This is BMW’s new Z4, a completely reworked version of Munich’s two-seat sports car that the firm hopes will dramatically improve on the decidedly average fortunes of the outgoing model.
The new Z4 is due to go on sale next May, and BMW has sought to improve the car’s appeal in almost every area. Key differences include a lightweight metal folding hard-top, direct-injection straight six engines and a more spacious cabin.
The current Z4 has never been able to match the sales success of the popular Z3 that came before it. Sales in the UK peaked at 4800 in 2004, almost half the number of TTs Audi sold the same year. You can see the video below.
Analysts agree that the main reason why the old Z4 didn’t sell like the Z3 was down to its ‘awkward’ styling. This alienated many buyers, particularly women, who didn’t take to BMW design boss Chris Bangle’s outlandish design ethos.
With this in mind, it might come as a surprise to see that BMW has chosen to be so loyal to the old model’s look, as it could have completely reskinned the Z4. The Z4’s design team was keen to keep its traditional roadster proportions in place. So the bonnet remains extremely long, with the two occupants sitting far back in the car, almost over the rear axle.
Trademark Bangle panel flaring remains, although the styling has been revised to integrate and ‘flow’ the new folding hardtop into the shape of the car. The wheel arches bulge more than before, too, to emphasise the width of the car.
BMW is particularly proud of the Z4’s new folding hard-top. Despite the limited space behind the seats, engineers have managed to design a relatively simple two-piece roof. They have also managed to retain normal-length A-pillars.
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Chassis and interior
The rear-drive Z4 is built around the same modified 3-series platform as the current model, and retains its proportions.
There’s a lengthy wheelbase of 2496mm, with overhangs of just 850mm at the front and 893mm at the rear. The whole car measures 4239mm, just over 100mm longer than the outgoing model.
The stiffened and reinforced chassis is intended to improve the Z4’s dynamic ability but it also boosts crash safety. Its new aluminium metal folding roof adds a new degree of rigidity.
But next year’s model is not just bigger than the current Z4; it weighs more, too. The new Z4 tips the scales at 1480kg, compared with the old model’s 1335kg, and the metal roof and motors that go with it are to blame, despite the use of lightweight materials.
The advantage of this increase in size and weight, says BMW, is a cabin that offers significantly more leg, head and shoulder room, plus excellent structural stiffness. Inside, as well as more space, BMW is promising much higher-quality materials and a more ergonomic design.
New technology — including a revised version of BMW’s iDrive system, advanced multimedia and satellite navigation systems and adaptive cruise control — will also be on offer for the first time.
Powertrains and performance
A choice of three direct-injection six-cylinder engines will power the new Z4 at launch, aiming the roadster directly at the Porsche Boxster. High-output four-cylinder engines might be added later.
A new naming convention brings the range in line with other modern BMWs and introduces the designation ‘sDrive’ to denote rear-wheel drive.
The range starts with the 201bhp 2.5-litre model (now called the sDrive23i). With this engine, the Z4 can crack 0-62mph in 6.6sec and reach a top speed of 148mph.
Next up is the naturally aspirated 3.0-litre sDrive30i. This variant has 254bhp on tap and can reach 62mph in 5.8sec.
The range-topper is the 301bhp twin-turbo 3.0-litre sDrive35i. It can dismiss 0-62mph in 5.2sec and has an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
Six-speed manual and conventional automatic gearboxes are available with all engines, but the top-end sDrive35i can also be fitted with BMW’s seven-speed dual-clutch paddle-shift transmission, as seen on the M3 and 335i.
All models have BMW’s Efficient Dynamics technology in an effort to make them more economical. This includes Valvetronic engine management, brake energy regeneration, a change-up indicator and tyres with reduced rolling resistance. The upshot is that, even with the most powerful twin-turbo engine, an average of 30mpg is achievable.
Suspension and brakes
BMW claims that the new Z4 not only rides more comfortably than the current car but is also more capable through corners. BMW has added an adaptive three-position Dynamic Drive Control system as standard, with sport and comfort modes to suit driver preferences and road conditions.
Adaptive M Sport suspension is also on the options list for keener drivers. This set-up lowers the Z4 by 10mm and electronically adjusts the damper rebound rates to suit road conditions.
The new Z4 gets larger brakes than its predecessor, with 14-inch discs on the front and 13-inch units on the rear of the most powerful 35i model.
All new Z4s come as standard with 17-inch alloys, but 18 and 19-inch rims will feature on the options list. Tyres will all be run-flats as standard.
In the showroom
The new BMW Z4 goes on sale in May next year. Prices have yet to be confirmed, but the sDrive23i is expected to start at around £27,000. However, you can expect a fully loaded sDrive35i with the dual-clutch transmission to cost closer to £45k.