You are here
The Top Gear car review: BMW Z4
For:The space, the comfort, the roof, the engines and the air of class
Against:Winkie-extension connotation. Boxster is much better to drive
28i sDrive M Sport 2dr
Good-looking roadster is just that. Buy it for the badge, not the dynamics. Or save a grand and get a BRZ instead. You’re welcome.
Cheapest Z4 on sale is no poor relation to the bigger hitters, but isn’t an out-and-out sports car
Don’t do it. Buy one of the more basic versions instead – there’s too much power here for the chassis.
Far better than the last one, but still not a Boxster rival. With a soft-top, it might have got closer.
New hard-topped Z4 is sharper than the old model, but it’s still not the last word in dynamics.
It’s been in the 630i and 530i for a while now, but the new magnesium-blocked three-litre six finally makes it into the Z4 in this, the 3.0 Si....
What we say:
Delivers decent space and comfort, but the Z4 is missing a dash of vitality
What is it?
Having sat between the rock and the hard place that is the Porsche Boxster (the driver’s roadster) and the Mercedes SLK (the fop’s roadster) the last BMW Z4 had a difficult time. It was neither dynamic nor comfy enough to challenge either. Enter this Z4, the two-seat BMW with folding hard top that guns straight for coiffed drivers whose living rooms have a white-leather corner sofa. A mild facelift has been rolled out but you’ll be hard pushed to notice.
It’s a two-seat, rear-wheel-drive BMW with a phallic bonnet and no diesel engines, so it must have some dynamic clout lest the other roadsters call it names, right? Well yes, but BMW also decided that you can’t outbox a Boxster, so this Z4 aims at the SLK, focussing on space and comfort.
As if to prove the emphasis shift, the least satisfying version is the most powerful sDrive35iS – the power overwhelms it. Lower in the range it’s a good drive, though exploitable because it follows the BMW 50:50 weight distribution mantra, has accurate steering and, if you pay for it, three-stage adaptive damping. Bowing to comfort means feel through the wheel is limited, compared to a Porsche, but there’s more than enough to decipher where the grip is, and if you’re so inclined the back end can slide. The six-cylinder 23i and 30i versions have now become the four-cylinder turbo 20i and 28i. Good news: more torque, less fuel. Bad news: fewer revs, less blaring noise. A new 158bhp entry-level sDrive18i is slow but affordable. The coiffed will love it.
On the inside
The cabin is spacious, high quality, and decked in a heady combination of spongy plastic and glossy trim, so it looks great – more/less so (delete to taste) with the red, extended leather interior. The driving position puts your backside right over the back axle, low and looking down the long bonnet. Spot on.
The folding hard top roof – a switch from cloth last time around – does a coupe- standard insulation job, making this a proper all-year roadster but its bulky mechanism does mean you’re in shoebox territory in the boot department.
As is becoming a BMW norm, the amount of standard kit is generous and includes such former options-list gems as xenon headlamps and dual-zone climate control. Four-cylinder versions might get your knickers in a twist, but they’re both properly quick and get ten miles more per gallon than the older sixes – both 41.5mpg, with a 5.6 second sprint to 62mph for the 28i. Be aware that this is a market awash with spec-sheet snobs, though: leather, automatic ‘box, sat nav and upgraded rims are imperative if you want it to hold its value when you come to sell.