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UK confirms hot Z4 is no Boxster, but it's still a lot of fun

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?

BMW maintains there's no case for an M version of the Z4, so unless the demand for hot roadsters suddenly goes ballistic, the 35is, which we've now driven in the UK, is the fastest variant we'll get.

At 335bhp, the 35is has 33 more bhp than the regular 35i. There are some visual tweaks but chassis changes are limited.

What's it like?

Faster, certainly. Beyond a freer flowing exhaust there are no mechanical changes to the 35is's motor over the 35i's. That's okay – the turbocharged 3.0-litre 'six was already a stonker.

The way the 35is picks up and pulls cleanly through its rev range is world-class, and now it comes with the kind of exhaust rasp that's been missing from the line-up since the demise of the old M3. Economy and emissions are on a par with the regular 35i, too.

A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is standard and, save for the usual second-first hesitancy when manoeuvring, it shifts cleanly.

It constitutes part of a generous standard kit-list that also includes lowered suspension with adaptive dampers and the option to choose between Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings.

Sport+ is hopeless on anything rougher than a kitchen floor. While I'd like to say that Normal is too soft and the middling setting, Sport, has a level of rightness of which Goldilocks would approve; the truth is that to varying degrees both pull off the impressive feat of having a ride that's too harsh and body control that's too loose. More chassis development outside Germany probably wouldn't hurt

Oh, that's on the (new-look) 18-inch wheels, by the way. Unless you want to make your Z4 considerably worse – though apparently 60 per cent of UK buyers do – do not opt for the 19-inch wheels, which remove all vestiges of ride quality for no discernible upside.

Should I buy one?

Maybe. Like other Z4s the 35is lacks the precision and poise of a Boxster, but steering feel has been slightly improved thanks a mildly re-worked rack, and there's still fun to be had – with equal weight distribution, rear-drive and 335bhp, how could there not be?

But the entertainment provided remains of the old-fashioned, point and squirt variety. BMW's M division could probably do a job on it.

Join the debate

Comments
34

9 March 2010

Lovely, its great to see Bmw regain some lost honour when it comes to great handling cars. I would not even think of a Boxster now... I only hope it rides as well when it goes to the Uk.

9 March 2010

Nice looking car too.

9 March 2010

[quote Lupe]

Lovely, its great to see Bmw regain some lost honour when it comes to great handling cars. I would not even think of a Boxster now... I only hope it rides as well when it goes to the Uk.
[/quote] i do have to agree! what a stunning car! the only reason anyone would choose a porsche over this z4 is the badge i would say! it gets my vote well done beemer

9 March 2010

[quote VX220EDDIE]i do have to agree! what a stunning car! the only reason anyone would choose a porsche over this z4 is the badge i would say![/quote] The price is remarkably silmilar to a Boxster Spyder which weighs 300kg lighter, is almost certain to have better steering and better control feel. It's the Porsche which is most likely to be more fun up a tight twisty Alpine pass or around a circuit. You can also bet that the Spyder will depreciate less - I think that will be the Boxster model enthusiasts still crave for in 10 years time and will go down as a classic.

9 March 2010

Dear Autocar

Does it come in a manual, or is it slushbox only?

9 March 2010

[quote chandrew]The price is remarkably silmilar to a Boxster Spyder [/quote]

Not the PDK version, which is the fairer comparisson. Around £4000 difference. Weight differential drops off a bit too.

To be honest, anyone seriously looking at the Spyder probably hasn't even thought of a Z4, let alone seriously consider it an purchasing alternative. Boxster or S, maybe.

evanstim, it is DCT only.

9 March 2010

I would like it but over 1.5 tonnes is just too heavy for a sports car.

9 March 2010

This is the kind of car that needs over 400bhp if it wants to be taken seriously.

I expect some company will sort that out.

9 March 2010

[quote beachland2] This is the kind of car that needs over 400bhp if it wants to be taken seriously.[/quote]

True. It's a shame that this is probably the nearest we'll get to a Z4M. The V8 fits, so why not? Conversely, with the 3 Series, it's a shame there isn't a non-M V8 340, or such.

9 March 2010

[quote evanstim] slushbox only?[/quote]

If so, I'm off to the Porsche garage - they still know that real drivers car has a stick coming out of the floor and three pedals in the footwell.

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