulldog of the BMW family. Stocky in stature, muscular and determined-looking, it packs the power to deliver the performance promised by its looks. Its 240 bhp delivered through fat, 245/40ZR-17 Dunlop SP Sport rear tires, accompanied by the earnest growl of the six inline cylinders and bark of twin dual exhausts, can punch this car though the 60-mph barrier in 5.4 seconds.

Just accelerating up through the gears gives anyone who drives the M Roadster sheer driving pleasure.

With the arrival of its sibling, the Z8, the M Roadster is relegated to being former Top Dog in the open BMW lineup. While admittedly not as graceful, swift and polished as the svelte Z8, its attributes as a sports car keep it proudly in the pack. No lounging on the porch for the M Roadster; it wants to run.

One only need look at the price of the Z8 and at that of the M Roadster, and the value of the Z3-based contender is clear. Its performance numbers are impressive: 0#150;60 mph in 5.4 sec.; the quarter mile in 14.0 sec.; 0.89g skidpad performance; and an estimated top speed over 135 mph; like we ever really drive over 130 in our daily use of a sports car.

This is why we went to Thunderhill Park in Willows, California. On the track, the car does expose some of its bulldog tendencies. Understeer is present through most corners.

During high-speed cornering maneuvers, the M Roadster demonstrates slightly nervous behavior, subtly moving around on the suspension, requiring the driver’s inputs to be very smooth. Drivers with skill levels less than that of a professional racer will find the understeering characteristic comforting and are unlikely to experience any nervousness at road speeds.


The interior is a great environment for controlling the M Roadster as it vaults through its paces. Its hot-rod style is echoed in the two-tone wraparound shapes of the dash and chrome-bezeled instruments.

The high, bolstered sport seats give excellent support, and the sturdy roll hoops behind the occupants add the sense of security and confidence.

The view out the front of the M Roadster, with the small bulge in the center of the hood and the broad shoulders of the front fenders, gives the illusion of a tight T-shirt stretched across brawny shoulders. Wrapped tightly into the cockpit, it’s easy to find yourself tugging at the leash, restless and anxious, to run with the big dogs. #151; Bert Swift


If you have ever displayed addictive tendencies, you’d best stay away from the driver’s footwell of BMW’s Z8, as the skinny pedal down there reigns over the firebreathing 400-bhp, 5.0-liter V-8 that also lurks in the M5’s engine bay. Once experienced, you’ll have repeated cravings for its shoulder-pinning thrust, near-telepathic throttle response and chunky rumble that burbles from stout-looking chrome pipes.


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