Can the Z4 finally emerge from the Boxster's shadow?
With a muscular straight-six powering the rear wheels and a driver-angled two-seat cabin, previous BMW Z4s felt like an arrow directed right at the heart of the car enthusiast. And yet they always flew wide of the mark. The constant presence of Porsche’s delicately set up Boxster meant there was a troublingly good benchmark to beat, mind, but Z4 attempt three could finally have the nous to overturn its key rival. And win our hearts. Six months in this M40i ought to reveal how successful it’s been.
So what’s new? Two extra cylinders, for starters. By virtue of the Boxster dropping to a rattly four-cylinder and not the Z4 suddenly gaining a V8, I must add, but an overpowered and under-stressed six has suddenly become a depressing rarity in the sports car class. Helpfully the latest, 335bhp version of BMW’s 3.0-litre turbo is a real peach.
Then there’s the lighter, more focused componentry BMW’s slotted beneath, including tyres nicked from an M4. It may be an ‘M Performance’ model – aka not a fully fledged M car – but there’s certainly a scent of the company’s more senior products about this top spec Z4. Perhaps more pertinently, there’s the shared DNA with some new car called ‘Supra’. Not sure how to pronounce its name. You might have heard of it mentioned once or twice.
Finally – and a biggie for me – BMW has reverted back to a fabric roof. After the soggy old hard-top Z4, that’s a real relief, and as well as keeping the kerb weight as trim as possible (if still podgy, at 1610kg) I think it properly benefits the car’s proportions. Yes, the styling had to come up at some point, and while I have to concede its wide-jawed face isn’t especially pretty, I love the rear three-quarter angle, where the latest Zed really looks like it means business.
San Francisco Red suits it well, too. On top of its paint (a no-cost option) our M40i has scant few extras: adaptive headlights (£900) a tech pack that incorporates a head-up display and surround sound system (£1800) and a comfort pack that heats the steering wheel and adds a rather crucial wind deflector (£750). Everything else you could possibly need is standard, going someway to justify dropping £51,985 on one of these. Less than that Supra, though…
Mileage: 2887 Our mpg: 32.9
Images: Mark Delaney