The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4

BMW Z4 | December 19th, 2008 by 30
bmw_z4_0811

Let me start first that the following comparison might not be the most fair, exact or appropiate one, but I think it’s interesting and in …

Let me start first that the following comparison might not be the most fair, exact or appropiate one, but I think it’s interesting and in the same fun to see the transition and the progress within the BMW roadster class.

I am also looking to see people’s reaction to old vs. new, what could have been done better, what design elements should have been kept or if simply, the new Z4 is all that and more.

Once again, to keep this on a fair level, or as much as we can, we’re just going to focus on the exterior and interior design, we won’t be throwing any horsepower around nor any torque. Fuel consumption and “green” is the last on my list of concerns as well, let’s just see, in images, the transition from the Z3 to the latest and greatest Z4.

Comments are always encouraged and appreciated, great conversations have been started by those little comments you, our readers, leave on here.

Click on photos for larger resolution

The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4

And of course, I’ll go first:

  • Z3 – found it interesting for its time, but never a fan of it
  • E85 Z4 – good looking car, but not good enough to spend that much money on it. Always believed there were better options
  • E89 Z4 – well, different story, at least from the photos, I instantly fell in love and for the first time, I didn’t feel like I had to compromise between a beautiful exterior design and a “decent at best” interior.

The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4

The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4The Generations War: BMW Z3 vs. BMW Z4 vs 2009 BMW Z4

  • Lee

    I’ll take a Z3 rear end, a Z4 front end and the roof lines from the new Z4.

    I really do think the Z3 and 1st gen Z4 are both great looking cars in their own right. The Z3 would be, IMO, a much better car if it were a little easier for anyone that isn’t part of the Lollypop Guild to fit in it/drive it comfortably. The Z4 fixed that, and it truly is a blast to drive (as long as you DON’T get the slushbox).

    The 2nd gen Z4 has something going for it that neither of the older models had: that TT I6. That engine is phenomenal. Although the 1st gen Z4 was available with the S54 out of the e46 M3… That’s a great engine, too. Hmmm… 1st gen ///M Z4 or 2nd gen with the TT N54… Tough call. Maybe BMW will solve my dilemma (and follow tradition) by releasing a version of the new Z4 with the new M3′s S65.

  • clara

    @Lee:
    You’re right, the old z4 rear was much cooler, and had enough character to balance out the new z4′s design. This one reminds me of that of a 1-series.

  • Andys120

    Z3- At first I liked the Z3 but it hasn’t stood the test of time. It has a rather narrow look and the windscreen and top are too tall. Still in the right color it isn’t bad to look at. The “Shoe” (Z3 Coupe) may be the most interesting to looks-wise.

    E85 Z4-Just didn’t have a good design, too much going on along the sides, especially the overdone forward slash and BMW emblem with turn indicator built in (ugh). Drab interior.

    E89 Z4- I wish it were lighter but it pushes all the buttons style-wise, details are beautifully done and overall styling is agressive enough to compete w the likes of Boxster, Corvette and Cayman. The rear end could use some cleaning up and the interior could use some lively colors.
    I’d appreciate more comprehensive instrumentation but that’s true of all modern sports cars except the C6. I think I want an E89 badly!

    The Z3/4 seem to have evolved in the same way as the big Healeys with the luxed up Z4 taking the place of the Healey 300 MK II while the
    E85 has more the character of a 3000 Mk I and the Z3 being the analog of the 100/6.

  • Andys120

    @clara:

    I’d agree with you Clara except I think that bump on the trunklid completely spoils the rear. Too bad, otherwise it’s pretty clean and straightforward.

  • Dare

    z3 was good but too retro for my taste.. original though.
    the original z4 was revolution and one of the cars that really grabbed me to be in love with bmw.
    but now… the new z4 is pretty, but that’s it! lacking character, not a clean design connected with only that model but sharing design elements from others. even merc-like front bumper which is really disgusting. am saying bye-bye to my beloved marque they lost the plot (with couple of recent models as well) and started making some basic mistakes. there is no charisma any more, just copy-paste kids’ play, maybe cause they have allowed women designing a man thing – the BMW!

  • Auday

    Z3 is kind of lame looking, but MZ3 is one of the most beautiful roadsters. MZ4 didnt add much to Z4 unfortunately. But I hope the new MZ4 will revive the extra wide back and the sporty front bumper of the MZ3.

  • bmwtechal

    for the z3 i personally was a big fan of the coupe vs. the rodaster. yeah theyre weird but i always thought they looked cool. i also agree with H.B. on the z3 roadster, interesting but not a big fan. when i first saw the z4 i thought it was disgusting. i couldnt get past the look. after my first drive (a 5spd 2.5i) my opinion changed drastically. the car is a blast. even at its least powerful eninge offered. after that drive they design steadily and increasingly grew on me. i still love when one comes into my shop and i take my inital test drive. always great. you cant go wrong with the formula: RWD light weight, front weight bias. nice and tail happy. ive been priveleged to sample every possible E84/5 z4 offering. from a 2.5i to the Mroadster (coupes included, always love the coupes better). the M is a monster! but in the end it doesnt really matter which z4 it is. always a blast. but my opinion of the design was definately affected by its performance. as for the new z4, looks great, cant wait to drive on. also i am dreading the hard top. just more things to break that have to be fixed. and for you people out there with hardtop E93s that complain about the littleist noise, these things are inevitable with convertibles, hard or soft top convertibles will always be noisy than a fixed roof chasis. theres no way around it. sorry just a venting a little….

  • Lee

    The new Z4 would have been the best by a mile but instead it sucks becuase of one thing. A hard top convertible never looks as good as a soft top. Now I have to by a Boxster or a TT instead. I hate hard top convertibles.

  • E46Mike

    I’m disappointed in the E89. It looks fat, and besides, does the world really need another porky retractable hard top?

  • [;

    where’s Z1?

  • clara

    @[;:
    What is your name exactly? It looks like a wingding :)

  • Lee

    @bmwtechal:
    I do dig the Z3 coupe… a lot. I hated it at first, but it grew on me pretty quickly.

    For the record: The second “Lee” post wasn’t me. Must be an imposer.

  • Lee

    Sorry if I have the same name as you.

    Anyway as I said earlier hard top convertibles suck!

  • Lee

    @Lee:
    How do you figure they “suck”? Because of the lack of road noise? Or because someone can’t slash your top and steal all of your stuff? Or because they’re less likely to fold like a house of cards should you ever roll your car?

  • Lee

    No because they look crap. You won’t see Porsche or Audi puting a heavy ugly hard top on thier cars. The simply fact is they do not look as good as a soft top, bottom line!

  • Brussels

    I limit my comments on the “look”:

    I never liked the Z3.
    I drive a Z4 1st generation and (of course) I like it a lot.
    Some comments on the new Z4:
    + rear view: very sexy, better than before;
    + hardtop for those who prefer it;
    - side view: too much pronounced lines, curves and other things;
    - front view: too much pronounced lines and curves;
    - a real roadster needs a softtop: even when folded, a lot of space in the trunk – when a hardtop is folded = no space in the trunk = no roadtrips;
    - looks like an SLK from the side
    Conclusion: no love at first sight … I guess it will have to grow

  • jeff

    Z3 hands down winner in styling. Yes it is retro. Great road feel as opposed to the lack of feedback in the z4s. Ergonomics much better in a Z3. BTW I am a 60 year old man that weighs over 250. I have no problem with the size of the cockpit and the Z3 is easier to get out of than my 325iC.

  • Mark

    The z3 = classic
    It is still cool, even though retro. The handling is fun if not pinned down, it has a graceful shape and is so little, it is just….. cool.

    The 1st gen. z4 = slow burn love affair.
    At first it was a bit weird (not love at first sight) but over time it’s revolutionary design has kept it fresh and still one on the most modern vehicles on the road. It has aged beautifully, and the M version is stellar. After years of looking at it, it appears to be carved out of a solid chunk of metal, especially the side view. The class-leading chassis rigidity did wonders for handling. I prefer the looks of the soft top. The design approach looks pure.

    The 2nd gen. z4 = one nighter
    I really want to like it.
    The front nose is weird – vertical, I guess for Europe pedestrian impact/ safety standards (just like the new 7). The rear takes cues from the 6 series, my least favorite series. yuck. Side view is overdone and the lines don’t have character…. they’re just…. there….
    Good initial looks, but the more I study it, the less I like it. Kinda like a girl you date vs. the girl you marry. Will it improve with time?

  • http://www.spree4.com Andy

    Z3 – cool retro styling, inside and out
    Z4 – more modern, still appealing
    New Z4 – too futuristic. Does the bonnet need to be that big? Don’t like the lines of it either

  • Teleny

    Z3 a real beauty, classic proportions, dated chassis-but classic roadster performance-9if you know roadsters, you understand0, but outsold all of the other zs by a zillion cars and will be a future classic.

    z4 ugly flame surfacing, unattractive proportions, a styling disaster with sales numbers to match. A competent drive though…This era of BMW cars in general will be less collectible b/c of peculiar Bangly styling.

    Z42 better styling than z4, but high cost, piggish weight (3,500lb roadster?) and HIGH price. Not impressed.

    Winner: z3 by a landslide

    • Rabbit

      Based on the 9 photos above I would say photos 2 + 8 reveal the carved out side door panels to be ugly and inferior in style to the original z3 in photos 1 + 7.  Yes, I agree with most that the original z3 styling was both retro and cool.  The newest z4 does look a bit like a MBZ; well, I cannot afford any of these, but a used 2002 Z3 might be within reach.  It’s is good that the carved out or sculpted door panels of the z4 have been changed and smoothed out, as has the back hump, which was also ugly.  So BMW basically wrecked the old z3 design for the newer z4 design.

      Now the performance, handling etc, well, those ar all other issues I know nothing about.  Enjoy your cool cars!  I drive a Honda Civic which has 4 doors and it is 11 years old!

    • Rabbit

      Based on the 9 photos above I would say photos 2 + 8 reveal the carved out side door panels to be ugly and inferior in style to the original z3 in photos 1 + 7.  Yes, I agree with most that the original z3 styling was both retro and cool.  The newest z4 does look a bit like a MBZ; well, I cannot afford any of these, but a used 2002 Z3 might be within reach.  It’s is good that the carved out or sculpted door panels of the z4 have been changed and smoothed out, as has the back hump, which was also ugly.  So BMW basically wrecked the old z3 design for the newer z4 design.

      Now the performance, handling etc, well, those ar all other issues I know nothing about.  Enjoy your cool cars!  I drive a Honda Civic which has 4 doors and it is 11 years old!

  • Ralph

    Z3 – classic and gentle styling which has undoubtedly dated. That said to my mind it is a great shape, not a straight line or slab looking panel anywhere on the car.

    Z4 – aggressisive futuristic styling that took a bit of getting used to and a chassis which outperforms the Z3 by some margin. In M spec it closes the gap on the Boxster and SLK.

    New Z4 – mmm. An undoubted beauty but again i’m noy sure about the hard top / roadster design. It just doesn’t work for me. Great interior, great performance.

    My Z3 is dated and performance wise the newer models win hands down. But they just don’t have the soul of the early model. Call me old fashioned but there’s something about the sheer simplicity of the Z3 that appeals. Isn’t that what a roadster is meant to be about? Lazy Sunday driving with the wind in your hair? Surely if you want a track weapon there are faster offerings at substantially less money!

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  • Lee

    z3 man to this day.

  • FB

    Z3
    – Always loved the look, kids all have their own cars so now own a
    ’97. I n my humble opinion it’s the ultimate roadster, front engine,
    light weight, rwd, no driving aids, just get in hang on and drive (of
    course it’s a 5 speed with a real stick). Classic roadster without
    the break downs of an old British roadster.

    Z4
    – Friend has one. Once room inside, not crazy about the dash, I
    liked the power, handling, but I can’t get past the Bangle exterior
    design. It felt a little too heavy too.

    New
    Z4 – Wow love looks are great. The Zagato experiment awesome!
    Haven’t had the privilege of driving a new Z4 yet. But is it still a
    roadster? Isn’t the definition of a roadster all about the basics,
    light weight, nimble, simple as in soft top not folding a hard top.
    To me it’s now in the same league as the MB SL, still more aggressive
    then the MB but more of a touring car then the previous Z’s.

    I
    even like driving my Z3 when it’s raining. Wife says I should get a
    new top. So what if the top leaks a bit, it still puts a smile on my
    face even after work every day, how many cars can do that.

    • deek

      A small dod of vaseline at the joint solves the leak

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