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Road & Travel's 2004 Sexy Car Buyer's Guide

2004 BMW Z4
Shades of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, where not one but three sexy lasses kicked backsides while barely batting an eye. With its slight rear spoiler riding high at seemingly supersonic speeds, BMW's Z4 surely can kick a few competitors squarely in the exhaust as well.

The Bavarian automaker calls its American-built roadster a painting done with "broad strokes," with more visible BMW in the cultural lineage of this road hugger than the Z3 predecessor. The result: The kind of "pow, zap" knockout punch in its second season that even a bevy of bustling crime-busting beauties could take to the bank.

A varied mix of amenities highlight the sport roadster's pick-and-choose philosophy, expanded for '04 including a hardtop version. Add four transmissions (a five-speed auto STEPTRONIC with sport mode function among them), two models, and a range of starting prices from the mid-30s to low 40s. Power comes from a pair of responsive inline sixes, from the M54 engine family. The 2.5i puts out 184-HP while the 3.0-liter inline six churns out 225-HP.

By design, the Z4 has classic visual appeal, capturing years of heritage with an eye on the future. (Remember the original Angels of some two decades ago, surpassed in energy and execution by the latest crop?) The Z4 retains distinctive "beltline" styling that outlines its characteristic window edges and driver cocoon, while sectioned curves and valleys highlight a roadster that, in purest form, would call for an open top, long snout, and room for two set back and low. BMW adds the tagline: "Pure driving pleasure."

Leather adds interior luxury, while BMW-type paddle controls (for the available Sequential Manual shift) remain baffling to the uninitiated. But with the softtop down, there's little more than a breeze in the face, something BMW definitely worked to get right. Top up, it simply runs free. Brake lights grow more intense with sudden stops to warn anyone driving behind, thanks to adaptive braking.

BMW's four-year or 50,000-mile full maintenance promise brings the assurance of a secure future. That beats the brief cinematic reign of Charlie's Angels' newest -- unless there's a sequel in the works.