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Josh Rosenberg By Josh Rosenberg
Updated May 27, 2024

Have Older (2003 - 2016) BMW Z4 Models Aged Well?

Their Reliability, Possible Mechanical Problems, Overview, And Overall Pros And Cons

2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is Convertible

The BMW Z4 is a very well-regarded sports car, and due to today's high-priced used car market, many driving enthusiasts are looking for "older" models that have aged well as a way to save significant dollars.

And by "older", I am generally referring to 10+ year-old vehicles, so those produced within the Z4's first and second generations, which covered the 2003 - 2016 model years.

But clearly, prospective buyers must weigh the benefits of affordability and performance against potential drawbacks, such as higher maintenance needs and outdated technologies.

So, here, ...

- First, we'll look at what history has proven about the reliability of the first and second generation Z4s (again, 2003 - 2016).

Then we'll do an overview of both generation's features and characteristics so potential buyers can get to know the vehicle better.

- We'll then list each generation's possible mechanical issues as reported by owners so they can be checked before buying one today.

- And then we'll review the overall pros and cons of buying an older Z4.

But first, and very importantly ...

Things To Do When Considering An Older Z4

Locate Lower Mileage Vehicles: They are certainly out there to be found with careful and patient shopping. Be willing to drive a distance if you have to.

Vehicle History and Maintenance: Ask for the vehicle history report (CarFax or AutoCheck) as well as documented maintenance and repair records. If not provided by the dealer or private seller, it's usually best to move on.

Pre-Purchase Inspection: Have the vehicle independently inspected before making a final decision. This usually will cost in the $200 range but is well worth it given the potentially thousands in savings over the long term.

And My #1 Price Tip: It's important to get dealers to compete for your business by using auto sites such as and (both, actually), whether looking for a new or used car. Competition among dealers for your business is what gets you a lower price, and it's very easy.

And quickly, while we're at it, my #2 Tip is to always know the up-to-date trade-in value of your current car to insure you get a fair price. You can get a quick and surprisingly accurate one at Edmund's Trade-In Quotes.

It's free and just takes a couple of minutes. I think what helps its accuracy is the inputs will include either your plate# or VIN# followed by many simple, but specific, yes/no questions. It really focuses in on the detail of the specific vehicle.

2003- 2016 BMW Z4 Reliability

The reliability of the first and second generations of the BMW Z4 today largely depends on factors like maintenance history, mileage, driving conditions, and how well previous owners have taken care of the vehicle.

With proper maintenance, the first-gen Z4 can last in the 150,000 to 200,000 mile range, while some owners have reported Z4s reaching well beyond 200,000 miles with diligent care.

Both generations have had their share of mechanical problems, however. The first generation is often praised for its simpler, more mechanical nature, but it can have issues with its cooling system, electrical components, and suspension.

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The second generation, while more refined and comfortable, introduces more complex electronic and mechanical systems that can be prone to failure, such as the retractable hardtop and turbocharged engine components. However, regular maintenance and addressing issues early may have helped mitigate or even avoid some of these more common problems.

Early models (E85/E86): Below average reliability, with a tendency for mechanical issues to arise, particularly with high mileage. That said, compared to the second generation, the first-gen Z4 is mechanically simpler, which can mean fewer potential points of failure.

This version is perhaps better suited for enthusiasts who prefer a more straightforward sports car and are willing to perform or oversee regular maintenance.

Later models (E89): Average to above average reliability, with improvements in engineering and quality control reducing the frequency of mechanical issues. However, the E89 tends to have higher running costs due to its more complex systems and more expensive parts, particularly the retractable hardtop mechanism.

This version may be better suited for those who value comfort and modern features and are prepared for potentially higher maintenance costs.

And generally speaking, given that most of these cars are now over a decade old, age-related issues such as rubber component degradation (bushings, gaskets) and electronic issues (sensors, wiring) can be anticipated as more likely.

Overall, while the BMW Z4 has some reliability concerns, particularly in the earlier models, many of these issues can be mitigated with proper care and maintenance. Additionally, later models have shown improvements in reliability, making them a more attractive option for those seeking a dependable driving experience. (More on specific mechanical problems below.)

First Generation (2003 - 2008) BMW Z4 Overview

2007 BMW Z4 Coupe

The first Z4 generation was a redesign of BMW's popular two-seat Z3 sports car. While the strong engines were carried over from the Z3, the Z4 was slightly longer and wider. The end result was a sleek sports car with a head-turning design, excellent performance-oriented driving dynamics, and plenty of available premium features.

Built in South Carolina, like the Z3, it was offered in convertible body style only ... there were no hardtop coupes from this generation.

This Z4 is a more than capable competitor to the likes of the Audi TT, Mazda Miata, Honda S2000, and Porsche Boxster, and is powered by a choice of two athletic inline six-cylinder engines: a 2.5-liter found in the 2.5i model produces 184 horsepower, as well as the 3.0-liter in the 3.0i that delivers 225 horsepower.

Standard transmissions for the Z4 are a five-speed manual on the 2.5i and a six-speed manual on the 3.0i. These older Z4 models can also be found with the optional five-speed automatic with a manual shift gate. A six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) can also be found in some models, shifting via steering-wheel "paddles".

Standard features on both models include run-flat-tires, a manual soft top with heated glass rear window, antilock four-wheel disc brakes, and an antiskid system. Some models can also be found with the optional power soft top.

The 2.5i is equipped with 16-inch wheels while the 3.0i comes with 17s. Some models can be found with the optional Sport Package that adds a sport suspension and 17-inch wheels for the 2.5i and 18s for the 3.0i. This package also adds Dynamic Driving Control where a button on the console speeds up the throttle action and reduces power-steering assist.

A leather interior is standard on the 3.0i and an option on the 2.5i. Either of these Z4 models can also be found with stand-alone options such as heated seats, xenon headlights, navigation, and BMW Assist emergency and concierge service.

First Generation (2003 - 2008) BMW Z4 Possible Mechanical Problems

This version of the Z4 has had a number of mechanical problems reported, which should therefore be included in an inspection before buying. Of course, not all models have had these issues, but each has been reported by some owners:

General Considerations: Be cautious of early production issues (2003 - 2005), especially with window regulators and convertible top motors. If opting for these years, ensure these issues have been addressed by previous owners. For the facelift models (2006 - 2008), these are preferable for their improved reliability and updated features.

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Window Regulators: This is a somewhat common failure, leading to windows getting stuck or moving slowly.

Convertible Top Motor:The top is prone to water damage due to poor drainage, causing its motor to fail.

Cooling System: The radiator and expansion tank have sometimes developed cracks and leaks over time, requiring replacement.

Water Pump and Thermostat: Both components tend to fail around 60,000 to 80,000 miles.

Suspension: The control arm bushings may wear out relatively quickly, causing clunking noises and poor handling. And the rear shock mounts are prone to failure, leading to rattling noises from the rear.

Valve Cover Gasket: Some owners have reported oil leaks, especially in higher mileage cars.

DISA Valve (Dual Intake System Adjustment): Can fail, causing rough idle and reduced performance.

Electric Power Steering (EPS): Some models experienced a sticky or notchy feel, particularly in hot weather. Also, some owners have reported jolts or clunks from the steering wheel when braking. This is usually due to a faulty front control arm bracket bushing.

Clutch and Transmission: Clutch Delay Valve (CDV): Causes inconsistent clutch feel; many owners opt to remove or modify it.

Second Generation (2009 - 2016) BMW Z4 Overview

BMW Z4 Convertible (2009)

In this version, the coupe and roadster models were merged into a single form with a retractable hardtop. The exterior design became more curvaceous as opposed to the more angular look of earlier models. The cabin also got some additional room, a refresh and higher-grade materials.

The base engine was also upraded to the previous model's best, while the top-of-the-line engine became a twin-turbo straight-6.

Models were renamed the sDrive30i and sDrive35i, with the first powered by a 3.0-liter inline-6 that's rated at 255 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque. Under the hood of the sDrive35i is the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces a robust 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

Both engines are coupled with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. However, these models can also be easily found with the optional 6-speed automatic on the sDrive30i as well as a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual on the sDrive35i.

Standard features for both models include adjustable driving settings, xenon headlights, HD radio and 6-way manually adjustable seats. Additional standard features on the sDrive35i include sun-reflective leather upholstery, premium aluminum interrior trim, and automatic climate control (all available options on the sDrive30i).

These Z4 models can also be found with options such as heated seats and steering wheel, navigation with the iDrive interface, Bluetooth, an iPod interface, power seats with driver memory settings, an upgraded audio system, and a Sport package that features sports seats and an adaptive suspension.

Overall, the BMW Z4 is one of the premium sports cars in its class and can make a solid older car choice for those seeking a more performance-oriented convertible.

Second Generation (2009 - 2016) BMW Z4 Possible Mechanical Problems

While improved over the previous generation, and generally considered reliable, there have still been reported issues by owners which therefore should be included in a pre-purchase inspection:

General Considerations: Exercise caution with the early models (2009 - 2011) due to potential issues with the N54 engine and electronics. Confirm that any recalls or updates have been completed. The post 2011 models are generally more reliable and have fewer issues, benefiting from the improvements made over the initial production years.

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Steering Wheel Clunks: Similar to the first generation, some owners report steering wheel jolts during braking.

iDrive System: Some owners report occasionally experiencing software glitches and failures.

Battery Drain: This can be an issue due to various electronic components staying active even when the car is off.

Water Pump and Thermostat: Electric water pumps can fail, often around the 60,000 to 80,000-mile mark, similar to the first generation.

High-Pressure Fuel Pump (HPFP): Particularly on the turbocharged N54 and N55 engines, have had some reports of failure.

Fuel Injectors: Can fail and lead to rough running and poor performance.

Valve Cover Gasket and Oil Filter Housing Gasket: Both are fairly common sources of oil leaks.

Suspension: Control arm bushings, similar to the first generation, can wear out and can cause handling issues. Also, some owners have reported that their rear shock mounts have experienced failure, leading to noise from the rear suspension.

Retractable Hardtop: The hydraulic pump and mechanism is complex and can be expensive to repair if it fails. Issues can include leaks and motor failures.

Turbocharger Issues (for turbocharged models): Some models have experienced a wastegate rattle, more common on N54 engines, leading to a rattling noise and potential boost pressure loss.

Pros And Cons of Buying an Older BMW Z4 Today

BMW Z4 Pros:

Affordable: Generally more affordable on the used market compared to newer models, making for potentially significant upfront cost savings.

Engaging Driving Experience: Known for its sharp handling and engaging driving dynamics, appealing to driving enthusiasts.

Simplicity: Fewer complex systems, particularly in the first generation, mean potentially lower repair costs and fewer things that can go wrong.

Potential for Appreciation: As a classic, well-maintained and lower mileage examples might hold their value or even appreciate over time.

Distinctive Design: The Z4 has a bold and distinctive design, characterized by its sharp lines and muscular stance. It's considered a classic by many enthusiasts.

Engine Choices: Offered a range of inline-6 engines, which were known for their smoothness and reliability. The high-performance M Roadster and M Coupe variants were particularly well-regarded in the 1st-gen, while the turbocharged engines of the 2nd-gen provide a good balance of performance and fuel efficiency, and the high-performance sDrive35is variant offers significant power.

More Modern Features: The 2nd-gen Z4 offers more modern amenities, better infotainment systems, and advanced safety features compared to the first generation.

Retractable Hardtop: The 2nd-gen features a retractable hardtop, which provides the benefits of both a coupe and a convertible, contributing to the car’s practicality and all-season usability.

Improved Comfort: The 2nd-gen also provides a more comfortable ride with better noise insulation and a more refined suspension setup.

Interior Quality: The second generation also improved overall interior quality with upgraded materials.

Manual Transmission: Available with a 6-speed manual transmission, which adds to the driving pleasure for enthusiasts.

BMW Z4 Cons:

Age-Related Issues: As these cars are older, they may have age-related wear and tear, requiring more frequent repairs.

Maintenance Costs: While purchase prices are lower, maintenance costs can add up, especially if major components need replacing. BMWs are also costly to maintain and repair.

Limited Technology: Lacks modern infotainment, safety features, and conveniences found in newer vehicles.

Availability of Parts: Some parts may be harder to find or more expensive as the car ages.

Complexity: The 2nd-gen's more advanced systems, such as the retractable hardtop and turbocharged engines, can be expensive to repair if they fail.

Interior Quality: Some critics have noted that the interior quality and materials of the 1st generation were not up to the standards of its competitors.

Ride Comfort: The ride can be harsh, especially on rough roads, due to its sporty suspension setup.

Storage Space: Limited trunk space, especially in the roadster variant, which can be a drawback for those looking for practicality.

Driving Dynamics: While still good, some purists feel the second generation lacks the raw, connected feel of the first generation, partly due to the added weight and refined nature.

Weight: The retractable hardtop of the 2nd-gen adds weight, which slightly compromises the car’s agility compared to the first generation.

Lastly, Suggestions For Getting A Low Z4 Price

First of all, here's a Lowest Price Used Car Buying Guide that details a very effective method.

Here's another method that identifies Price-Distressed Cars Right On Dealer Lots. These are vehicles they are so desperate to unload they would welcome your wholesale offer.

In addition, you can also try the Public Car Auctions in your own geographic area. This article reviews what to expect at open-to-the-public car auctions and how to locate them.

And for those of you who might be interested in a "brand new" BMW Z4 if the price was really good, here's info on exactly How To Get The Best Price On A New Car. This works just phenomenally well.

And checkout our Facebook page for more tips, car news and fun.

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