- 2008 E86 BMW Z4 3.0si Coupe

Living with a Z4 Coupe | E86 3.0si 3 months in

I take a look back over the past 3 months of ownership with my E86 and share my thoughts.

4w ago

As I touched on in my main review of this car, the E86 Z4 Coupe is perhaps one of the BMW's that has sat under the radar these last few years. When I commenced the search for something new earlier in 2021, I must admit that I had totally overlooked the E86, but having come across it by chance, it most definitely ticked all the boxes I needed - Straight 6 N/A engine up front, manual gearbox and rear wheel drive.

So then, 3 months in and over 2,000 miles later, what are my thoughts on actually living with one?

The experience so far has been overwhelmingly positive. One of the main points I covered in my video version of this article (link below) is the strikingly good balance this car has between usability and driver focus. You'd be forgiven if you looked at the E86 and thought that it wouldn't be all that practical - I've been shocked at just how versatile a car this actually is.

There's an abundance of storage space throughout. The boot will easily hold multiple large bags and the cabin appears to be the polar opposite of cramped. You'll find plenty of storage locations dotted about and above all else there is ample leg room and headroom, so on those longer journeys it is not even remotely a chore. It really is quite remarkable how much room has been attained from the inside of this car.

For me the E86 seems to really be the midpoint of sports car versus GT car. It has this competence in long distance transport that certainly surprised me, yet it's character seems to flip on it's head when you take it onto a good driving road, for it simply comes alive. This is ultimately down to that N52 engine up front, so I suppose we had better give it another mention.

We probably all know that BMW has a way with straight six engines, and my god is the N52 good. One of the best BMW engines of all time? Quite possibly. Not necessarily in a performance sense, but more so in it's breadth of capability. I have referred to it as a "baby M" engine before, and that's for several reasons. First and foremost is it's rev range, with the limiter not coming in until 7,000rpm. Revving an engine past the 6,000rpm mark is always a bit special, because you know at that point it's not an everyday engine if it's capable of doing it with such ease. Think of the engineering that has to go into an engine to allow those components to reciprocate and revolve at such high frequencies.

Of course we must also give a mention to the power curve. You quite simply wouldn't believe how the N52 is able to deliver performance, it is phenomenal. We're not talking crazy power figures here - power is 265hp and torque is 232lb-ft. With the weight figure not far over 1,300kg though, you'll have to trust me when I say performance is certainly ample for the road. That torque though, it's available in full from just 2,750rpm and that for me is where it is just so much more usable than an M engine, where the old naturally aspirated units are not making peak torque until half way up the rev range. The N52 is able to offer all it's torque from 2,750rpm and then continue to rev another 4,250rpm whilst maintaining a linear power curve. I suppose we should praise the phenomenal pieces of engineering that are VANOS and Valvetronic for that - naturally aspirated engines at their finest. Listen, I could talk all day about engines, so maybe a piece on this incredible engine is due at some point. It truly is an integral part of the E86 though, not just in performance offerings, but in the way it sounds.

Of course, with the 3.0si lacking the S54 and it's accompanying M taxes, it is also relatively affordable to run. Don't get me wrong here though, running a 3.0L car in the UK in 2021 is never going to be a cheap ordeal, but it's well worth what expense you will incur. The main thing is parts costs - as much of the E86 was shared with the 3 series of this era, the prices are generally 3 series prices. Various consumable items are much cheaper than you might expect and I suppose that's the beauty of having these cars that sit just below the M tax threshold. UK road tax and fuel are the main expensive items - unfortunately the E86 is from an era that is now hit somewhat heavily with the good old annual road tax, so it will set you back Β£340 a year. Not the end of the world, but not exactly cheap.

I'm sure many of us are well aware of the high fuel prices currently too. The N52 is very good for it's time, but when pushing on, don't expect much in excess of 15mpg and probably around 30mpg on a longer motorway run. Currently it's costing a decent chunk to refuel the 55L tank with the price of E5 super unleaded often in excess of Β£1.40 per litre, but in the grand scheme of things it could be worse, right?

So how do we summarise my first 3 months with this incredibly rewarding motor vehicle? Well, I suppose I can start by saying it works superbly well as a quasi-daily driver in this "post-pandemic" era we find ourselves in now. I've done a fair bit of commuting in my E86 and I find it to work very well - largely because the pedal weights are easy in traffic and the overall driving position is not a compromise by any measure.

I've heard some people having quality concerns over the E86 with them being made in South Carolina and not Munich, but I have absolutely nothing to say here. The build quality is absolutely brilliant and if anything, much better than the consumable products we see being produced in this day and age - German engineering at it's finest is probably how I would describe it.

I honestly can't wait to do more miles in the thing and look forward to spending even more time in it.

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Comments (2)

  • I have one (3 years ownership as a daily) and I would not be so nice about it.

    the ride is harsh, the gearbox ratio makes it not good on the highway, I'm going to buy an estate because I need something more practicle despite living alone with no children.

    The stearing is weird.

    the engine is good but I'm realy used to it now and I want more.

    It's an ok sportscar.

    I will watch your video later

      1 month ago
    • That's totally fair enough! Cars are subjective things and what I say is by no means the only interpretation, its just my views. I think the way the car is used makes a big difference - for example I no longer drive a car every day so perhaps...

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        1 month ago