The BMW Z4 was not exactly a runaway success. Indeed, it was easily outsold by the Mercedes SLK throughout its lifetime.

34400bmw The uncompromising styling - perhaps the purest expression of Chris Bangle's theories about surfacing - made it a hard sell.

The Z4's looks were also said to have put off a great proportion of the female buyers who helped make the Z3 a success.

The Z4 was also noticeably more expensive than a Z3 and was never sold in a more affordable four-cylinder version.

So while the Z4 was clearly a far superior car to the Z3, and a better driver's car than the SLK, it seemed to fall between two stools.

It lacked the handiness, hard-top security and chic looks of the SLK, but it also never gained a reputation as a serious driver's roadster in the manner of the Porsche Boxster.

56639bmw- So when I saw the new Z4 in the metal for the first time, I was taken aback.

BMW had done little to change the recipe. It retained the extreme long-nose proportions of the old car and although the styling has been softened, it is still strikingly atonal, shot across with odd cutlines and ridged panels.

The hard top might offer the security many buyers want (and the it solves the problem of over-the-shoulder vision of the old cloth top) but my first impression is of another BMW roadster that is determined to challenge, rather than entice, buyers.