When the word roadster is mentioned, one can’t avoid imagining top-down driving while enjoying the sun and the summer breeze. It’s also impossible not to think about that two-seater car with an engine in front and drive at the rear. And yes, when the word roadster is talked about, BMW’s M Roadster always come to mind.
The BMW M Roadster is the “M” or Motorsports performance variants of this German automaker’s Z3 and Z4 convertibles. The Z3 M variant was manufactured from 1998 to 2002 while the Z4 M performance model was made for 2006 to 2008 model years. Though the M engine came from Germany, all M Roadsters were assembled at BMW’s manufacturing facility in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
1998 - 2002: The Z3 M Roadster
Since it was built to serve as the performance model of the Z3, the M Roadster was expected to perform and look better than the Z3. On the outside, among the noticeable differences between the two models included the rear wings, front and rear bumpers, boot, gills, and mirrors. Underneath, many of the M Roadster’s components, including the suspension and the brakes, were beefed up to deliver better performance. The BMW M Roadster was also fitted with quad exhaust, which became a signature of BMW’s M division.
The early M Roadsters were fitted with the same engine found in the E36 M3. Models for the European market came with the S50B32 engine that was able to produce 321 horses while the North American variants derived power from the S52B32 engine that cranked out 240hp. These drivetrains were fitted with a ZF Type C 5-speed manual transmission, but the North American-spec models received an ASC+T traction control system.
For their five years in production (1998–2002), almost 15,000 M Roadsters were manufactured for Europe and North America. The production seemed very limited compared to the 300,000 units of Z3s built in the same timeframe and for the same markets. That’s what makes the BMW M Roadster very rare and highly sought-after by a lot of car and performance enthusiasts. In fact, it was included in Car and Driver’s Ten Best List for the 1999 model year.
2006 - 2008: Z4 M Roadster
The BMW Z4 M Roadster was introduced in late 2006 with a 3.2L S54 inline-6 engine, producing 343hp and paired with a new 6-speed "Type H" manual transmission. The Z4 Roadster borrowed some of M3’s components, including parts for the brakes and suspension. This version of M Roadster also came with a hydraulic steering setup. All Z4 M Roadsters—both for the North American and European markets—were equipped with the S54B32 engine paired with a new six-speed manual transmission. They were also outfitted with an M-tuned version of electronic stability control.
This BMW M Roadster received a premium package, which was available as an option. This package included power memory seats, cruise control, extended leather, upgraded audio, navigation, BMW Assist system, heated seats, and a body color aluminum hardtop.