BMW unveils the new Z4
BMW have unveiled their third generation of the highly popular Z4. The previous models were fun to drive and offered a mesmerising driving experience. Competing with other small luxury sports cars, like the Audi TT and Porsche Boxster, was always going to be a challenge. The new BMW Z4 has been restyled with new design features and technical improvements. BMW has also made the Z4 a soft top only, thankfully disposing of the hardtop model found on the previous model.
The new Z4 was developed alongside the new Toyota Supra. Both are front-engined with rear-wheel drive. Although developed together, Toyota and BMW state that the cars will be significantly different to drive. BMW has stuck to its values of creating a sports car with luxurious comfort. All engines are powerful petrol engines with no hybrid option available.
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Sporty engines and joyful ride
The Z4 comes with a choice of three different power outputs. There is a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 194hp or 255hp; these are the sDrive 20i and 30i, respectively. The most powerful and top-level model is the M40i. It is fitted with a 3-litre, six-cylinder turbocharged engine developing 335hp. All fitted as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission featuring manual and sport modes.
BMW has redesigned the chassis and suspension to improve handling and comfort. The Z4 now has a shorter wheelbase and wider stance helping to make it more agile and grippy, through even the tightest of corners. Lightweight aluminium can be found throughout the suspension, including a new five-link system at the rear. The Z4 has a perfect 50:50 weight distribution providing the superior handling expected of a sports car.
Steering is quick, crisp and sharp, and no problem when cruising. Unfortunately, if you push a little harder, there is a distinct lack of feedback, from the steering, even in the aggressive sport settings.
BMW has reverted to its original design, so the Z4 now only comes with a soft top. Impressively this only takes 10 seconds to retract and can be done at speeds up to 31mph. Electric folding door mirrors are new and come as standard on M-Sport models. A new honeycomb kidney grille, coupled with a sleek headlight design, gives the front end a menacing look. Add the M-Sport package, and the exterior becomes even more aggressive with deepened bumpers, and all-round sportier body kit. In the rear, the LED lights are tremendous, along with the gorgeously sculpted diffuser which works together in harmony.
Interior design and space
As we have all come to expect from BMW, the interior build quality is excellent. The standard black faux leather seats are comfortable, whether on a long journey or pushing to the limits, on twisty mountain roads. The optional sports seats are less comfortable on longer rides but do provide more support if driving on a track or a windy road. Comfort options are available, adding electrical adjustments for both seats along with adjustable lumbar support.
The dashboard appears to have been taken directly from the new 3 series. It is a great design and works well, especially in the 3 series. For the new Z4, BMW's two-seat sports car, it would have been nice to have created something a little more exciting and bespoke. The driving position and location of the dashboard (slightly angled towards the driver) give the feeling of being in the cockpit of a race car.
All the new BMW Z4's come with the latest iDrive 7.0 infotainment system, which is responsive and easy to use. All versions also come with BMW's new 'Live Cockpit Professional digital instrument display. Standard features include sat-nav, Bluetooth, digital instrument panel, a 10.25-inch touchscreen and Apple Carplay but not Android Auto.
The optional' heads up display' is worth opting for if it can fit within your budget, as the new digital display is not the easiest to see and read.
The cockpit provides ample space even with the roof down. The seating position has been brought forward slightly from the previous model, so you are closer to the middle of the wheelbase. You get more legroom in the Z4 than you do in the Audi TT or Porsche Boxster. Sitting lower, you are nicely tucked in beneath the wind. There is also an optional wind deflector, to help reduce the wind buffeting with the roof down.
The boot spaces in the Z4 is impressive, at 281 litres. What's more impressive is, this does not change whether the roof is up or down. A great piece of design and engineering by BMW. The Z4's rivals cannot match this, with the Audi TT and Porsche Boxster coming up short.
BMW Safety Features
All Z4 models come with front and rear parking sensors. There is the option of a rear-view camera, to help with reversing, especially into and out of tight spaces. LED lights are incredibly bright and illuminate to the road ahead, with an optional upgrade to Adaptive LED headlights.
The BMW Z4 has not yet gone through crash testing with Euro NCAP, so no official safety rating. As standard, the Z4 comes with automatic emergency braking and front collision warning, along with BMW's lane departure warning system. More driver aids are available in the Driver Assist Package, including traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection and pedestrian detection.
Can the Z4 compete with its rivals?
BMW has tried to revitalise the Z4 to bring the "sports car feel" back to its customers. The Z4 is comfortable, refined, luxurious convertible cruiser. For those long journeys across the hillsides of Europe, this is a great car with great handling and plenty of grunt. If you want true sports car performance that offers the most excitement and fun, then the Audi TT or Porsche Boxster are the cars of choice. Can BMW do better? Yes. Is the Z4 getting closer to becoming a real drivers car? Yes. The BMW Z4 is a step in the right direction for BMW and will be extremely popular with people wanting that thrill and excitement, mixed in with comfort and luxury.