15 December 2008

Hard to please

New BMW Z4 gets folding metal roof. Do you approve?


There's a new BMW Z4 on the way, and the big news is that it's gone hard-top.

Yes, the current Z4 is available in either folding soft-top or coupe flavour, but the 2009 edition - arriving in May, just in time for a summer of glorious sunshine - gets a two-piece folding metal roof.

It's the most significant bit of a complete overhaul for BMW's Z-car, which gets a bunch of new engines and technology. First off, that roof: bringing the Z4 straight into the firing line of the Merc SLK, it'll raise and lower in just 20 seconds.

Though it's a fairly simple roof, it does - inevitably - add a bit of weight: the new Z4 is almost 150kg heavier than its predecessor, a fairly sizeable gain. It's a bigger car all round, in fact: though it sits on the same modified 3-Series platform, it's almost 15cm longer and slightly wider, too.

The extra weight, you'd think, should spell bad news for the handling, but BMW reckons the new Z4 is sharper than its predecessor, thanks to new ‘Adaptive M Suspension', which allows you to raise or lower the ride height - BMW says that the hardest setting, Sport+, is comparable to the outgoing Z4's standard ride.

Good news in the engine department, too: the Z4 will be launched with the choice of three six-cylinder direct-injection engines, topped by the three-litre twin-turbo from the 335i. Putting out 306bhp, it'll fire the Z4 to 62mph in just over five seconds - hardly slower than the current Z4M Coupe - and return 31mpg if you opt for the DCT gearbox.

On the subject of Ms, there's no word on a new Z4M yet - or indeed a coupe version. Remember, though, that the hard-topped Z4 didn't turn up for four years after the soft-top version, so a new coupe could be a while away... if it arrives at all.

The one thing we haven't mentioned - can of worms and all that - is the new looks of the Z4. Contrary types that we are, we liked the old one - but what do you think of this new one? A handsome, evolutionary progression, or a bit of a cop-out?   



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