What is it?
This is the new BMW Z4 sDrive23i, now fitted with a folding hard top instead of a fabric roof. BMW is up-front about the reason for this: the Mercedes SLK has one too and BMW’s research suggests that it costs the Z4 sales.
On first impressions, though, the previous Z4’s character seems to have survived the change of roof. The new car is more accommodating – it’s a smidge wider but over 120mm longer – yet feels similarly minimalist and driver-focused inside. Material quality is good, although without iDrive a rather obvious dash-top cubby bluntly reminds buyers that they didn’t delve too far into the options list.
What’s it like?
Our first UK steer in the Z4 is in the sDrive23i, the range-starter and powered by a 2.5-litre straight six. It’s a free-spinning unit and revs happily to 7000rpm, though it’s not without some inertia.
When mated to the six-speed manual ’box of our test car, with its solid and precise but heavy shift, it doesn’t make for easy rev-matching when blipping downshifts. The noise it makes is refined and smooth more than aurally stimulating, but it still feels like an impressive drivetrain.
Dynamically the Z4 is on the ‘pretty good’ rather than ‘outstanding’ side of things. All Z4 flavours come as standard with 17-inch wheels, with bigger sizes optional, and with Dynamic Drive Control, with which one can choose between three settings of, well, sportiness, I suppose.
However, even on our test car’s standard 17-inchers and in DDC’s normal mode, the ride could get a little harsh over poor surfaces, with slightly loose body control. Moving through Sport and Sport+, things get both tighter and harsher, coupled to a sharper throttle and weightier steering.
Like its predecessor, the new Z4 has an electrically assisted power steering set-up, and it could use more linearity just off straight ahead. The very first few degrees do too little, the next few too much.
Once on lock it becomes more alive and precise, though. Then the Z4 reveals its inherent fine balance and poise, and starts to become a proper driver’s tool.