Friday, 20 May 2011


Among the compact sports cars, the BMW Z4, Porsche Cayman and Porsche Boxster stand out. But which is you? And why did BMW and Porsche wait so long before making the coupes? There is no Boxster coupe, but the Cayman is virtually the same - but uprated.

It might appear peculiar the two German companies, well-known for high-performance and sporty vehicles, waited to make an announcement about their coupes at the same time. The answer lies in why they introduced the roadsters in the first place.

Porsche wanted a new, smaller model to increase its market coverage. Not everyone loves the 911, and not everyone wants a coupe. So it made sense to select the mid-engine layout - the 911 is rear-engined - and the better balance that gives in designing the Boxster. At the same time, the addition of an open-top racer would also increase sales. And both tricks worked.

But what about BMW? Well, BMW wished to build autos in the United States, and did not want to build the same autos it built in Germany as that would increase costs. So it decided to build a racer for the US market, although it would be marketed elsewhere.

At that time there was more potential volume for a boulevard cruiser sort of two-seater than an out-and-out sports car in the United States, so the BMW Z3 was born. It was a rather tall car for a sports auto, and though a hardtop was offered, it looked peculiar, making the car look even taller than it was.

Z4 more sporty than Z3

The BMW Z3 did not actually catch on in Europe, so the Z4 was designed as a more sporty automobile than the Z3, and with its 3-liter engine which develops 265 bhp, is a good match in performance for the Porsche Boxster. Meanwhile, Porsche made a decision to fill out its range with an additional model, to be priced between the Boxster and the 911. In reality, the Cayman is based on the Boxster, but has more sporty suspension, and has a larger engine. Now, though you can get a Cayman with a 2.7 liter engine as well as the 3.4 litre job. The Boxster gets 2.7 and 3.2 liters.

Because Porsche makes flat-six engines, it can easily produce engines of different capacities from 2.7 to 3.8 liters, and many parts are shared by all of them.

If you are looking for a sporty automobile, then you will want to look at the Z4 3-liter, which produces 265 bhp, and reaches 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, a time matched by the Boxster 3.2. The Cayman is a fragment faster, getting to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Mind, if you need maximum performance from these vehicles, you can get the BMW Z4 M, with over three hundred bhp on tap.

Choosing between Z4 and Cayman

But when it comes to the choice between the Z4 and Cayman coupes,you will be influenced by which one looks better. Though the Z4 looks miles better than the Z3 it does have some quirky lines, which don't appeal to everybody, and the coupe is no better.

The Cayman has the customarily slick Porsche lines, with a long tail and built-in spoiler which looks good. On the road performance is not much different, and both have super engines and gearboxes, but they don't do things in quite the same way. The Cayman is a superbly balanced vehicle that may be driven fast with confidence, but if you need to hang the tail out, the Z4 might be more to your liking.

Both are great sports automobiles, and will give you a lot of fun. What else should you consider? Nissan's 350Z is also quite a vehicle, with a lusty V-6, the Mercedes-Benz 350 SLK 350 and new Audi TT are also worth having a look at.

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