So, Munich's TVR is back?
That's right, but this one's a bit more sophisticated than the Z3-based version from the late 1990s. It's got the current M3's multi-award-winning straight six and no trace of the old M roadster's ancient semi-trailing arm rear suspension.
Not much to look at, is it?
It's certainly more discreet than the old M whose bulging arches and steamroller wheels meant it could never be confused for a weedy 1.9 Z3. But there are clues if you look hard enough: the quad exhausts at the rear, a light sprinkling of M badges, a couple of creases in the bonnet and a greedy-looking front bumper. The chunky sports seats wear an embossed M logo and the fat steering wheel looks like a big wurst.
The M roadster has always been about muscle. How much has this got?
A solid 338bhp enough for you? It's enough to propel the fastest Z4 to 62mph in 5.0sec, fractionally quicker than the mechanically identical but tubbier M3. It howls its way to 8000rpm, feeling strong everywhere, but especially so over the second half of the rev counter. The last M roadster had to make do with a five-speed manual box but this one has an extra ratio.
What about an SMG version?
Nope, there's no auto mode or paddleshift operation of a Sequential Manual Gearbox - the M Roadster is a committed three-pedal car. The manual is not the smoothest of transmissions at low speed, requiring serious concentration to shift smoothly between first and second but the ratios are nicely stacked and out back there's the brilliant M-differential, the clever bit of kit that turns ordinary BMWs into sideways heroes. There's a fair bit of understeer to contend with before you can settle into a slide but once going you can lay black lines for ever.
I'm reaching for the cheque-book...
Take your time, there's some bad news, not least the price: £42,795. And the boot is smaller than the cooking Z4's because the battery (usually mounted under the boot floor) has had to be lifted into the luggage space to make room for the unique M exhaust pipes. The ride's stiff, the engine doesn't seem as sweet as in the M3 (although that might have just been our test car) and the chassis just doesn't have the finesse of a Boxster's.
Anything else I need to know?
When BMW introduced the new M Roadster it also facelifted the rest of the range, introducing a more powerful 2.5 (pictured), the 215bhp Si, and pumping the 3.0-litre to 262bhp. They're both quick and don't look much different to the M. There's a tin top M coupe too which is stiffer, better to drive and £1510 cheaper than the M roadster.
Fabulous M3 straight six makes a great noise in angular Z4. It's fast and fun in a hammer-to-crack-a-nut manner, but it's too expensive and looks too much like a regular Z4 to distract us from the far more subtle charms of a Boxster S.