Coupes have always had an important role in the history of BMW over the last 8 decades. It started with the 328 Karmann Coupe in pre-World War II Europe. The big coupe won the 1940 Mille Miglia and with its success would fall under the curtain of war spreading across Germany and the rest of Europe.
About 3 decades on an the world would be lucky enough to meet the BMW E9 coupe – which would go on to be a huge success in the European touring car series’, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and solidify BMW’s position as a genuine maker of modern, high performance coupes. The success of the roadgoing 3.0CSi of the early 1970’s was followed up by the more expensive, more luxurious and higher performing original E24 6 Series which would receive only minor cosmetic changes and a handful of engine upgrades over its 13 year production life culminating in the ultimate iteration with the first M6 in the history of BMW – powered by the venerable straight-six M88 engine.
The start of the 1990’s brought BMW’s biggest step forward in it’s big two door via the 8 Series. At its release in 1991, the 850i was the most expensive and most technically advanced vehicle in the history of the black, blue and white badge. In European spec, the 8 Series even came with an early version of the modern ASR system found on the F01 7 Series – allowing the driver to provide a few degrees of steering input to the rear wheels for improved handling at speed. Additionally, the variety of engines helped the 8 Series reach wider appeal with the M62 V8 engine of the 840i and the M70 V12 of the 850i.
With the demise of the ultra BMW coupe in the late 1990’s – many would think that it would not be until 2004 when the next 6 Series was released before BMW had another true coupe in the line-up. However, that would be an incorrect statement. During BMW’s absence from the big coupe market the role was supplanted by the tiny but quite wide E36 M Coupe based upon original Z3 Coupe. With a petite, lithe figure from head-on – the car swelled to a gigantic rear with blistered wheel arches and a fat, quad exhaust. Perhaps the Kim Kardashian of the late 90’s car market?
Due to it’s proportions and roofline , the Z3-based M Coupe was nicknamed the “Clown Shoe” and unlike a Kardashian, the original M Coupe had gobs of talent with its European-spec S50B32 engine pumping out 321 German horsies. In 2001, with the introduction of the E46 M3, the little 3 door coupe reached full potential with the S54B32 tucked under the hood for 333HP on tap. To manage the power, a limited slip differential was added over the standard Z3 coupe. All in, the Z3 M Coupe was one of the most underrated German sports cars of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and ironically, a car manufactured by engineers in their off-time with the intent of improving the torsional rigidity and overall performance of the original Z3 Convertible. By keeping the production and retooling costs to a minimum, the M Coupe was able to be brought to market – hence the sharing of many parts from the Z3 Convertible.
The original Z3 and M Coupe did not find a substantial market as this sort of shooting brake design was a far cry from what many expected from a BMW. However, as production wound down in 2002 – the car would quickly reach near-legend status with enthusiasts and the fastest S54-powered Coupes began fetching higher prices in the user car market.
Given the success of the original Z3 convertible, the Z4 replaced it in 2003 though the fate of the coupe version was yet to be determined. By 2005, a concept previewing the Z4 Coupe was released – giving enthusiasts hope for a new, lightweight baby BMW performance car. What followed did not disappoint – the Z4-based M Coupe took on the same S54 powerplant but adopted a much more elegant and sleek body, forgoing the enormous rump in favor of a more supple, tapered tail. The standard 3.0Si Coupe was a looker too and definitely no slouch with its 3.0L N52 engine with Valvetronic and 258 HP. However, as the global economy began to slow, the Z4 Coupe and M Coupe began to experience sales declines with incentives and “cash-in-trunk” deals being offered on the car just prior to the end of production. Despite the slowdown in sales, the performance and design of the second BMW shooting brake cannot be downplayed as one of the most fun and sexy BMW’s on sale in the last decade.
That said, will the Germans see it fit to grace the world with another small BMW coupe? We have the big 6 again in the F13 6 Series – but nothing to satisfy the lighter, smaller class of cars where performance isn’t entirely compromised by luxury. Yes, the 1 M Coupe satisfies that spot to a degree – but it does not have the sex appeal of a long-nosed sports car with a short wheel base and two kidney grills at the front. Frankly, the idea of either a coupe version of the Z4 sdrive35is or even an M-powered coupe pounding around with a S65 V8 under the hood – not too far off from a roadgoing Z4 GT3 perhaps?
The current Z4 sDrive35is has had its share of problems on the market given the type of incentives BMW is offering. Had BMW forgone the current Z4is and put an M-derived Z4 in its place – would sales perhaps be higher by better catering to the enthusiast market?
Included here are a few renderings from a post we had back in the fall hypothesizing what a Z4 Coupe could look like. It’s gorgeous and that’s not surprising – the current E89 Z4 Convertible is a gorgeous car too. Its wonderful with the long, sloping nose gliding back to the subtle yet still pronounced hips. If the E89 is such a big improvement and less polarizing over the E85 in droptop form – then how could an E89 coupe possibly be wrong?
Photos via Flickr