5 Cheap Alternatives To The 2025 BMW Z4 M40i Six-Speed Manual

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Here are some more affordable ways to engage with a knob.

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BMW finally gave purists what they wanted and is now selling the Z4 with a six-speed manual gearbox. Luckily, the Germans didn't just bolt in a manual gearbox. Instead, they made several updates to enhance the driving experience, and for the first time in ages, we're pretty excited about driving BMW's beloved drop-top again.

The only issue is that it's pretty expensive. The base price of a Z4 M40i is $66,300, and the manual is sold as a package (including a unique chassis tune, new steering wheel mapping, etc.) for an additional $3,500. That's $70,000, which is way more than the average American can afford these days.

We've already compared the Z4 to its modern rivals, but we decided to compile a list of budget-ish alternatives that will give you that drop-top, self-shifting experience for much less.


1. Porsche Boxster (981)

The Boxster has been the go-to roadster since it was launched in 1996. It's the default car because it just is. Many roadsters have tried to steal its crown, but the Boxster keeps batting them away like flies. But there's a big problem with the current model. For the same price as the Z4, you can only buy a new Boxster with a turbocharged flat-four engine. It's still epic to drive, but the engine's noise is a big no. Only Subaru engines should be allowed to make flat-four noises.

The first and second generations feel a bit old by now, but the third generation, which ran from 2012 to 2016, still feels fresh and exciting. You can buy a 2015 Boxster S with 20,000 miles on the clock for roughly $50,000. It probably won't be as fast as the BMW, but the 3.4-liter naturally aspirated flat-six produces 315 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, and it loves being abused. And don't forget about the sweet handling and the fact that it was essentially gremlin-free.

When we ranked all the generations of Porsche Boxster, this generation came out on top.

Porsche Porsche Porsche

2. Nissan 370Z

Until 2018, the Nissan 370Z had a six-speed manual with rev-matching. By then, it was already a 10-year-old car, which we complained about.

Looking back at it now, there's something special about the 370Z. It has all the classic two-seater drop-top traits we love. First, it was designed to be a roadster from the start, meaning it was engineered with body flex in mind, and its design was roadster-oriented from day one.

There's something to be said for naturally aspirated cars and their wonderfully linear power delivery. The 3.7-liter engine is old enough to be properly reliable, and it produces 332 hp at a lofty 7,000 rpm. The straight-line performance won't set your hair on fire, but you'll have loads of fun finding the limits of adhesion and feathering the throttle through the corners. And because it's so old, the 370Z predates electric power steering.

The only downside is the noise. The 370Z's V6 made a noise, but not a particularly enjoyable one from the factory. Thankfully, the aftermarket exists.

You can get a high-mileage 2009 model for as little as $14k, a great sports car bargain. Late model years with 30,000 miles on the clock go for roughly $30,000.

Nissan Nissan Nissan

3. BMW Z3 M Roadster

Unlike the beloved Clownshoe, one of the best M models ever made, the Z3 M Roadster hasn't increased in value by that much. There are several examples available, most priced between $20k and $22k. You get the odd $30,000 model that has been driven exceptionally sparingly.

Under the hood, you get the same 3.2-liter naturally aspirated S52 inline-six as the Clownshoe. From 1997 to 2000, it produced 240 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque, and for the 2001 and 2002 model years, the power was bumped up to 315 hp and 251 lb-ft, but any iteration sounded glorious regardless of its power output. Plus, you get a five-speed manual from when BMW was better at doing the stick-shift thing.

Without the rigidity of a solid fixed roof and due to its short wheelbase, the Z3 M Roadster can be a little gnarly, but that's part of its charm. This is the kind of car you want to get to know first; feel it out for a few weeks, and then turn the traction control off. But if you respect it, it's loads of fun.


4. C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

The final front-engine, rear-wheel-drive Corvette is a bargain, and you don't even have to buy the supercharged Z06 to beat the Z4. The standard Stingray is equipped with the tried and trusted 6.2-liter V8, producing 455 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque, sent to the rear wheels via a seven-speed manual.

It will reach 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, making it a blue-collar supercar for $40,000. That's where used prices have settled, with final model years selling for roughly $65k, which is still less than the Z4.

We'd look for a car with the Z51 Performance Package, which includes Chevrolet's magnetorheological adaptive damping. It's much better than the standard suspension setup and lets you get more out of the car. The Z51 package also included an electronic limited-slip differential, and what good is a Corvette if you can't partake in some tail-out antics?

But the big selling point is that massive V8 up front. It makes a splendiferous racket that no other car on this list can match.

Chevrolet Chevrolet Chevrolet

5. Honda S2000

Values for the Honda S2K have shot up significantly over the last few years. Three years ago you could get a nice example for $10k, but $30,000 for a 2000 model with 40,000 miles on the clock is now considered a fair deal. These prices will only increase, so you can justify buying one as an investment.

If you're here, you know what makes the S2000 so unique. It may be over 20 years old, but it's still on the list of highest-revving engines ever made in some pretty esteemed company, no less.

The tiny 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine produces 247 hp at 8,900 rpm. The engine loves to be worked hard, and you'll be doing a lot of shifting. That's good news because the shift quality is on another level. If you've ever driven an S2000, you'll know that the short mechanical throw is better than anything most manufacturers have cooked up over the years.

The S2K's value keeps increasing because there will never be anything like it again. Honda intends to go all-electric, so if there are plans to introduce a successor, it will most likely be powered by batteries.

2004-2009 Honda S2000 Side Perspective Driving Honda 2004-2009 Honda S2000 Front Angle View Honda 2004-2009 Honda S2000 Rear View Honda
2004-2009 Honda S2000 Side Perspective Driving
2004-2009 Honda S2000 Front Angle View
2004-2009 Honda S2000 Rear View

Bonus: 2005 Lotus Elise

There's a small pool of Series 2 2005 Lotus Elises available in the USA (the NHTSA granted Lotus a three-year leniency but pulled back because of the bumper and headlight positioning), and the prices vary wildly. There's a 20,000-mile example selling for $60,000 and a 37,000-mile unit selling for $45k. A model selling somewhere in the high 40s looks to be a fair deal.

The Elise is the least powerful car on this list, powered by the humble Toyota 2ZZ-GE 1.8-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. Yamaha had some input, but the best it could do was 189 horses, sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

This car is a bonus because it's not for everyone. It was made when Lotus was still all about simplifying and adding lightness, so you get a tiny body, a steering wheel, a gear knob, some dials, and that's pretty much it. Don't expect fancy pleasantries like noise insulation or seat cladding. As a result, it only weighed 2,000 pounds.

The Elise is a purpose-built old-school sports car that will thrill you every time you drive it, but you wouldn't want to drive it daily.

Lotus Lotus Lotus Lotus

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2004-2009 Honda S2000 Front Angle View

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