Ever since the BMW Z4’s predecessor, the Z3, appeared in 1996, BMW’s roadsters have had one major dynamic problem: the Porsche Boxster. And comparison remains slightly unflattering in the case of this latest car.
As well as attempting to broaden the Z4’s ownership appeal by fitting a folding hard-top, BMW has made an effort to expand the car’s dynamic appeal to match. This is most pronounced on M Sport-suspended Z4s, which get adaptive dampers as part of a Drive Dynamic Control system that offers three settings.
On its Normal setting, the ride is composed enough, even if it never shakes off an underlying harshness over small ripples and ridges, but its body control is seldom tight enough. Through Sport and to Sport+, body movements are controlled more tautly, but by then the ride has reached new levels of harshness. Even range-topping sDrive35i models get modest 17-inch wheels as standard, and that could be in a bid to mitigate this tendency.
The steering is a little better. In its general weight and accuracy it’s good, and once you’ve wound on some lock it’s responsive and linear. But just off straight ahead there’s a dead patch, and here it lacks linearity. Gauging how much reaction you receive for any given input can be trying.
If you do push on, though – ideally with Sport+ engaged – the Z4 displays the kind of poise and lateral grip that you always suspected it might have. At the extreme there is reasonable feel from the steering, too. It’s just a shame this ability isn’t evident more often.
A Boxster is better on all levels and even the SLK sometimes displays a superior blend of ride and handling. It’s a shame, because extracting the best from this Z4, with its excellent drivetrain, should be more pleasurable.