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IT'S APPROPRIATE THAT BMW HAS BESTOWED PERhaps the most extreme example of its ridiculous new naming convention—sDrive3Sis—upon the most extreme version of its Z4 sports car. The "s" suffix stands for "sport," and it definitely means business.

The current Z4 debuted with the top model—the Z4 sDrive35i—powered by BMW's venerable 300-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo in-line six-cylinder (code-named N54). The sDrive35i, as opposed to all other BMW "35i" vehicles, stands pat for 2011 and doesn't get BMW's new N55 singleturbo 3.0-liter straight six. Likewise, the sDrive35is gets a more heavily boosted N54, which results in jumps of 35 hp and 69 lb-ft of torque—and also results in the nose of the car jumping upward during hard acceleration.

It's therefore easy to believe BMW's claim that the Z4 sDrive35is (henceforth referred to as "35is") can sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds—0.3 second quicker than the $9150-cheaper sDrive35i (heretofore "35i") with a dual-clutch automatic. The transmission qualifier is important because, unlike the 35i, the 35is comes only with a seven-speed dual-clutch unit. That may sadden traditionalists, but at least the gearbox is incredibly responsive. It's unfortunate, however, that BMW designed each wheel-mounted shift paddle to handle both upshift and downshift duties. Once behind the wheel of a 35is at New Jersey Motorsports Park, though, we were content to leave the transmission in its automatic sport mode and simply savor the car's gobs of power and nice steering.

A number of visible changes differentiate the 35is from its lesser siblings, including silver sideview mirrors, carbon-fiber-like interior trim, and special front and rear fas-cias. We'd still love to see BMW build an M version of the Z4, but it's hard to argue with the 35is's fast formula.

specs 3.0L twin-turbo 1-6,335 hp, 369 lb-ft; rear-wheel drive

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