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BMW Z4 M40i – long-term review
Double the price, double the fun?
Ollie Kew: I’ve been running this Mazda MX-5 RF for a little while. I was all set to make a case for roadsters being better when kept cheap and simple, and now you’re bowling around in a £52k al fresco Supra. How does the Z4 justify that kind of wallet kicking?
Stephen Dobie: It justifies it with a proper engine. A big 3.0-litre six that sounds wonderful and feels muscular, but returns 35mpg with ease. Then there are its multitudinous screens, its smooooth automatic gearbox, its heated seats and wheel. I can’t claim to be doing much ‘exploiting’ in everyday life, but the Z4’s proving abundantly cocooning over ridiculous distances in a way I imagine the tightly quartered MX-5 hasn’t.
OK: It’s true, most people who’ve driven or ridden in the MX-5 have lamented that its appealingly tiny footprint means the cabin fits you like a scuba suit. But its experience boils down to teaching you what you can happily live without, so you can better enjoy what you’ve got. I couldn’t drive to work in smart shoes because they didn’t fit the pedals, but I got there less stressed because it snuck through teeny gaps and squish-squashed over potholes. It’s a happy compromise. And I got 40mpg. Thing is, do you think of the Z4 first and foremost as a fast’n’serious sports car, or a convertible?
SD: Um, neither. I see it as a mini GT, such is its maturity. It definitely has a sporty side, just not one that’s always fighting for your attention, like a mate constantly trying to drag you down the pub against your own will. Instead its feistiness sits quietly in the background, waiting for you to select Sport and DTC (and drive with appropriate vigour) before revealing itself. There’s a lot to like about that, but I do prefer cars a little rougher around the edges. As for it being a convertible, I fold the roof down far less than I ought to. Blame a) how much I like to shelter from London’s franticness and b) how blustery it gets on the motorway. Something I know the RF also suffers with…
OK: I agree, the roof down wind-chop at 60mph sounds like a Chinook is trying to land on the boot. The conclusion I came to with the RF is that an MX-5 is, at its heart, not an entry-level sports car, but the quintessential roofless experience. I can’t imagine ever needing more of a drop-top than that. You tart.
Z4 mileage: 5922 Our mpg: 35.0