From £28,730
Attractively packaged and feels resolutely assembled, but hit and miss dynamically

Our Verdict

BMW Z4
The BMW Z4 has more comfort and added practicality, but has it gone soft?

The BMW Z4 is a fine-looking two-seat roadster with indifferent driving dynamics

What is it?

This is the new BMW Z4 sDrive23i, now fitted with a folding hard top instead of a fabric roof. BMW is up-front about the reason for this: the Mercedes SLK has one too and BMW’s research suggests that it costs the Z4 sales.

On first impressions, though, the previous Z4’s character seems to have survived the change of roof. The new car is more accommodating – it’s a smidge wider but over 120mm longer – yet feels similarly minimalist and driver-focused inside. Material quality is good, although without iDrive a rather obvious dash-top cubby bluntly reminds buyers that they didn’t delve too far into the options list.

What’s it like?

Our first UK steer in the Z4 is in the sDrive23i, the range-starter and powered by a 2.5-litre straight six. It’s a free-spinning unit and revs happily to 7000rpm, though it’s not without some inertia.

When mated to the six-speed manual ’box of our test car, with its solid and precise but heavy shift, it doesn’t make for easy rev-matching when blipping downshifts. The noise it makes is refined and smooth more than aurally stimulating, but it still feels like an impressive drivetrain.

Dynamically the Z4 is on the ‘pretty good’ rather than ‘outstanding’ side of things. All Z4 flavours come as standard with 17-inch wheels, with bigger sizes optional, and with Dynamic Drive Control, with which one can choose between three settings of, well, sportiness, I suppose.

However, even on our test car’s standard 17-inchers and in DDC’s normal mode, the ride could get a little harsh over poor surfaces, with slightly loose body control. Moving through Sport and Sport+, things get both tighter and harsher, coupled to a sharper throttle and weightier steering.

Like its predecessor, the new Z4 has an electrically assisted power steering set-up, and it could use more linearity just off straight ahead. The very first few degrees do too little, the next few too much.

Once on lock it becomes more alive and precise, though. Then the Z4 reveals its inherent fine balance and poise, and starts to become a proper driver’s tool.

Should I buy one?

The BMW Z4 is good, but it hints at its dynamic talents too infrequently for the package to be wholly convincing.

Join the debate

Comments
11

19 May 2009

After the decidely average Z3 and slightly better first-generation Z4, you'd have thought BMW would finally have hit the nail on the head with the new Z4. But apparently not. Odd when you consider BMW can make fab sports-saloons but not sports-cars.

19 May 2009

Looks more like an SL rival, or is the driver really small?

19 May 2009

That head-on shot at the top of the article makes the car look like Bruce the shark off of Finding Nemo...

19 May 2009

From Autocar's drive of Z4 3.0 sDrive35i on 19-inch tyres (19 March 2009):

".....Body control remains impressive, but the primary ride has improved greatly, with a more composed action over a variety of surface......"

http://www.autocar.co.uk/CarReviews/FirstDrives/BMW-Z4-3.0-sDrive35i/238845/

From Autocar's drive of Z4 3.0 sDrive23i on 17-inch tyres (19 May 2009):

".....even on our test car’s standard 17-inchers and in DDC’s normal mode, the ride could get a little harsh over poor surfaces, with slightly loose body control...."

http://www.autocar.co.uk/CarReviews/FirstDrives/BMW-Z4-2.5-sDrive23i/240231/

Autocar conclusion: the Z4 on 19-inch wheels outrides the Z4 on 17-inchers, with better body control to boot??

19 May 2009

Haven't driven the new Z4 yet but the previous generation smallest engine 2.0 litre models is one of my all-time favourite sports cars. Great engine is a peach in the Z4, great chassis, not that much more expensive than an MX5, fantastic performance - 0-60 in 8secs isn't that fast but the way it delivered it was class, I just don't see whats not to like abut the old Z4 apart from perhaps the looks. Anyone who says the old Z4 was not 'sporty' is either a bit of a pretentious dick or doesn't know what sporty means.

20 May 2009

Why are the pictures of a 35i?

Anyhoo, drove the 35i last weekend. With the 7 Speed DCT, and it really is a fantastic car. It was on 18 inch rims (style as in the pictures, IIRC) and run-flats, and it was perfectly well composed: certainly feels more planted to the road than the current, which can feel crashy at times, particularly on rougher surfaces. Suitably loud when you want it to be (good fun through tunnels to be had!)...covered around 150km in a little under two hours, could have gone on all day.

My only negative is in the pricing. The car I drove will be in the region of £42k, and I think that's on the steep side, though the dealer tells me half of his orders so far are for the 35i with DCT, so clearly I'm in a minority there.

20 May 2009

From BMW's own figures, the roof weighs just 70kg, incl motors etc, with the aluminium panels themselves weighing just 6kg.

Where did the rest of the 250kg weight increase come from over the last Z4? Pies?

20 May 2009

[quote Audi Tastic]Where did the rest of the 250kg weight increase come from over the last Z4? [/quote]

If you compare 3.0 manuals, the only worthwhile comparison, the difference is 185kg. The new Z4 is a bigger car and it has, according to the BMW chap I was speaking to last week, enhanced side and front crash protection, making the sides and lower front more rigid.

20 May 2009

[quote The Colonel]

The car I drove will be in the region of £42k, and I think that's on the steep side, though the dealer tells me half of his orders so far are for the 35i with DCT

[/quote] So about 2 then :)

21 May 2009

Seems like BMW admitting defeat on the ultimate driving machine front - maybe we will see a change of mission statement from BMW soon?

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