Sport roadsters or Cabriolet cars may not be the best option if you live in northern states or in Canada. A decade ago, roadsters were really popular, and sales numbers were much higher than today. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where SUVs or Crossovers are much more popular than driving oriented cars, which is understandable as they try to provide everything in one package. Roadsters can offer one thing, and that’s where they are extremely good. Driving Pleasure. Could the BMW Z4 offer more than just one thing? Let’s find the answer.
BMW Z4 is one of the last roadsters on the road currently on sale in North America, but if you check their sales numbers, it is not that great. BMW decided to end the production of Z4 in 2016, but thankfully it’s back and better than ever. Our first impression was: Latest generation Z4 offers a great balance of fun, sportiness, roadster driving dynamics, typical BMW quality, comfort, and luxury.
However, due to decreasing sales numbers globally, this time they decided to share the platform with the new Toyota Supra, which was a legendary Japanese sports car in the 1980s and 1990s. And Toyota decided to resurrect the Supra last year. The Z4 was unveiled at the Pebble Beach in 2018. Like the Supra, it is based on the Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform which incorporates steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. CLAR platform is widely used by BMW with different segments and powertrain options. BMW was able to achieve 50:50 weight distribution with the Z4, which is vitally important and difficult for a roadster that has an engine and transmission in the front. BMW also shaved approximately 50 kg as compared to the previous generation Z4.
Engine and Drivetrain
This is where the fun starts. We should start with the heart of the Z4. BMW Z4 comes with two different engine options. The first one is a 4-cylinder 2.0-liter engine that produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It has an impressive 0-100 time of 5.3 seconds. However, if you are looking for a more performance-oriented roadster, BMW offers a silky smooth 3.0 liter inline 6 cylinders turbocharged engine that produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of peak torque. The 6-cylinder engine is able to provide a flat torque curve between 1600 and 4500 rpm, which reduces 0-100 acceleration time to 4.5 seconds. In our tests, the 3.0-liter engine consumed 12.5L /100 km with mixed driving circumstances. It can easily go under 10.0L / 100 km with highway driving. Overall fuel consumption is great considering it’s a 6 cylinder performance-oriented engine with lots of power and a smooth torque curve.
As always, BMW’s 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission (which is made by ZF) is one of the best in its class, super responsive upshifts, downshifts and it has extremely precise transmission tuning. This is one of the few cars that you feel you don’t need a manual transmission to get engaging driving experience. BMW Z4 only comes with a rear-wheel-drive option. Although it doesn’t come with an actual limited-slip differential, M40i version comes standard with electronically controlled M Sport rear differential, which generates a locking effect that equalizes torque distribution between the inside and outside wheels when cornering with an electric motor.
Exterior & Interior
For us, the exterior design is polarizing. You either love it or hate it. However, it still keeps the main BMW design features. It still has the famous BMW kidneys, relatively smaller than average, sharp lines and long hood. The hood is so long, it is almost bigger than the wheelbase. Other than that, our tester had the winter tire setup which were 17″ rims. It would have looked much better with 19″ rims, but safety first. There are some fake vents all around the exterior, especially the front and rear bumpers, but fortunately, there are no fake vents on the hood and the ones on the left-right front fenders are real.
When we get inside the Z4, this is where it becomes a generic BMW. It is 99% same as the other BMWs. It is almost impossible to see the difference except that there are no rear seats and less space. Though, overall quality and craftsmanship is excellent as always. There are lots of soft-touch plastics, aluminum, and leather all around the interior. The level of sound isolation & deadening is also excellent, surprisingly good for a roadster when the top is up. There is no problem with the overall legroom and headroom, even for tall people. Z4’s interior is top-notch, but the most boring part of the overall driving experience.
Driving Impressions & Features
We are impressed with the driving dynamics of the Z4. It is not the fastest car in the world, but definitely fast. However, straight acceleration is not the most fun part about driving the Z4. Due to its shorter wheelbase, it is a blast to drive on back roads. You need to disable traction and stability control to get the most out of the Z4. It wants to oversteer if you push it hard, and it is really easy to get it oversteer even on a dry surface. If you disable the traction but leave the stability control on, it allows you to drive spiritedly and will not be intrusive until a certain level.
It is a rear-wheel-drive and a roadster. What’s surprising about that?
The difference is, due to short wheelbase, that snap oversteer feeling comes quick, but at the same time, super easy to control the slide. It gets to a level where you feel natural driving a rear-wheel-drive car on its limits on a daily basis, even when you go to work or grocery shopping. The difference is, you don’t have to go to the track to have fun, Z4 offers it in all circumstances. It communicates with you extremely well when it’s on the limit which makes you feel overly confident, but never gets overwhelming or feels uncontrollable. There are three different driving modes, Sport – Comfort, and Eco, and we used it in Sport mode most of the time. The suspension is tuned extremely well. We did not detect body roll, but it is not going to break your back if you run over a pothole. When you drive it in Sport mode, it also changes the suspension settings, rebound stiffness, as well as steering wheel ratio, gets shorter.
As an overall package, with this chassis, 50:50 weight distribution, inline 6 turbocharged engine, the 8-speed automatic and M differential makes it one of the most “entertaining” driving experience and this is getting rare in the last few years, as many cars try to get more efficient, more mainstream, more electronics getting involved and try to be “do-it-all” type of vehicle. It is not going to break track lap records, but it can definitely offer fun factor which is getting harder to find this feeling in modern cars as they get more computerized. At the same time, it offers typical BMW luxury in one package with lots of features.
Speaking of features, it is definitely a luxury roadster, but you need to take it easy. It has BMW’s latest infotainment system and it works pretty fast and easy to navigate. There are some missing features. For instance, there were no Adaptive+ Cruise Control which allows you to take your hands off the steering wheel for a longer period of time. To be clear, there is “Active” Cruise which fully stops and goes, but it is an option that you need to pay $1,650 for this feature. There is also no lane keep assist with cruise control, no blind-spot monitoring, and no 360-degree camera system. There is actually a lane-keep departure system that doesn’t work that well, we had to turn it off because it was extremely intrusive and annoying. As always, there is no Android Auto but Apple CarPlay is standard. In our book, those are not a deal-breaker as it is a driver-focused car, but it would have been better if they were available as an option for a car that costs over $80.000.
Pricing & Conclusion
The base Z4 with a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine starts at $65.904. It is a great option if you don’t need the extra performance of the inline 6 3.0 liter turbocharged engine. However, if you want the most out of the Z4, the M40i starts at $76,100 and it can go all the way up to high $80.000s. Our tester has the sticker price of $84,645 which has the Premium Package that costs $4,000, Driver Assistance Package – $1,650 and Special leather for $1,500 and $895 for this beautiful Misano Blue Metallic color. It is definitely not a cheap option, but if you are looking for a roadster that can offer fun factor, comfort and luxury at the same time, there is no cheap option. In fact, there are not many options out there, let alone finding a cheaper option. That’s why we would definitely recommend the Z4 if you are interested in getting into the luxury roadster world.