Normally the PR hype surrounding a new car can be dismissed as exactly that. But, after sampling the new BMW Z4 coupe on near-deserted Scottish roads (with at least one car drawing unwanted attention from local police) it's difficult to disagree with chief designer Adrian van Hooydonk's description: "a pocket GT".

Although it is only now coming out, several years after the roadster (which has even been updated since launch), the coupe was designed in tandem with its sibling in the late '90s. That'll be why it avoids the after-thought 'bread van' looks of its Z3 predecessor, then.

"In common with the outgoing Z3, when designing the new Z4 family, we were designing a roadster for those who appreciate open-topped motoring and the coupé for customers who want a compact long-distance GT car," van Hooydonk said.

And that seemed to be the lochside over-lunch analysis of the assembled assorted hacks from consumer and trade press. In fast 265bhp 3.0si 'standard' form or ohmygawd-fast 343bhp 3.2-litre 'M' guise it's more of a quick point-to-pointer over your favourite country run rather than a lightning-fast responder in which to mix it with the Porsches at a track day.

A motorcycle-riding co-driver, whose reflexes and speed-distance judgement appeared to be at least twice as good as average, reckoned the latest Boxter is more responsive and less wieldy in the twisty bits. Recalling a years-ago try of a mark one version of the Porsche, it's hard to pinpoint any faults in the road manners.

There are one or two with the new Z4 coupe, though. The vast expanse of bonnet (hood) can make judging where the car is on a narrow road interesting and the latest iteration of BMW run-flat tyres seem to follow every crack in the road, constantly tugging at the wheel, and requiring constant correction on long straights. That can make an alleged grand tourer tiring to drive for any length of time. Ride quality's good, though. The standard car has electrically assisted power steering while the M has hydraulic power - the main difference seemed to be the latter's thicker, more comfortable steering wheel rim.

On the other hand, the sound (important in a sporty car), smoothness and flexibility of a BMW straight-six (I6) never ceases to impress. Both engines pull like trains even in top (sixth) gear from very low speeds. Zero to 62mph (100km/h) acceleration takes 5.7 seconds in the si and drops to an even five with the M engine, which has a louder exhaust note. EU regulation combined fuel economy is 31.7 miles per imperial gallons for the former, 23.3.

Van Hooydonk said the car was designed to feel 'shrink-wrapped' around its components and occupants and both versions are a bit like a new shoe from a favourite maker - it takes just a trip down the road to feel truly comfortable. The launch of the infamous i-Drive central controller apart, BMW doesn't much change the location or operation method of things like seat adjusters, wiper stalks and climate control dials from one generation to the next. Even better, it weights gearshift throw and clutch pedals just-so and smooth shifts are achieved after about three gear changes.

The si version has a Sport button to select a sharper throttle response and can also be ordered with a new 'sport' automatic transmission. Based on a conventional automatic gearbox, this has a new torque converter and software claimed to deliver a 40% improvement in response time compared to a conventional automatic gearbox and a gear change time that is twice as fast.

It comes with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and even blips the throttle on down changes. That's my version then…

BMW also claims its new coupé has one of the stiffest body structures of any production car, achieved without weighty extra bracing. The 3.0si tips scales at 1,395kgs and M Coupé 1,495kgs -10kg more than the equivalent roadster. That's impressive, considering the addition of a metal roof and extra glazing.

Light conductor rods are fitted in the tail lights and illuminate a split-second earlier than conventional bulbs. The 340-litre boot (trunk) looks big enough to stow a weekend's luggage for two.

There's some clever technology underneath, too. Apart from a full roster of aids to helping you maintain traction and stay on the road, the braking system readies for anticipated slowing, automatically dries the discs when needed and compensates for fade or bozos who forget to lift off the pedal a moment before the car comes to a complete stop, chucking the passenger with force into the belt webbing. And, should you forget you're not in your daily-drive SUV, a hill-holder is also included.

This is the first time BMW has offered UK customers the roadster-based coupé with a 3.0-litre engine alongside the high-performance M Coupé version.

Sporty versions of its cars are popular here in the UK - 65% of six-cylinder 3 series and close to 95% of all X5 SUVs are now ordered with Sport trim.

Consequently, BMW GB reckons the take-up of the Z4 3.0si Coupé Sport is expected to be around 80% - on top of the sissy SE's reasonably generous standard kit, it has 18-inch alloy wheels, M sports seats trimmed in Dakota leather upholstery, anthracite (aka black) headliner, three-spoke M leather steering wheel and sports suspension.

BMW accepts this two-seater is only a niche model and expects to sell just 1,000 Z4 coupés in H2 2006, 200 will be the high-performance M variant.

The typical buyer is seen as male, married and aged between 35 and 45. He'll will be a driving enthusiast who enjoys the thrill of exclusive, high-performance sports cars, the marketeers say.

A total of 17,815 units of the previous model were built in a four-year run to 2002. Many, like j-a, will conclude the new one was worth the wait.

Graeme Roberts