Car Reviews

2019 BMW Z4 Review

Paul Horrell’s first-drive 2019 BMW Z4 Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.

IN A NUTSHELL Tasty roadster is a sporting drive. But it’s also comfy for everyday and not impractical if you don’t need back seats. Tested with a hot six-cylinder, but fours available too.

2018 BMW Z4 M40i Specifications (Europe)

Price N/A Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine 3.0L petrol turbo straight six Power 250kW at 5000-6500rpm Torque 500Nm at 1600-5000rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive rear-wheel drive Body 4324mm (l); 1864mm (w exc mirrors); 2024mm (w inc mirrors); 1304mm (h) Turning circle 11.0m Towing weight NAkg Kerb weight 1535kg Seats 2 Fuel tank 52 litres Spare no Thirst 7.2 l/100km combined cycle

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This is BMW’s sister car to the Toyota Supra. It’s a roadster, and an actual canvas one rather than the old folding hard-top. Most of the mechanical bits and electronics are drawn from BMW’s shelves (and the Supra will be the same under the skin although differently set up).

The wheelbase is much shorter than any other BMW to make it agile, and there’s a unique aluminium subframe to make the front suspension more precise.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

The test car is the M40i, outfitted with all the right six-cylinder power and various M parts in the brakes. Like all the new Z4s, it’s only available with the eight-speed auto.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

Other engines on offer are the 20i with 145kW or the 30i with 190kW. They’re the same 2.0-litre four with different degrees of turbo puff. Even the slowest gets to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

What’s the interior and practicality like?

As a sports car, there are some things the Z4 needs to get right in its cabin. It nails them too. First, you sit nice and low, cocooned between the sill and transmission tunnel, in a seat that’s well-shaped to support you, and widely adjustable too. It’s a design of seat specific to the car, not just yanked out of some saloon.

There’s a bit of storage space behind the seats, and a box with a door back there, plus a few small pockets around the cabin. But you’re going to be relying on the boot, and at 281 litres it’s not a bad size – far bigger than an MX5’s. It also stays the same when the roof drops, whereas folding hardtops eat boot space when you drop them.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

Roof up, you get a mild shimmy of wind noise compared with a saloon at 100-plus, but it’s completely sealed against wet and cold, so it feels no sacrifice having a tent not a steel box over your head.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

Lowering or raising the top is an all-electric job that troubles just one finger. It needs only 10 seconds, and can be done at anything up to 50km/h. Roof down, turbulence is well-managed. With the side windows up there’s not enough rustle to need more than a couple of extra notches of stereo volume. A neat little plastic net clips between the two rollover bars and further reduces the buffet. If there’s a winter nip in the air, the heated seats do their job.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

As a BMW it’s just what you’d expect. The usual new-generation of iDive, the usual high-quality plastics and trim. The usual positive and well-sited switches, the usual slightly too fat steering wheel.

What’s the infotainment like?

The system is what BMW calls iDrive 7.0. It’s a fairly big change over the old iDrive generations, including new central screen graphics and design, and a screen in place of real instruments. As far as I’m concerned, the .0 is important. It has brought in some new wrinkles, which need addressing in a future 7.1.

For instance, and this matters on a sports car, the rev counter is almost illegible – a silly shape, with a small red needle chasing around on a red background. And between the rev counter and the speedo is an area used for navigation instructions. If you know where you’re going, you can’t switch it to any other read-out. So that other info – music, or a power gauge, go in the middle of the rev-counter, further confusing its graphics.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

Also some of the new ‘metal’ controls for the climate and vents are obviously fake, and their markings are illegible when backlit.

Still, BMW has at least kept the rotary controller and fixed shortcut buttons, unlike Audi. And the tile interfaces on the high-res screen work well.

The head-up display on the test car is ripper, and the stereo – an optional Harman Kardon on the tester – is well listenable. Maps have clear traffic via a built-in SIM card, or you can use Apple CarPlay.

What’s the performance like?

BMW swears there will be no full-on Z4M in this generation, but with track lap times close to the M2’s and a zero-to-100 of 4.6 seconds, I reckon the M40i will do.

The engine pelts beyond 6500 when you have space to stretch its legs, never easing off the pull. Urgent but sweet layers of harmonics, all the better when the roof is down, liven up the experience some more.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

Usually the autobox arranges things well, darting between the gears appropriately, and of course you can choose any number of programmes, from low-rev/high-gear ‘eco pro’ to a more urgent ‘sport’ and ‘sport +’. But if you do get stuck at low revs there’s a little turbo lag to wait for. I drove it mostly in manual mode using the paddles, because it’s a sports car and I like to be involved.

Going more gently, the engine slips into a much quieter frame of mind, so you can waft about unobtrusively.

What’s it like on the road?

This is one of those cars that seems to pivot around a bend, rather than having to lean and stress. The font end, a long way ahead of you, swings willingly into the corner, and the steering ratio gets faster as you move away from the straightahead, so it’s easy to tighten your line.

Then you can force some effort into the back tyres with a dose of turbo action, and it generally just digs in and catapults you away. An electronically controlled differential is standard: you really can feel it making the tyres work to their limits.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

In fact you get more sense of the car working for its living from your backside than from the slightly numb steering.

The engineers make a fuss about the grip the 40i can show in corners, and they’re not wrong. It’s also got a load of discipline in chasing down any undue body float or lean: click the dampers into sport mode and everything is locked down a treat.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

But as with the powertrain, there’s another side to the chassis. It’ll mooch as well as hoon. The dampers will soften off in gentle running, and then the suspension balms your backside with a genuinely pliant ride.

What about safety features?

One of the benefits of getting your sports car from a full-line German maker, rather than an industry minnow, is that all the expensive-to-develop electronic systems are in place. And even if there’s no independent crash-test yet, BMW isn’t in the habit of mucking up the structures of its cars.

Collision braking (that sees vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists) is standard, as is lane departure warning.

Active cruise is optional, with a measure of steering support on highways. The forward camera will read speed limit signs and the system prompts you so that with a single button-press you can have the cruise control obey them. It’ll also warn you of other signs like no entry. That option pack includes blind-spot warning and reversing cross-traffic warning.

A rear camera is standard, which seems like overkill on a smallish roadster, but could be useful when the roof is up. You can also get BMW’s excellent adaptive LED matrix headlights.

2019 BMW Z4 Review by Practical Motoring

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: The looks take a bit of getting used to – or is it just us that thinks it's a bit heavy in the nose and backside? But this all-new roadster is a hoot to drive, thanks to big power and an appetite for bends. But it's also able to pipe down, the engine going calm and the adaptive suspension relaxing into a cruise. If you don't need the performance, the four-cylinder versions should be a perfectly acceptable route fun in the sun.

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.