A refined and enjoyable cabrio, but not one for those after a true sports car

What is it?

The BMW Z4 sDrive18i convertible is the entry-level model in BMW’s facelifted Z4 range.

It uses a lower-output version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine found in the sDrive20i and sDrive28i, resulting in a less expensive list price of £27,615.

Opting for the sDrive18i saves approximately £2100 compared with the previous base model, the sDrive20i, but it also dispenses with some of the kit. Dual-zone climate control and rain-sensing wipers are, for example, optional instead of standard.

As well as the new engine option, the facelifted Z4 benefits from small cosmetic tweaks to keep it fresh among rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz SLK. These include white LED ‘corona’ rings around the headlamps and a smattering of chrome trim.

What's it like?

Under the BMW’s bonnet, you’ll find a 154bhp 2.0-litre ‘TwinPower Turbo’ engine, which features a single twin-scroll turbo and variable valve lift and cam timing control. The combination of these technologies allows it to generate 177lb ft between 1250rpm and 4400rpm.

Although its modest power output translates to a tame but acceptable 0-62mph time of 7.9sec, its wide spread of torque means that the BMW feels flexible and punchy, even in higher gears.

It sounds moderately potent, too, with frequent flutters from its wastegate, audible turbo spooling and a satisfying burble on overrun. 

There are no improvements in efficiency, though. The sDrive18i’s combined 41.5mpg and 159g/km of CO2 are the same as the 181bhp 20i’s and 241bhp 28i’s.

Drive is transmitted to the rear by a six-speed manual gearbox. It offers a decent selection of ratios and a short and swift shift action, allowing you to make good use of the power on offer, but its action is baulky and notchy.

The car we drove had several options, most notably 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive M Sport suspension, sports seats and a Comfort pack that includes a rear wind deflector.

Although the BMW Z4 has sporting pretensions, it doesn’t quite deliver on the road. The steering is precise and has enough weighting to avoid feeling nervous, and there’s plenty of grip, but it lacks feedback or consistency as you apply lock. This can make the BMW feel a little disconcerting around high-speed corners.

The ride, although firm, is tolerable. The BMW Z4’s brakes are also strong and progressive, the clutch smooth and the throttle precise and easily modulated. The quality and layout of the cabin is good, too, the kit levels are acceptable and the folding hard-top drops quickly at the press of a button. In terms of usability, the Z4 is excellent.

Should I buy one?

Overall, the BMW Z4 sDrive18i is tempting option. For one thing, its stylish looks garner it plenty of attention. It’s also quite fun to drive, comfortable, relatively frugal, well built and refined – even with the top down at motorway speeds.

It’s ideal for those more interested in ease of use and appearance than outright performance. Be careful with options, though, or the final price will quickly spiral. You'll pay £27,615 for the standard model but our test car, with several options, was priced at £36,420.

Back to top

Lewis Kingston

BMW Z4 sDrive 18i

Price £27,615; 0-62mph 7.9sec; Top speed 137mph; Economy 41.5mpg (combined); CO2 159g/km; Kerb weight 1505kg; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1997cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 154bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1250-4400rpm; Gearbox 6spd manual

Join the debate

Add a comment…
spqr 6 August 2013

What's the point?

This car shows up the problem with the new BMW N20 petrol engine strategy - they are all the same. Not only is the economy and CO2 of this model the same as the 20i it is the same as the 28i as well because they are the same engine. Just buy the 18i and then get it chipped you'll soon be driving a "28i". BMW have abandoned engineering proper engines for enthusiasts and started producing cookie-cutter power units like Audi.

As for the handling as Autocar has identified the problem for the Z4 before in the full road test - in order to accommodate the folding hard top the rear suspension has to be relatively soft compared to the front (presumably to avoid damage to the folded roof and to allow the extra weight to be placed over the rear axle). This means that the rear (driving) wheels feel light and disconnected when cornering at anything other than cruising speeds. Not good for a sports car. Having owned an E89 Z4 the other issue to watch for with the folging hard top is rattling. Because BMW have engineered the car cheaply the roof sits on a plastic deck plate when it is up as this vibrates quite a lot the two halves of the roof rattle against each other and against the rear deck, windows and header rail. Not good or relaxing for a cruiser.

It seems that the introduction of the E89 Z4 could have marked the point at which BMW just gave up. Apart from the M cars. 

DBtechnician 6 August 2013

Nice Interior

I must admit when I saw BMW Z4 as the title I didn't think I would like the look of it, plus I'm not a hairdresser.

Fox has a good point why not spend a bit less and buy the GT-86, now that does drive well. 

Choices choices theres also second hand options for 27-30K theirs loads to chose from, but you  know what that interior looks much more expensive, infact this little car looks much more expensive than it is and I expect that will be enough to persuade some to go for one.


Frightmare Bob 6 August 2013

It looks dumpy, so it falls

It looks dumpy, so it falls down on looks and it is heavier and slower than a 320D.