The BMW Z8 was a special car when it arrived for the 2000 model year, with hand-assembled, aluminum construction and limited production of just over 5,700 units. Why then, has it taken approximately twenty years for for the model to effectively come into its own? The Z8 was a range-topping halo car when it was new, and only our perception of it has changed over the last two decades. What’s different now? Why is the model the focus of renewed attention over the last few years, with a market that seems to be growing, and appreciating valuations?
Perhaps it’s because the intentions of the Z8 weren’t particularly clear when it was unveiled, with modern design applied to an age-old formula, and an elegant aesthetic wrapped around a drivetrain with a contrasting personality. We know the Z8 can trace its roots back to the 507, but is the modern range-topping BMW roadster from the turn of the new millennium supposed to be a sports car, or a grand tourer? Was it a throw back to another era of BMW, or is it a contemporary take on a classic configuration that many of us never knew we needed?
Whatever the Z8 was supposed to be when it arrived, twenty years worth of hindsight allow for a more accurate understanding of one of BMW’s greatest models. If a label must be assigned, the Z8 is the definition of a modern classic, with the technology of its era applied to the time-tested formula of a sleek body wrapped around a potent V8 drivetrain.
In a recent video by Harry Metcalfe for his YouTube channel Harry’s Garage, the former Evo magazine editor puts a Z8 through its paces twenty years after the model was new and first featured in the publication. The test drive and video are revealing, and with the clarity of twenty years through which to view the model, Metcalfe describes the greatest BMW roadster of all time as the essence of a modern classic. Although it shares its drivetrain with the E39 M5, the driving experience of the Z8 couldn’t be more different, thanks to a model-specific exhaust and relaxed gearing, both of which pay homage to the 507 and the era from which it came. When viewed in the context of other “throwback” models that followed in subsequent years, the Z8’s intentions become clearer; it’s easy to see why the model is experiencing an appreciation in recent years to become something genuinely special in the BMW lineup (which it really always was), and why it’s an integral part of the BMW dream team from the turn of the century.—Alex Tock
[Photo courtesy BMW AG. Video courtesy Harry’s Garage on YouTube.]