BMW is known to release from time to time limited-production cars as the prototypical expression of the excitement for driving that is the company’s backbone. The Z8 roadster was the latest vehicle to have continued this tradition. The initial prototype (the Z07) was designed in order to celebrate the famous’ BMW 507 50th birthday. The incredible success of the concept-car produced the decision of building the vehicle in a limited series, designated Z8. Produced in fewer than 5700 units between 2000 and 2003, the Z8 is already a collector’s car.
BMW has produced along its existence several limited series exotic vehicles, as exponents of the brand’s sports pedigree. Noteworthy are the legendary 328 roadster that made its debut as a racecar in 1937 or the famous 507 roadster, built between 1956 and 1959 in only 253 units and considered by many as one of the most beautiful cars ever produced. Another limited production car was the only BMW ever with a middle-mounted engine, the M1 coupe, manufactured between 1980 and 1982, the first car to wear the famous “M” badges. Later on, in 1987, due to an enthusiastic public response to spy photos of a vehicle built initially as an engineering research project, BMW offered the Z1 roadster as a production model. This original fibreglass-bodied roadster with electric doors was never officially imported into the
The vehicle to continue this tradition in the 21st Century was the BMW Z8. Although initially intended as a concept car to celebrate 507’s 50th Anniversary, the Z8 was launched into a limited production due to very good public response. In the development of the new roadster, the BMW designers had to imagine what the original 507 roadster would have evolved to it would had never ceased production over four decades ago. The outcome of all of their efforts is a contemporary, but ever-lasting interpretation of the famous roadster of the 1950s – a car that is beyond doubt the perfect mix of power, sensuality, cutting-edge technology and classic elegance.
Mainly hand-built in
Exclusivity also referred to the packet of services offered with the car. The owners awaiting the delivery of their new BMW were offered a high-quality scale model of the Z8. Besides that, a custom handmade book was given to the owner of each Z8 after delivery, including photos of their car in production and genuine paint and upholstery samples from the car. Another special treat in the delivery packet was the opportunity to pick up the car at BMW headquarters in
The first impressions about the BMW Z8 were offered by the Z07 design study showcased at the 1997 Tokyo Auto Show and soon after at the 1998 North American International Auto Show in
The original designer of the BMW 507 of the 1950s Count Albrecht Goertz said about the Z8: “If I were to design the 507 today, it would look like the Z8.” Being very much different from the esthetic trend of the exclusive high-performance cars of the late 1990s, the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive roadster featured a long hood, tapered overhangs, a cockpit positioned toward the rear, and a low beltline. The front-fender air exhausts or “gills,” here incorporate modern fiber-optic turn-signal indicators, are a styling element normally associated with the classic 507 even though the idea dates from even earlier BMWs. In a world with the emerging new-edge design, the Z8 was romantically curvaceous.
Nowadays, the BMW 507 is desired by many collectors and one in good state can worth more than $600,000. A comparable, if not even brighter, future is practically guaranteed for the Z8. This mesmerizing roadster includes all the necessary ingredients to become a classic: exquisite performance, outstanding design and rarity. BMW has built only 1,500 Z8s a year. Around 3,000 were sold in the
Body & chassis
“Just looking at those beautiful, classic lines, I get the feeling of romantic passion, “said Chris Bangle, chief designer at BMW. “This body, built in BMW’s high-end technology using the most sophisticated aluminum space frame, represents the ultimate standard of fascinating motoring: A classic roadster – and the Z8 is indeed a classic roadster in every respect – simply has to have a long engine bay, body lines swinging down at the sides from door level, a sexy ‘derriere’ and big wheels.”
Despite that, the Z8 is also thoroughly contemporary. Its extensive, flowing hood allows an engine position well back in the chassis to make it a so-called “front mid-engine” design. Aluminum construction was used extensively throughout, including the space frame, much of the suspension, and all body panels with the exception of bumpers (made of impact-resistant polyurethane) and steel door hinges. Other contemporary details included 18-inch alloy wheels and low profile, run-flat performance tires.
The roadster’s advanced lighting technology featured Xenon low-beam headlights with dynamic auto-leveling and, concealed in the leading edges of the headlamp covers, high-intensity washers. The Z8 was the first car ever with neon turn signals and brake lights that illuminate ten times as fast as conventional bulbs, giving other drivers more time to react.
The original 507’s body was aluminum. Taking up that tradition in a 21st Century form, all the Z8’s body panels, except its bumpers and door hinges were aluminum. Here BMW had taken the use of this lightweight alloy a step further and designed an entire space frame in aluminum. This concept combined moderate weight with body rigidity that was unparalleled by any other open sports car in this category.
The monocoque frame was made of extrusion-pressed beams much like the trusses of a timber house. Nearly 1,000 rivets and 190 ft. of fused welding seam (MIG) hold the frame and body panels together. The frame was made largely in-house at BMW’s Dingolfing plant.
Building the Z8 in
Curb weight without hardtop 3494 lbs
Curb weight with hardtop 3554 lbs
Weight distribution, front/rear, % 50.2/49.8
Wheelbase, in. 98.6
Track, front/rear, in. 61.1/61.7
Length x width x height, in. 173.2 x 72.0 x 51.9
Body Type Aluminum space frame, aluminum body panels
Cx with raised soft-top 0.43
Cx with hardtop installed 0.39
EPA size classification 2-Seater
The first thing to impress the driver of this car is the incredible engine, the same V8 used on the previous BMW M5. It is so powerful that it makes the car seem to jump forward rather than roll on its wheels. This incredible BMW seems just to ignore the common laws of friction, resistance and gravity. Strikingly though it is not hard to drive. 6-speed manual gearbox and the benchmark clutch are very easy and pleasing to operate. Also, due to BMW’s electronic stability control (DSC) system, the roadster is forgiving with drivers that are not racetrack masters. This BMW patented system, also known form regular BMW models, combines ABS, traction control and cornering stabilization to stop an over-enthusiastic driver before endangering their precious investment.
When the DSC is on it can be clearly felt at work as it tires to bring the car back on track if you push the car to far to the limits. However, this limits are somewhere very far and not in reach for the regular driver. The driving course BMW was offering with the purchase of a new Z8 seems more than justified, to ensure that a client makes the most of its Z8.
Once the DSC is off, the fun can begin. This car is a delight for the experience driver. Once the proper mixture of acceleration and steering is found the Z8 can deliver automotive nirvana.
The all-aluminum body is exceptionally stiff for an open vehicle and that makes the road feel exemplary. When driving fast, you can actually feel what is going to happen before you can actually get to see it happen. The steering, suspension and the brakes attached to this super-stiff chassis operate with maximum accuracy and deliver pinpoint precision.
Engine & transmission
The 3.2-liter aluminum V8 that powered the original 507 was, at the time, BMW’s most powerful engine. For a car that personifies BMW’s passion for driving, BMW’s most powerful engine at the time the Z8 was produced got chosen. Delivering 394 horsepower and 368 lb-ft. of torque, the Z8’s aluminum engine was shared with the BMW M5 of that time. That power unit is known for being completely civilized in traffic and around town, thanks in part to its infinitely adjustable, electronically controlled valve-timing system. Called High-Pressure Double VANOS, the system varies valve timing on the intake and exhaust valves of both cylinder heads – thus on all four camshafts – helping optimize power, torque and emission control. “High-pressure” signifies the fact that this engine, as in other BMW M engines but distinct from regular-production BMW units, has a dedicated oil pump for the VANOS system.
The engine’s “drive-by-wire” throttle system operates eight individual intake throttles and includes the M Dynamic Driving Control, which allows the driver to select between
A unique g-sensitive engine-lubrication system ensures proper oil circulation in hard cornering situations. A V-8 engine’s cylinder heads are canted at a 45˚ angle; to ensure adequate oil flow out of the heads under extreme cornering loads there are two scavenging pumps, one for each cylinder bank. In straight-ahead driving, these pumps pick up oil from the rear of the engine and return it to the sump. In hard cornering (0.9g or more), the Dynamic Stability Control system’s lateral-g sensor switches magnetic valves to pickup points at the curve-outer side of each head and the pan.
The most visible component of the engine compartment, the carbon-fiber air-collector cover, bears the famous script “BMW M Power.” The engine compartment itself is finished in the same high-gloss paintwork as the roadster’s exterior.
A Getrag 6-speed manual transmission with specially reinforced clutch, also from the M5, is mated to the Z8’s engine. The net result of all this industry-leading high-performance technology is an elegant sports car that will sprint from a standstill to 60 miles-per-hour in a soul-stirring 4.7 seconds while producing engine sounds and an exhaust note that car enthusiasts have called a “mechanical symphony.” To enhance that symphony, engineers deliberately matched the exhaust note to engine load. While cruising, it is a deep rumble. When the driver “pushes” the engine, the sound mounts to a thrilling crescendo, all the while complying with international sound standards.
Engine type DOHC 32-valve (4-cam) V-8, High-Pressure Double VANOS steplessly variable intake- & exhaust-valve timing, 8 individual electronically controlled throttles with Normal & Sport settings
Bore x stroke, in. 3.70 x 3.50
Displacement, cu in./cc 4941/302
Compression ratio 11.0:1
Power @ rpm, hp 394 @ 6600
Torque @ rpm, lb-ft. 368 @ 3800
Engine-management system Siemens MS S52 with adaptive knock control, variable valve timing, electronic throttle system, g-sensitive lubrication system, oil-level/temperature sender, catalyst protection & M Dynamic Driving Control included in control strategy
Fuel requirement Premium unleaded
Battery capacity, amp-hr. 90
Alternator output, amp./W 120/1680
Drive system Front engine/rear drive
Manual transmission Getrag Type D, 6-speed
Final drive ratio 3.38:1
0-60 mph, 4.7 s
Top speed 155 mph
Fuel economy, EPA est. MPG, city/highway 13/21
Front suspension: Sport suspension in aluminum struts, double-pivot lower arms with low-friction balljoints at pivot points, coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: Sport suspension; 4-link Integral system with low-friction balljoints at pivots of upper lateral arms, lower lateral arm, twin-tube gas- pressure shock absorbers, anti-roll bar
4-wheel ventilated disc brakes:
Diameter, front, in. 13.1
Diameter, rear, in. 12.9
Steering type Variable-ratio rack & pinion, engine-speed-sensitive power assist
Overall ratio Variable; mean ratio 17.0:1
Turns lock-to-lock 3.0
Turning circle, ft. 38.7
Tires & wheels
With the Z8, BMW was the first European carmaker to offer run-flat tires as standard equipment on a high-performance car. Called RFC, for Run-Flat Combination, the technology consisted of self-supporting tires, special “hump” wheel rims, and a Flat Tire Monitor system.
The tires themselves had reinforced sidewalls, with special inserts and rubber compounds that were extremely heat-resistant. Those allowed even a defective tire without air pressure to largely maintain its shape and driving and handling characteristics up to about 90 miles. The specially designed Extended Hump wheel helped keep a damaged tire positioned on the wheel. Even with a flat tire, the Z8 retained full Dynamic Stability Control functionality.
Wheels: Cast alloy, run-flat design; 18 x 8.0 front / 18 x 9.0 rear
Tires: Run-flat performance radials, 245/45R-18 W-rated front / 275/40R-18 W-rated rear
The Z8 cockpit continued the theme of a modern re-creation of the 507. Though simple of design, it is fitted out with the latest in advanced, driver-friendly technology. Among its most prominent features is a unique central instrument cluster, easy to read and pleasing to look at; striking use of materials and colors; and a “banjo”-spoke steering wheel. The wheel’s wire spokes are a touch from the golden age of sports cars, yet its color-keyed horn button conceals a thoroughly contemporary 2-stage “smart” airbag.
“We deliberately put the instruments right in the middle, enabling the driver to look straight ahead without being distracted in any way,” Bangle explained. “Driving the Z8 is like sitting on a motorcycle – you just have the road ahead of you, enjoying a purist view really unique, particularly at night. It’s like flying a small sports plane.”
Thus in the tradition of great sports cars, the Z8 has a pushbutton starter for its engine. Yet even this nostalgic device incorporates a 21st-century feature: The driver needs only to press the button briefly; the engine management system does the rest. “Pressing that black button with your thumb, you literally feel the power of the engine – it’s a very emotional thing,” said Bangle. What was the logic behind the starter button? None, really. It just seemed right.
The ignition switch is mounted on the dash, above the starter button instead of in the traditional steering-column location. An electronic steering lock, along with BMW’s Coded Driveaway Protection, helps deter theft.
A flip-up panel beneath the climate controls conceals a Multi Information Radio unit, which includes a GPS navigation system; an audiophile-quality Harmon-Kardon AM/FM/CD audio system; and an ambient-temperature display. Among the audio system’s 12 speakers are woofers in the footwells; tweeters and woofers in the doors; wide-band speakers as well as four amplifiers beneath the seats; and subwoofers behind the seats. A 6-disc CD changer is in a lockable compartment behind the driver’s seat. This audio system provides the power for a stirring, emotional sound and appropriate bass effect for an open-air automobile. Of course, there are always the melodious sounds of the Z8’s magnificent V-8 engine for auditory entertainment as well.
The extensive Nappa leather upholstery and trim are accented with body-color painted surfaces and aluminum control knobs, all connoting astounding attention to detail. Interior trim consists of aluminum and color-keyed painted surfaces.
The Z8 is completely equipped to meet the most discerning drivers’ standards. Its only options are the color choices for exterior, interior, and soft-top. By the way, the Z8’s trunk will accommodate enough luggage for a weekend getaway or two golf bags.
Dual front-impact airbag Supplementary Restraint System (SRS) with dual-threshold deployment & 2-stage Smart Airbags
Safety belts with automatic tensioners & force limiters
Integrated deployment logic for safety-belt pre-tensioners, airbags & post-impact safety measures
Rollover Protection for driver & passenger
TopSpeed artists BMW Z8 tuning recommendation
The Z8 is a masterpiece of design. It’s hard to find any flaws to such a puristic style. Many tuners tried to enhance the looks of this car, and most of them failed ridiculously (ex: the Racing Dynamics body kit). This is not the car to add any spoilers or ailerons to. Actually, we think that even the stock front spoiler should be removed. If you look carefully at the Z07 concept-car, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have a front lip spoiler. And that’s how the designers have initially conceived the styling of the car. Unfortunately, that solution didn’t offer enough front push to keep the car stable, and that’s why the production Z8 has received a lip spoiler. We couldn’t remove it, as that could ruin the cars balance. But, we did come up with something. We decided to paint it black to make it more discrete and harder noticeable. Dark are know also the side skirts, the rear panels and the hardtop. The rest of the car gets an elegant contrast color. No huge wheels & tires for the Z8 as the stock ones look stunning and the proportion are just right.