- Excellent performance
- Luxury feel
- Striking looks
- Efficient engines
It seemed the BMW Z4 was destined to live in the shadow of its illustrious and playful compatriot, the iconic Porsche Boxster.
With near perfect balance, accessible and abundant performance plus a price tag only a little adrift from a topline BMW, the role of second best looked set for the Z4.
Then came along a new design – more elegant, oozing grace and a presence once out of reach of the junior roadster. From many angles, the new car has more impact than its big brother, the classically styled Z8.
It may not reach the sublime dynamic heights of that offering, but for many buyers it is the looks that sell a sports car, and by normal standards the newest incarnation of the soft-top handles neatly and tidily.
Sitting squat and wide with flowing lines, it demands a final over-the-shoulder glance that previous Z4s never warranted. From all angles, it looks elegant yet muscular, particularly from the rear, which was previously a somewhat weak design.
Gone is the heavy, though practical, metal roof, being replaced by a folding fabric number saving weight and conforming more to tradition. It shares its development and many elements with the reborn Toyota Supra muscle car.
Typically BMW, the cabin is luxurious, sporty, and very upmarket.
The usual BMW layout is brought up to date with more digitisation, a huge centrally positioned touch screen and slick styling.
The boot is a good size by roadster standards, thanks partly to the quick folding fabric roof, which does not rob the rear compartment of luggage space.
With its front engine and rear drive, the Z4 is an echo of the past, but the latest design with sculptured lines and a high economy engine bring it bang up to date.
Engines and Performance
As usual, there is a mix of engine outputs, but we opted for the 30i M Sport, which is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine pushing out 255bhp – enough to blow the weeds away without threatening the supercar brigade.
Translating this into stats, it will polish off the 62mph dash in 5.4 seconds, about the same as a Porsche Boxster or an Audi TTS. Max is electronically limited to the usual 155mph.
Despite the punchy performance, economy from the 4-cylinder engine is surprisingly good, and we managed a best of 39mpg on a swift cross-country drive.
Lower centre of gravity and wider track add to the composure and stability. It is precise enough but falls short when it comes to driver feedback and reward, though there is no criticism of comfort. For a stiffly sprung two-seater, the ride is unusually smooth, with good bump absorption yet little roll.
BMW was one of the first makers to introduce dual clutch automatic transmission, and the 8-speed system fitted to the new Z4 is a joy to use. Fast, smooth changes coupled to a choice of driving modes means it always seems to be in the right gear. Steering wheel paddles add to the fun if you are in the mood.
The BMW Z4 looks great and has an undeniably refined feel, but it is the dynamic performance that really takes it to another level. Mid-range M Sport specification welcomes luxury design touches and a host of innovative technology to the range.