BMW’s Z4 has finally exited the womb after what feels like one of the longest pre-launch campaigns of any car ever. This fresh slice of six-cylinder Z fury has put us in the mood for a more affordable – and more available – option, and roadstering doesn’t get too much more affordable than this.
Back in the mid 2000s the Z4 was in its first (E85) generation. Built as a US-biased alternative to the Porsche Boxster, it majored on rear-wheel drive and sweet six-pot engines almost throughout the range, the only exception being Europe’s lowly 2.0i. The soft-top Z4 was as popular as free doughnuts, too, so after a decade or more on the road there are shiploads to choose from.
What do you make of the styling? It was, erm, controversial when it was launched, but we reckon this beauty, with its duck-tail spoiler and unmistakeable face has aged fantastically well.
From 2003 a 2.2-litre car served as the six-cylinder entry point until it was replaced for 2006 by a slightly torquier 2.5 with the same 174bhp – although outputs varied by market. It’s among these two power units that you’ll find the absolute bargain basement but there are better engines to consider as well. You may want to take a seat before you dive into the exhilarating depths of choice – all for less than £2500.
At the time of writing we found a risky-looking crash-damaged 3.0i for just £1500, a 2.5i with a broken roof, a dead key fob and a persistent engine management light issue for £1999 and what is probably our pick of the budget options: a 138,000-mile 2003 2.5i with some cosmetic issues but a little more bang for your buck.
This 189bhp rev-chaser will launch to 62mph in seven seconds flat, average over 30mpg if you’re extremely good at hypermiling and deliver proper BMW straight-six noise all year round. It also has a smart set of optional alloys, unlike some of the cars you’ll find with the boggo-spec 16-inch pram wheels lost inside chubby tyres. This is a car that, with a bit of elbow grease, could look like it was worth five times its asking price of £2350.
The main problem we can see is the condition of the wheels. They look a bit like they’ve been bounced around a quarry for a week. There’s some ugly wear to the (manual) gear lever and driver’s side seat bolster, but a little spend on fixes could have this old warrior looking almost like new. More to the point, the visible wear and tear looks honest. It’s not a car that’s too good to be true.
The end of summer might not seem like the best time to buy a soft-top, but that’s one way you could help haggle that price down even further. If we get a dry autumn, it’s the best season of the year to own a fun car. Who’s tempted?