There’s an old motorsport cliché that if a racing car looks right, it’ll go right.
It’s not entirely true, of course; plenty of ugly racing cars have won championships, while a lot of beautiful ones haven't had the speed to match their looks.
But here’s something that is true: when a car looks right, it’s hugely frustrating when it doesn’t go right.
Style is subjective, of course, but to me the new Z4 looks right, with a design that improves on that of the previous version. It's bold and confident, with extra presence from that big kidney grille — and yet it still looks every bit the small, nimble roadster. I reckon it's an improvement on the last Z4, which wasn't exactly a bad starting point, design wise.
But does that matter? After all, the old Z4 looked the part but couldn’t deliver on that promise when it came to driving. When our road testers assessed it, they praised the second-generation Z4's drivetrains, but bemoaned the "indifferent" ride, handling and steering. It couldn't live up to the promise of its design.
To BMW’s credit, its engineers have acknowledged and responded to those frustrations. I had a brief drive in a prototype Z4 earlier this year and met some of the driving dynamics engineers working on the machine. They were absolutely determined to ensure the Z4 was back to being a proper driver's car, a proper sporting machine, rather than simply a sporty-looking one. As a result, as much development time has been spent on honing the Z4’s driving dynamics as has been spent on the styling.
Having driven the Z4 both on the road and on BMW's handling track, I’m encouraged that it was time well spent. Even in prototype form, the car felt composed and balanced, giving you confidence to push on across a range of surfaces.
Obviously, we won’t know for sure how good the new Z4 is until our testers get an extended run in the finished version. But I’m hopeful that it will deliver style and substance.