If the Z4's predecessor was aligned with the E30, the Z4 is fundamentally an E46--a quantum leap in chassis goodness. The 330i is a favorite of everyone here, and the idea of a two-seat roadster version set great expectations. Smaller, lighter and more agile with the same 3.0L, 225-hp inline six, on paper at least the Z4 could only be good to drive.

A six-speed manual matches the number of ratios in the Boxster S but is more delicate than the transmission found in the M3 and M5. The exhaust note could be accused of aping the smaller-engined Boxster's, but that's hardly a bad thing.

People are used to loving the styling of new BMWs instantly. The Z4 is the second new model that will have to grow on many fans of the marque. Certain elements, such as the high bustle on the trunk lid, correspond to the same engineering challenges faced in the design of the new 7 Series. The Z3's traditional long roadster hood is preserved, if not exaggerated. It will at least be interesting to watch and find out whether BMW succeeds in dragging its fans kicking and screaming into the future or if they choose to live in the past.

Eight Great Contenders for Car of the Year
Mercedes-Benz E500
Porsche Boxster S
BMW Z4 Roadster
Saab 9-3
Jaguar XJR
New Beetle Convertible
Volvo S60 R
Audi RS6
2003 european car Grand Prix Winner
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