New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

We drive BMW's awesome Z4 M Coupe

2006-09-14 07:40

John Oxley

BMW Z4 M Coupe features crisp turn-in, fantatstic grip

If you're a sissy, don't read the first part of this article - skip right to the end - this first bit isn't for you.

I'm going to write about the newly-released BMW Z4 M Coupe

Brutal, yes, uncompromising, yes, awesomely fast, yes. But sissy, definitely not.

Built on the same already super-stiff platform as the Z4 Roadster, this hardtop newcomer benefits from having DOUBLE the torsional rigidity of the open-topped version.

And this makes for an extremely stable basis on which to build a super sports car.

Which BMW has done.

Of course, like the M Roadster we previewed in May it comes complete with BMW's multi-award winning 3.2-litre straight six 252 kW power house as well as the same massive 345 mm double cross-drilled and ventilated compound disc brakes (from the M3 CSL super-coupe).

However, where the Z4 M Coupe differs is in having thicker antiroll bars, stiffer suspension, and an even more direct steering.

Loves corners

The result: this is a car designed to get you from A to B as quickly as possible, and if there are corners in between, so much the better.

In fact the car thrives on corners. The turn-in is so crisp that you can feel the G forces even on slower bends, while long fast sweeps leave you with palpitating heart and shortage of breath.

Hit the Sport button on the centre console and you become a total racing duo, you and the Z4 M Coupe.

The throttle response is now instantaneous, the brakes, with their pads moved closer to the discs, razor-reactive. And the DSC allows you a fair amount of tailout to get the car around those 90 degree - scrap that, in one case 210 degree - corners.

BMW chose the Cape's famous four passes for the launch, starting from the Lanzerac in Stellenbosch and off up Helshoogste.

I must say at first I was underwhelmed.

The car felt jiggly and uncomfortable on the suburban roads around the hotel, the gearbox was stiff and unyielding, the steering too responsive as the fat wheel bucked against the bumpy and potholded road surface.

Long warmup

It took about 15 minutes of driving for the gearbox to warm up properly. The roads didn't get much smoother - that's the Western Cape these days - but after a while I got used to the steering, allowed my wrists to be slacker so they went with the kicking rather than against it.

The power, of course, is phenomenal, and you have to constantly be aware that you're approaching corners much faster than you think.

It's not helped by the fact that the speedo is marked in 30 km/h increments, (up to maximum of 300) so a quick glance doesn't get an accurate picture.

What it does mean is two things. Firstly, there always seems to be a car in front of you. Secondly, you're past it and gone before the driver even realises you were there.

But on Franschoek Pass there was no one. And the road, re-tarred fairly recently, smooth and grippy.

It was epiphany.

I saw the light, and blasted from tight bend to tight bend, always ensuring I treated the centre line as a solid wall, never to be crossed for fear of unknown on-coming traffic, but using the power, using the brakes, deeper and deeper into each corner.

What that technique means, of course - apart from never scaring other pass users - is that it taxes the car even more than usual, for there's no extra width of road to make allowances for poor handling qualities.

Avoiding jaywalkers

After that everything else seemed dull and flaccid, and I switched back into normal mode and piddled though the Provence wannabe village at almost walking speed, weaving in and out of badly parked vehicles and avoiding gawking pedestrians without a care in the world.

At peace.

So, apart from a stiffer body and suspension, and quicker steering, what else has the Z4 M Coupe got that the Roadster doesn't have.

Well, mainly, a big boot.

Room in the back for soft bags or even golf clubs

The beautiful classic swept back lines at the rear of the car hide a fair-sized boot - oddly shaped, for the battery and puncture repair kit also live there - but useable, nevertheless, with 300 litres of space.

You won't get a big suitcase in there, but BMW says it'll take a couple of sets of golf clubs, which for some people is almost as important as owning the car in the first place.

And loading is easy, for there's a huge lift-up tailgate with a removable load cover.

For the rest, well it's pure Z4 M Roadster all the way.

You sit low

You sit low in the car, the seats offering excellent side support, plus perfect adjustment in virtually every direction, supplemented by a steering column adjustable for reach and angle.

There are two leather trim versions, standard giving soft nappa leather on the seats, door panels and armrests, while you can also opt for hide coverings on the entire door, the windscreen frame (including the sun visors) the rollbars as well as the centre console including the rear storage box.

The broad sweeping dashboard has three trim options - walnut, carbon-fibre look, and aluminium - while the instrument binnacle is directly in front of the driver, just like other Z4s.

There's a thick-rimmed M leather steering wheel with multifunction buttons to control the telephone or radio. When specified, the 'phone is fitted in a between-seats console box/armrest.

Interior space features a glove compartment, two built-in door pockets and a large box in the rear bulkhead between the seats offering approximately 10 litres capacity - or, where specified, stowage for the CD shuttle.

Locking cover

The cover on the storage box is locked together with the central locking.

Other features include climate control air-con, a front-loader CD/radio with BMW Carver technology, bi-xenon headlights, two-stage adaptive brake lights, and the choice of two navigation systems with DVD memory as an option.

Safety features include ABS and DSC, and there are front and side airbags.

And the engine: 3 246 cm3, 252 kW at an engine speed of 7 900 r/min, and maximum engine speed of 8 000 r/min.

Significantly, no less than 80% of the engine's maximum torque of 365 NM is available from just 2 000 r/min.

Output per litre is 77.8kW, giving the BMW Z4 M Coupe; a power-to-weight ratio of 178.1 kW/ ton. Acceleration to 100 km/h comes in just 5 seconds and top speed is limited electronically to 250 km/h.


I don't know whether I could live with a BMW Z4 M Coupe every day. That first 15 minutes before everything warms up would be sheer murder in traffic five days a week, and in my case would represent almost 40% of my journey time.

But on a Sunday, when you want to go and have fun, well there's not much else that gives as much as this. But a lot of money for a Sunday car.

Oh, I've kept the best till last.

BMW also briefly showed us a regular Z4 Coupe, the 3.0si fitted with the straight six 195 kW engine from the 330i.

It's not as uncompromising as the Z4 M Coupe, but it still looks great, and I'm told it rides great, and still has enough performance to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds.

Call me a sissy, then, for 0.7 seconds, but I'd rather opt for that one!


- BMW Z4 Coupe 6-speed manual R545 500
- BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe 6-speed manual R443 500
- BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe 6-speed automatic R457 500


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