Premium sporty/performance car; Built in USA
  • 2-door convertible
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $8,000 – $27,500*

2003 BMW Z4

2004 BMW Z4

2005 BMW Z4

BMW Z4 interior

  • Acceleration
  • Exterior finish
  • Steering/handling
  • Cargo room
  • Noise
  • Ride

Ranking as a Recommended pick, any Z4 provides an excellent balance of performance, refinement, and driving excitement. Against prime competitors, the 2.5i cost as much when new as a Honda S2000, but is less powerful, while the 3.0i is by any measure a credible alternative to the comparably-priced Porsche Boxster.


BMW redesigned and renamed its premium two-seat sports car for 2003, making it slightly longer and wider, but with carried-over engines. Like the outgoing Z3, the Z4 was built in South Carolina. Unlike the Z3, it did not offer a coupe companion to the convertible body style.

Standard features included a manual soft top with heated glass rear window, run-flat tires, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, and an antiskid system. A power soft top was available. Rivals included the Audi TT, Honda S2000, Mazda Miata, and Porsche Boxster.

Two inline six-cylinder engines returned with unchanged power. The 2.5i used a 2.5-liter, while the 3.0i held a 3.0-liter engine. Higher performance M versions were not included. The Z4 2.5i came with a five-speed manual transmission, while the 3.0i used a six-speed manual. Both could have an optional five-speed automatic with a manual shift gate.

A six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) became available in midyear. Shifting via steering-wheel “paddles,” the computer-controlled SMG had no clutch pedal and could be set to shift like a conventional automatic.

Yearly Updates

2004 Z4
Little was new for the 2004 model year. The 2.5i rolled on 16-inch wheels, while the 3.0i held 17-inch rubber. An optional Sport Package included a sport suspension, plus increased wheel size to 17 inches on the 2.5i, or 18 inches on the 3.0i. It also added a Dynamic Driving Control console button that quickened throttle action and reduced power-steering assist.
Leather upholstery was standard in the 3.0i and optional for the 2.5i. Xenon headlamps were optional on both models. A removable hardtop and a wind deflector were dealer-installed options.
2005 Z4
Although the Sequential Manual Gearbox remained available on the 3.0i, it was dropped for the 2.5i. Options this year included heated seats, a navigation system, and BMW Assist emergency and concierge service. Chrysler’s Crossfire roadster was a new competitor.
2006 Z4
More powerful engines, freshened styling, and midyear introduction of a hatchback coupe mark 2006 for BMW’s two-seaters. All Z4s have an inline 6-cyl engine. The 215-hp 3.0i replaces the 184-hp 2.5i as the base convertible. New for ’06 is the 255-hp 3.0si in convertible and coupe form.
2007 Z4
Z4 carries over unchanged.
2008 Z4
Z4 carries over unchanged.


longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

BMW has offered two inline six-cylinder engines for the Z4. In the 2.5i, a 2.5-liter engine produces 184 horsepower, while the 3.0i holds a 3.0-liter six that makes 255 horsepower. Four transmissions have been available: a standard five-speed manual for the 2.5i (six-speed for the 3.0i), optional five-speed automatic for both, or a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox that combines the merits of a manual and automatic, and has no clutch pedal. For 2006, the 215-hp 3.0i replaces the 184-hp 2.5i as the base convertible. New for ’06 is the 255-hp 3.0si in convertible and coupe form.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152
Engine HP 184-215
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 175-185
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 255
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 220
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/198
Engine HP 330
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 262
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual


Road Test

Performance is a plus with either model. The Z4 2.5i is no slouch, able to accelerate to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds with a manual transmission. The Z4 3.0i is quicker yet: 5.8 seconds with manual shift. Both manual transmissions are smooth and easy to shift, though some testers would prefer a firmer, more mechanical feel. The automatic transmission is quick to downshift and supplies plenty of passing punch, even in the 2.5i. Some testers have branded the throttle as too sensitive in the Dynamic Driving Control’s sport setting.

With a manual transmission, test 2.5i models have averaged 20.8 to 25.7 mpg. Test 3.0i models managed 20.9 to 22.9 mpg. Both engines require premium-grade fuel.

Ride quality is appropriately firm. Some testers say 18-inch tires in the 3.0i’s Sport Package make the ride too jarring on all but smooth pavement. Others have found that the Z4’s tail rebounds over dips more than expected. Body rigidity is outstanding for a convertible.

Steering/handling is where the Z4 excels: Agile, grippy, and nearly flat in corners, the Z4 defines driving fun. Standard traction/skid control adds a measure of security. Steering is quick, predictable, and nicely weighted, though straightline tracking is compromised by the widest tires following road grooves. Some testers believe the “driving dynamics” sport setting imparts an artificially heavy feel. Braking is short and stable.

Wind and road noises are typical of a top-down convertible, but with its top raised, the Z4 2.5i is impressively quiet for a sports car. However, 17- and 18-inch tires can annoy with slap and rumble–especially the 18s.

Gauges are well-positioned, but audio-system readouts wash away in direct sunlight and headlamp controls are hidden by the steering wheel. Top-notch interior materials are assembled with care. Aluminum dashboard trim, standard on the 3.0i and optional for the 2.5i, is especially stylish.

Spacious for all but the most robust occupants, the Z4 has a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes to benefit driver positioning. Some testers wanted more lower-back support. Top-down visibility is good, except for interference from the roll bars. Like most convertibles, top-up visibility to the rear is poor. A low stance means difficult entry/exit with the top up.

For a two-passenger sports car, trunk space isn’t bad. It holds several gym duffels or two rolling carry-on bags. BMW says two golf bags fit inside. Interior storage is minimal, however.


Model Tested: 2004 Z4 3.0i w/manual transmission

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 8
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 10
Quietness - 3


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 0
Cargo Room - 2


Value - 8

Total: 51


2-door convertible
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
98.2 161.1 70.1 50.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
9.5 14.5 2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.3 42.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 2004 Z4 3.0i w/manual transmission 2-door convertible


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 3


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Engine knock
Description: Engine may run rough and trigger the check engine light due to defective ignition coils. Only BRMEI coils, not Bosch, were affected. (2003)
Keyless entry
Description: The remote keyless entry may not unlock the doors and is usually due to lack of use of the key, particularly the spare key, as the battery is recharged by the vehicle. (2003-05)
Oil leak
Description: Oil may leak from the cylinder head and/or valve cover gasket into the #2 spark plug well due to porosity in the M54 engine head casting requiring replacement (2003)
Description: If a batter charger is connected directly to the battery, it can trigger a trouble code on cars with the intelligent battery sensor. Battery chargers should be connected to the terminal under the hood, not the battery itself. (2003-05)
Description: The battery may die overnight if the key is left in the ignition on vehicles with electronic immobilizer system. (2004-06)
Electrical problem
Description: Due to a bad sensor, an erroneous low oil warning was coming on when the key was turned off and the company was replacing the sensor only if a customer complained. (2003)
Description: There was a service campaign to repair the telematics control unit (TCU) because it would go into the wrong mode at below freezing (32 degrees F) resulting in no telematics and possible battery discharge. (2004)

Recall History

Description: In the event of a crash on some cars, airbag deployment may not occur.
Description: Under certain environmental conditions, vapor lock in fuel pump could occur, causing engine to stall and be unable to restart for 15-20 minutes.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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