If the upcoming M version of BMW’s Z4 roadster fails to shake the less than macho image of its predecessor, some may discard their Porsche Boxsters and take up hairdressing…

If the upcoming M version of BMW’s Z4 roadster fails to shake the less than macho image of its predecessor, some may discard their Porsche Boxsters and take up hairdressing…

CARtoday.com reported recently that the new Z4 was longer and a bit wider than the outgoing Z3, rode on a longer stiffer platform and was equipped with a multilink rear suspension from the current 3-Series - “a big improvement over the unpredictable trailing-arm rear suspension of the previous roadster”, reported.

The Z3-based M Roadster never made it to our shores, but the 239 kW machine “could get truly frightening because the vague-feeling rear end never let you know when you were approaching the limit of control until you were about to lose grip entirely”, the report stated.

Shown to the South African public for the first time at last year’s Auto Africa motor show in Johannesburg, the Z4 promised much tauter and readily-predictable handling than its predecessor and featured a chic and more spacious interior. Yet the Z4’s aggressive new look has been controversial… Its combination of hard intersecting seams and rounded curves are meant to evoke lapping flames, but to some, the design looks ungainly.

The public is still making up its mind over the Z4, which will be launched in South Africa later in the year. In the meantime, BMW has developed an M-powered Z4 that will be significantly heavier in its loafers than any version of its predecessor, the Z3.

An M version of the Z4 was recently photographed in Europe. Featuring noticeable fascia modifications and a redesigned front apron and rear bumper, it’s expected to house the same 3,2-litre straight six and six-speed transmission that powers the 252 kW M3.

The production model will début at some point next year and just in time to bolster sagging M production numbers. Although BMW’s performance division sold 27 000 units worldwide in 2002, the manufacturer said it expects a significant slowdown in M production for 2003, “due to a gloomy economy, war concerns and model changeovers”.

The M Coupé was discontinued last year, the M5 looks set to become obsolete with the launch of the new 5-Series next month and it will be a while before an M-powered version of the upcoming 6-Series is launched. In the meantime, the hot Z4 will need to help the M3 in its battle with Mercedes-Benz’s armada of AMG cars.

But the question on everyone’s lips is… Will BMW’s proposed Porsche Boxster-basher be called the M4 or the M Roadster?