The 2006 BMW M Roadster is a car born for traveling mountain and canyon roads. The 330-horsepower, 262 lb.-ft of torque, and six-speed manual transmission work together with the fluidity of synchronized swimmers to propel the two-seater up and down any road you can throw in its path. Backing up the power are staggered 18-inch wheels and low profile tires that are eight inches wide up front and nine inches wide at the rear, stability control, traction control, ABS, an M sport-tuned suspension, and a plethora of other performance tweaks at your disposal. Designers didn't just boost the horsepower and slap an M badge on the Z4 roadster. The BMW M Roadster gets an all-new front fascia with recessed vertical slats that are painted black along with larger ducting to keep the bigger brakes and more powerful engine cool. Designers also added discreet hood lines that flow up the hood toward the driver giving the M Roadster a more muscular look. At the rear, the M Roadster gets a diffuser, an optional spoiler, and cutouts for the dual exhaust tips as well as an M badge for people to ponder as you blow past.
Inside, the 2006 BMW M Roadster is void of the dreaded iDrive system; hallelujah! Nothing but a basic leather and aluminum-trimmed interior was on our test car, although you can also choose between carbon leather and a more elegant walnut madeira wood to replace the metal trim on the dash. BMW chose to keep the M Roadster simple and for that we applaud them. Optional equipment for the M Roadster includes auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, eight-way power seats with driver's seat memory, cruise control, a premium sound system, an interior storage package, BMW assist telematics, metallic paint, an M rear spoiler, interior trim options, heated seats, and a navigation system.
Despite the ability to upgrade the M Roadster with luxurious amenities, this sports car isn't for everyone and the faint of heart need not apply. The M Roadster is a serious driving tool aimed directly at enthusiasts who like to push the limits of the road as well as their driving skills, and desire a car that can meet any challenge thrown its way.
Fun to Drive
Loading of Cargo
Price of Test Vehicle: $56,045 (includes 695.00 destination charge & 1,000.00 gas guzzler fee)
Engine Size and Type : 3.2 liter 24-valve inline six-cylinder
Engine Horsepower: 330 at 7,900 rpm
Engine Torque: 262 lb.-ft. at 4,900 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Curb Weight, lbs.: 3,197
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 16/24 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 15.5 mpg
Length: 161.9 inches
Width: 70.1 inches
Wheelbase: 98.3 inches
Height: 51.3 inches (top up)
Max. Seating Capacity: 2
Legroom (front): 42 inches
Headroom (front): 37.3 inches (top up)
Max. Cargo Volume: 7.1 cu.-ft. (top down); 8.0 cu.-ft. (top up, thanks to a movable panel)
Competitors: Chevrolet Corvette Convertible, Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 Roadster, Mercedes SLK 55 AMG, Nissan 350Z Convertible, Porsche Boxster S
If you love to drive with the wind whipping your hair, and if you've got 50 grand to spend on a fun car for weekends, go immediately to the local BMW dealer and take a test drive in the new M Roadster. This is not a car for sissies. This is a serious driving machine, a thrill ride like few others, a no-nonsense implement designed to cover ground at maximum velocity. That means it has confining seats with hard bolsters. That means it has a stiff clutch that is absolutely no fun at all in traffic. That means it has a ride quality that could reverse whatever work dentists have performed since you were a teenager. The BMW M Roadster is a raw, unforgiving automobile designed for mountain roads and coastal highways, not city streets and urban freeways.
I know, because I took our test car through the Los Angeles basin to Koreatown for lunch, then over to the coast and up into the mountains of Malibu. As long as traffic is flowing and the pavement is smooth, the M Roadster is livable once you get used to the bottom bolsters pinching your thighs. When traffic clogs, and when traversing deteriorated city streets, the M Roadster is literally painful to drive. Get into the mountains on a favorite twisty road, and you'll revel in the fluid gearbox, the broad powerband, the unflappable brakes, the stout chassis, the telepathic steering, and the excellent tires. On open stretches, the M Roadster easily achieves triple-digit speeds, never feeling anything less than composed even on undulating and uneven surfaces.
Still planning to buy one for the daily commute, city dweller? Don't say I didn't warn you.
BMW M Roadster – Brian Chee's Opinion:
Hard to believe that this is basically an M3 shoehorned into a Z4's body. And what a concept too – God Bless those wonderful Bavarians for thinking of it. Of course, I oversimplify the process, and I am sure that there was quite a bit of smoke coming out of the engineers' ears inside the lab and on the track. So, thanks. Thanks for making such a superbly balanced, mean-streets roadster. Thanks for redeeming yourselves for the regular Z4, for even making the M better to look at. Three hundred and thirty times, thanks – for putting the M3's inline six into this car. Acceleration is sharp and power comes on like Sharkie at a minion convention. Handling is a joy – this is a true driver's car, with plenty of grip coming from the Continental tires, but enough wiggle to give you that bristling feeling of euphoria while you're on a twisty circuit. The steering wheel – a real, beefy racer's unit – feels great in hand and crisply complies with your commands. Brakes are a bit sensitive, true, but amazingly sharp, and the shifter is sublime, slotting into each gear with a confident thunk.
Inside the vehicle, things aren't as much fun. Though I liked the austere ambience, I can see how some may find it a bit too plain – you know us, the lazy, slow and comfort-craving American car buyer. The seats are uncomfortable, and it's a bit of a challenge to get in and out.
Then again, maybe I'm just getting old and fat.
The top – an unsightly beige cover that nonetheless works flawlessly – also provides plenty of head room. In back, the trunk is big enough for one medium-sized suitcase. So tell the significant other that you're headed out for a driver's weekend, yo – no spouses invited – and plot your favorite route. Then hit the road, and hard, for driving the BMW M Roadster is the kind of experience from which you may never want to come home from.
BMW M Roadster – James Fabin's Opinion:
What happens when you take the fun to drive BMW Z4 roadster and throw in a 330 hp engine, larger brakes, and give it the coveted BMW M treatment? The results may surprise you; but only if you haven't driven the BMW Z4 in the M-less 3.0 version.
I have been driving the previous BMW Z4 3.0 for two years now and know the car intimately, making it easy to see exactly what the M treatment, along with other improvements for 2007, have brought to this vehicle. Most important is the performance, which when compared to other vehicles is clearly outstanding. In a straight line the BMW M Roadster is powerful and fast, the throttle operating more like an F14's afterburners, and enough grip through the corners that you might swear you're breaking the laws of physics. Punch the throttle a little too much and the electronic safety systems kick in quickly to maintain your trajectory. Disabling the electronic nannies is fairly simple, but the relatively small, light car can become frightening unruly in twists and turns. Yet, whether driving to work or out to play, the M Roadster has a suspension that handles the road much better then in previous Z4s, and while broken surfaces can give the car a rutted feeling, gone are the hard crashes and harsh bounces.
Inside the M Roadster is all business. The dash maintains the clean look of the previous version with all the buttons and switches logically placed within the driver's reach. The steering wheel is peculiarly thick – far too thick for my preferences. The seats are true sport seats with extra side bolstering and those of use who frequent American fast food restaurants will regret super-sizing our waistlines. As for the transmission, the clutch was as perfect as they come, but the mechanical and noisy shifter lessened my driving enjoyment. Shifting from first to second gear felt too long, but once you're past second the transmission zips through all six speeds.
At the end of my drive in the BMW M Roadster I walked away with mixed feelings. The M is clearly better than the car it's based on, but I keep asking myself if this vehicle is worthy of the M badge decorating its tail because, in my opinion, it falls short of what defines a true BMW M vehicle. However, when taking into account the relatively minor price increase for the M treatment, buying this car over the Z4 3.0 is a no-brainer. That makes the M Roadster the bargain of the century when it comes to M vehicles; just don't expect the full M wow factor.
Photos by Ron Perry