Video: What Matters in a Modern Sports Car?

BMW’s Z4 M Coupe

This oddball suffered plenty of criticism, and was never a huge seller. However, the S54 inline-six powerplant and sleek looks endeared it to those who wanted a slightly quirkier sports car than a GTO or an STI. It was also very analog, meaning it didn’t have many systems intruding and keeping the driver from hustling the car around. That torquey motor and no weight over the rear wheels allowed the driver to provoke the back end without much provocation, and that kept the driver on their toes.

The Z4 M in focus here is one of the few machines which could actually work well on the street and the track, which few can truthfully do. This tuned example was modified by Speedware Motorsports of Redmond, Washington, which took a few, appropriate, well-matched parts that kept the car streetable, but sharpened the edges slightly. No rock-hard suspension, and no complete engine overhaul, but just incremental improvements while focusing on the tactile interface with the machine. Smaller wheels improved ride quality, and the hydraulic motor mounts replaced the solid mounts it had. The car had to be comfy; they weren’t interested in rattling their fillings out.

A minor tune and a lightweight flywheel setup, plus headers and an intake gave the S54—which contrary to their opinion is a very torquey motor—that sort of response a trackcar should have. Unlike the modern M cars, this car has no turbochargers, and builds the power smoothly, quickly, and predictably.

Photo credit: Car Club of Manhattan.

Photo credit: Car Club of Manhattan.

“They’ve made it sharper, they’ve made it feel like a package of things that work together, and you smell gasoline!” Drive executive producer Mike Spinelli adds. “It rotates from your hips,” chimes in Michael Prichinello, “You’re on the fulcrum.” Perhaps that’s what modern cars need—short declarations of love. They carry more weight than facts about roll centers, anyways.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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