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

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.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Jubba 7 August 2010

Re: BMW Z4 sDrive35iS

ThwartedEfforts wrote:
Nice looking car too.
I agree, it looks stunning.

originalguv 2 May 2010

Re: BMW Z4 sDrive35iS

Rover P6 3500S wrote:
you show me a source to say that the new Z4 was designed by women...

your wish is my command.......

originalguv 30 April 2010

Re: BMW Z4 sDrive35iS

Rover P6 3500S wrote:

originalguv wrote:

Rover P6 3500S wrote:

Damn, that's ugly.

No need to read any further before dismissing this post as tosh. The new Z4 has been universally acclaimed as being a beautifully designed roadster (by people in the motoring press who certainly aren't renowned for bestowing compliments on BMW as well).

Adrian van Hooydonk couldn't design a beautiful car if he tried.

Well it proves how much you know. He didn't design it. The interior and exterior were designed by two females. I suggest you get your facts write before pontificating in future !