BMW Z4 Review
Paul Murrell’s BMW Z4 review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.
In a Nutshell The BMW Z4 is a two-seater sports car so it can’t be judged by the standards of ‘sensible’ cars, but you’ll need to decide just how many compromises you are willing to live with.
Practical Motoring says The BMW Z4 sDrive 20i is one of a select few cars offering true sports car pleasure, wind-in-the-hair motoring and head-turning styling for a reasonably affordable entry price. The BMW badge is the icing on the cake.
The BMW Z4 is almost a comical send-up of traditional sports car design. The bonnet stretches improbably away into the distance; the cabin is small and places the occupants almost over the rear axle; and the boot is short and just long enough to wrap around the rear wheels.
There are some angles that don’t quite work: the windscreen curves a little oddly and this is reinforced when the hardtop is in place. But, from the front, rear and when the hardtop is stowed away, BMW has got it just right. There is limited space in the cabin, but this is in keeping with its sports car aspirations. As always with BMW, impeccable fit and finish are taken for granted.
The low-slung leather seats have been treated to resist reaching ridiculous temperatures and since we had the Z4 during a record heat wave, we can happily report that it works surprisingly well.
Sports cars aren’t designed with space or practicality top-of-mind but for most situations, the Z4 does the job. With the roof up, bootspace is 310 litres, dropping to 180 litres when the roof is in the retracted position). Even without the deflector in place, wind buffeting is acceptable, especially if the windows are raised (a one-touch operation). The hardtop seals beautifully (and raises and lowers in 20 seconds up to road speeds of 40km/h), isolating most road and engine noise as well as a coupe.
The 20i is the entry variant in the range, with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. Despite the label on the plastic engine cover declaring “TwinTurbo Power”, it is actually a single twin-scroll turbo. Peak power is 135kW (at 5000rpm) and torque a solid 270Nm from just 1250rpm. BMW’s eight-speed auto is quite simply one of the best in the business.
The steering wheel is a lovely thing with a soft, squishy feel to the rim and the steering itself has a taut, utterly not-squishy feel, one of the best electric power steering systems we’ve experienced.
The car we tested was fitted with the optional M Sport Package that made its presence known through firmer suspension and assorted M badges. And while this creates almost internal organ rearranging grip on the road, the harder suspension can crash unsettlingly through potholes and across rough surfaces, a trait made even more intrusive because you are sitting almost over the rear axle.
Surface irregularities aside, there is something special about pointing the Z4’s long bonnet into a corner, clipping the apex and accelerating out. The Z4 isn’t an out-and-out sports car like a Porsche Boxster but it does reward precise driving, and since most people rarely drive at the limits, the Z4 will have broader appeal than the Porsche.
Taking into account the prices of BMW sedans, the entry price for the Z4 comes as a pleasant surprise. $79,900 for a head-turning sports car is more than reasonable. Standard equipment includes auto bi-xenon headlights, auto wipers, self-dimming interior mirror, leather trim, heated seats, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, paddle shifters, cruise control, standard sat nav with an 8.8-inch fold-up screen and dual-zone air con. The price sets the Z4 above the Audi TT but less than the Mercedes-Benz SLK200.
The Z4 hasn’t been ANCAP rated but the previous model scored four stars. This car gets dual front and side air bags, stability control, rollover and traction control, anti-lock brakes and cornering brake control.