Engine: 3.2 litre petrol
Performance: 0-62 mph in 5.0 seconds, 23.3 mpg
Worth considering: BMW Z4 3.0si Sport Coupé, Mercedes SLK 55 AMG, Porsche Cayman 3.4 S
The list of equipment fitted to our test example of the BMW Z4 M Coupé had what I initially considered to be a curious omission. Unlike most cars in this price bracket, our Z4 had no built-in satellite navigation equipment - although, this being a BMW, not just one but two such systems are available as optional extras, at a price.
Now, I have to admit that I can bore for England on the advantages of sat-nav, but 10 minutes at the wheel were enough to tell me that this form of guidance is going to be pretty irrelevant to most Z4 M drivers. If you set off in it with any particular destination in mind, you're probably going to end up somewhere completely different, a lot further away.
More likely, you're just going to get in and drive for the sake of it, because it is an awful lot of fun. If you do end up using the Z4 M to make the sorts of journeys where sat-nav might be useful - struggling through heavy traffic to make that sales meeting in Doncaster by 4pm, for example - you've almost certainly missed the point.
So what makes the Z4 M so enjoyable to drive? Well, a lot of it is down to what's under the bonnet. BMW has long excelled in the design and manufacture of in-line six-cylinder engines and, while other layouts are now used for its biggest and most expensive models, there is still a feeling about that a true representative of the marque should have a straight-six - which the Z4 M does. And, with its super-edgy responses and zingy top-end, what an engine it is, too.
The best thing, from an enthusiast's point of view, is that most of the time it can be heard working for its living, although I have to say that to my ear, this car sounds more like a Porsche than a BMW. The cosy cabin and long, voluptuous bonnet add to the Z4 M Coupé's sporty feel, although the rear styling, as in the case of its Z3-based predecessor, looks a bit awkward.
I was pleased to see that the Z4 M has quite a lot of standard equipment, such as air conditioning and electrically adjustable seats, that is often omitted from hard-core performance models - supposedly in order to save weight. It didn't, though, have those ghastly metal pedals that most manufacturers feel compelled to fit to anything vaguely sporty these days, a big plus in my book.
Forget sat-nav. If you're a BMW fan after true driving enjoyment, the only directional guidance you'll need where the Z4 M Coupé is concerned is this; get down to your local dealer and try one now.
Paul Buckle, 32, IT consultant, Swindon, Wiltshire
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL ASTRA
I have always been a fan of high-revving naturally aspirated engines and this coupé's does not disappoint. Press the sport button and the sound fills the compact cabin with a symphony of metallic free-revving harmony. The gearbox was precise but not quite as good as a Honda Civic Type-R's, at less than half the price. Despite the seats being located almost over the rear axle, the ride was surprisingly forgiving but allowed the car to corner almost flat. Those well-heeled enough to buy one will undoubtedly pay the extra £50 for cup holders and back-of-the-chair nets. Even if they don't they will not regret their £40,000 decision. It is a very quick and appealing car.
Andrew Thomas, 55, PR manager, Blockley, Gloucestershire
USUAL CAR: JAGUAR S-TYPE DIESEL SPORT
Normally, being inside a car that's more Elephant Man than Scarlett Johansson is the best place to be as you don't have to look at it, but BMW has managed to screw that up too - the dashboard sports a ghastly slash of brushed aluminium that would shame a cheap 1980s hi-fi. It was impossible to position the wheel anywhere that didn't obscure the top half of the speedo. It's OK under 30mph or over 130, but anything in-between is guesswork. This is rubbish considering the price tag. Yet it's not all bad. The noise the thing makes is wonderful and the brakes would stop a supertanker. But as a weekend fun vehicle, a superbike would beat it every time.
Neil Perkins, 32, business analyst, Cannock, Staffordshire
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL ASTRA
The thought of driving this car was quite intimidating, compared with my usual car, particularly as it was raining on the day, but it was actually quite easy to drive. That is, until you floor the throttle in third, when all hell breaks loose and you are catapulted towards the horizon. The accompanying soundtrack is fantastic, and the engine and coupé body-style (much nicer than the slightly hairdresser convertible!) really make this car feel special and a head-turner, although the interior is a little basic for the money it costs. I would definitely have to think twice about spending the extra cash. So, would the heart or the head win? Probably the heart.
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