BMW Z4: the tech download
It used to be that handling and performance were the be-all and end-all of a performance car, but not nowadays. While grumpy old dullards like me like to talk about steering feel and mime opposite lock with their hands, most people just want to know how easily their iPhone connects and whether the stereo is half decent.
Inside the Z4, everything is as you’d expect in 2019 – proper phone link-up, digital dials, a head-up display – but it all operates with mixed success. CarPlay only pipes in through Bluetooth, so when it occasionally crashes, you can’t just reset with a quick unplug/plug of a wire, instead having to pull over on the side of the road and fiddle within the menus to restore it. A real first-world problem when you’re most of the way through a podcast and on tenterhooks to hear the end of it.
It works the vast majority of the time, mind, and looks fantastic on BMW’s big, wide touchscreen. So many cars squish CarPlay displays into poorly sized oblongs, with multiple swipes between all the apps you use, which are scattered with little logic. The Z4 fits all the ones I need into one display, making it the work of a moment to switch between Waze and Spotify. Handy when one of your more embarrassing musical tastes suddenly start beating out of the (very good) Harman Kardon stereo while the roof is down in traffic.
Moving from the middle of the dash to in front of the driver, and we find BMW’s flawed digital dial layout, its customisation options – surely the key selling point when switching from good ol’ analogue – limited to mere colour schemes. So you’re stuck with the dials’ odd, almost polygonal shapes and a rev-counter that works backwards. Aston Martin has a lot to answer for…
Good job the head-up display is so well resolved. It’s enormously tweakable – you can have a Seventies muscle car-style rev counter, nav instructions and speed limit warnings, or just your velocity – and the readout is so legible, I’m now as panicky as a Millennial without WiFi when I drive a car that doesn’t beam my speed onto the road ahead.
Mileage: 8430 Our mpg: 33.4