2019 BMW Z4 M40i Review
Toby Hagon’s 2019 BMW Z4 M40i Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In a nutshell: Third generation of BMW’s most affordable roadster brings fresh styling, a return of the soft-top and bigger performance courtesy of the new M40i.
2019 BMW Z4 M40i Specifications
Price $124,900+ORCs Warranty 3 years, unlimited km Service Intervals Variable Safety Not rated Engine 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo Power 250kW at 5000-6500rpm Torque 500Nm at 1600-4500rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive Rear-wheel drive Dimensions 4324mm (L), 1864mm (W), 1304mm (H), 2470mm (WB) Kerb Weight 1535kg GVM 1860kg Boot Space 281L Spare Repair kit Fuel Tank 52L Thirst 7.4L/100km
There’s modern thinking with a traditional soft-top roof twist in BMW’s third-generation Z4, a car styled by Australian Calvin Luk. A pair of four-cylinder models keep pricing keen for a car with much more equipment than the model it replaces, but it’s the new six-cylinder M40i that best encapsulates the sports car brief.
The soft-top roof is back and there’s a renewed focus on driving enjoyment for a car more about the drive than the destination.
Read our international first-drive review of the 2019 BMW Z4.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost? There are three Z4 models, starting with the $84,900+ORCs sDrive 20i powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and eight-speed automatic.
Despite its entry-level status it comes loaded with gear, including 18-inch alloy wheels, electrically-operated leather seats, head-up display, wireless phone charging, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, dual-zone ventilation and a 10.25-inch infotainment screen with navigation and digital radio tuning. It also comes with the M Sport kit that lowers the suspension by 10mm and includes some subtle styling tweaks.
A more powerful version of the same engine is used in the sDrive 30i, which costs $104,900+ORCs. It also gets 19-inch alloy wheels, bigger brakes, adaptive dampers, headlights that turn around corners, radar cruise control and smart key entry along with the ability to unlock and start the car using an NFC-equipped smartphone.
Top of the Z4 tree is the M40i, priced from $124,900+ORCs. It steps things up to a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo and also gets an electronically controlled limited slip differential. There’s also ambient lighting, electronically adjustable lumbar support and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
What’s the interior and practicality like? That you can’t option woodgrain trim on the Z4 gives an idea of what designers were thinking with the look of the interior. Instead, there are various metals and other textures that deliver a modern flavour.
The two-tone interior generally looks good, allowing some personalisation, although we weren’t convinced with the dark-blue-on-black pairing on one of the cars we drove. Seats and space are both good, with decent support blended with comfort. The seating position is also suitably low, while still ensuring decent leg and head room. The steering wheel has quite a thick rim, two big bulges at 10 and 2.
While practicality doesn’t take top billing on the list of roadster must-haves, the Z4 delivers with a sizeable boot, a full 281 litres of capacity. It’s shallow top-to-bottom (shallower with the roof folded) but runs quite deep into the car. There’s also a small load-through hole for the dash to Bunnings. Plus, the netting behind the seats is handy for small bags and other items.
The centre console has unusual asymmetric covers, the one on the passenger side larger to cover the two cupholders, allowing the driver’s side cover to be open while the cupholders are in use, still providing the driver with an arm rest. The stubby plastic gear lever is a tad low rent in an otherwise premium cabin infused with stitching and elegant finishes.
What are the controls and infotainment like? First, onto the important stuff… The roof of the Z4 can be lowered and raised by holding a button for 10 seconds at up to 50km/h.
Audiophiles will also appreciate the speakers behind each seat, providing sound from all directions. Plus, the Harman Kardon 12-speaker system optional on all but the M40i pumps out some impressive clarity.
There’s a well-placed wireless charging system, but it’s fairly slow to charge a phone, in keeping with other such systems. Best to use one of the two USBs, one under the centre stack to interact with the infotainment and another in the centre console just as a charger. BMW’s iDrive makes for easy navigation around the 10.25-inch screen.
There’s also a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with plenty of information, although the subtle changes between various driving modes aren’t as distinct as some may like. One gripe with functionality are the buttons for the headlights and foglights; they’re buried on the right of the dash, partially hidden by the steering wheel. So there’s no easy way to see them on the move.
What’s the performance like? There are two four-cylinder engines (in the 20i and 30i) and a six-cylinder, each assisted by turbos. All three have that wonderful BMW creaminess across the rev range, stretching eagerly all the way to redline. The base 2.0-litre in the 20i makes 145kW and 320Nm, which is adequate rather than exciting.
Where the 20i is perky but ultimately undernourished the 30i steps it up with a more meaningful surge (190kW/400Nm), its more energetic upper rev range in keeping with the sports car theme. Dial up Sport Plus and gear changes are sharper and the exhaust fruitier. One minor gripe: to get the brapping upshifts you need to select the most aggressive Sport+ setting for the transmission, at which point it’ll hold lower gears for longer, something not suited to freeway cruising.
But for the full sports car experience the M40i delivers with 250kW and 500Nm, its hearty mid-rev response occasionally challenging the rear tyres for traction, the rear-drive dynamics constantly on display. But it never feels fully fiery, a modicum of sensibility infused in its demeanour.
The eight-speed auto has fairly close ratios, maximising the engine when accelerating hard. It’s particularly noticeable in the Z4 M40i, where those shifts come quickly as the car builds speed.
What’s it like on the road? The core of the Z4 sets it up for some classic dynamics: long nose, low-slung body and drive sent to the rear wheels, which aren’t far behind the two seats. So it’s seat of your pants thrills from the outset, the direct steering triggering brisk direction changes. It helps there are broad Michelin tyres to keep things in check, the mid-corner grip impressive on both wet and dry surfaces.
Ultimately, it’s a wonderfully competent machine when punted hard, its cornering poise rarely challenged. While the suspension is far from plush, there’s enough give to make for comfy everyday touring, only poor quality surfaces upsetting the equation.
While the M40i delivers with its straight-line punch, it brings more weight to the equation. On that measure, the four-cylinder cars have an inherent sweetness in keeping with the lightweight sports car thinking.
The M40i makes up points with its M Sport electronic differential that ekes more traction when accelerating. Of course, part of the roadster experience is what it’s like in the open air. With the roof down it’s also nicely sorted, a wind deflector stopping too much buffeting from ruffling the hair.
Yet the Z4 still lacks some spark, its unwavering capability somehow taking the edge off the excitement. Sure, it’s fun, but there’s some X factor missing somewhere.
Does it have a spare? There’s no spare tyre. And, whereas BMW used to rely on runflat tyres, the latest Z4 does without (in turn improving ride comfort), instead picking up a repair kit.
Can you tow with it? Forget it, the Z4 is not offered with a tow kit.
What about ownership? There’s only a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty for the Z4, although BMW says it will typically look after faults beyond that warranty period, in line with Australian Consumer Law. The Z4 gets BMW’s condition-based servicing. So, if you drive it hard and do lots of cold starts it will need to be serviced more often. BMW offers a service package that covers the first five years or 80,000km of driving for $1373.
What safety features does it have? There are four airbags and a rollover protection system that effectively operates as a roll bar. Active safety has also stepped up, but not to the same level as some much more affordable cars, at least on the base Z4 20i. Because the 20i has only a forward-facing camera (not radar), it misses out on the full auto emergency braking that comes with other models. Instead, there’s a “brake intervention” system that can slow the car but not perform a full emergency stop. There’s also lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and real time speed limit information. The 30i and M40i team that camera with a forward-facing radar that brings full auto braking functionality.