What is it?
The new BMW Z4 is an exercise in restraint. Four years after the second-generation roadster was added to the BMW line-up, it has received the most subtle of facelifts.
Among the changes are edgier bumpers, a new chrome styling feature within the front flanks and new wheel designs ranging in diameter from 17-inch up to optional 19-inch items, as worn by our test car.
The distinguishing styling elements of the new model are the altered grille and headlamps, which together serves to provide it with a slightly more expressive front-end appearance. Oh, and there’s now an awful piece of exposed grey Styrofoam that is visible through the grille, giving the new roadster anything but a premium air when viewed up close.
What is it like?
The turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder petrol engine tested here in the Z4 sDrive35is is hardly new, but it remains the most compelling of the five engines with which it is produced with loads of low end torque and an eagerness to rev when the conditions allow. It sounds terrific, too: there’s a pleasing mechanical growl under load and a booming exhaust on the overrun.
The longitudinally mounted engine delivers a 335bhp – 20bhp more than the naturally aspirated 3.4-litre flat six petrol unit used in the Porsche Boxster S. In combination with a standard seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, it provides the BMW roadster with class leading straight line performance: the Z4 sDrive35is’s official 0-62mph time beats the Boxster S by 0.3sec at just 4.8sec.
To drive, the new Z4 sDrive35is is pretty much the same as its predecessor; it is a fun car in the right conditions with a rear-wheel-drive chassis that possesses a good deal of adjustability, so you can rely on the efforts of the engine to kick the tail out when the DSC (dynamic stability control) is switched off.
There remains some sign of scuttle shake on badly pockmarked roads, but for the most part the new BMW rides well. The weak point remains the steering, a speed-sensitive electro-mechancial system. While nicely weighted, it lacks consistency, proving extra direct turning off centre and becoming less direct as lock is applied.
Should I buy one?
A minor refresh, then. One that’s unlikely to win the Z4 many new customers. But, at the same time, it’s not going to put anyone off the likeable roadster, either.
BMW is hoping the mid-life changes, as subtle as they are, will be enough to see the Z4 through to 2016 when an all-new, third-generation model is planned to appear. I’m not convinced they are. Not when the open-top competition, including the latest Porsche Boxster and new Jaguar F-type, is so strong.
BMW Z4 sDrive35is
Price £45,795; 0-62mph 4.8sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 31.4mpg (combined); CO2 210g/km; Kerb weight 1525kg; Engine 6 cyls, 2979cc, turbo, petrol; Power 335bhp at 5900rpm; Torque 369lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual clutch