You are here
BMW Z4 M40i – long-term review
Battle of the £50k sports cars
This feels like a pretty route-one comparison. It’s unavoidable, though. For over 20 years Porsche has made the best roadster on sale, and it’d be deliberately obtuse of me to miss the chance to compare our BMW to one.
You’ve probably seen Boxster versus Z4 a dozen times or more, with the Porsche always triumphant. The winds have changed, though. The Boxster is wounded, its glorious, almost operatic old flat-six having been swapped for a four-cylinder that chunters like an old Subaru. The Z4, meanwhile, is very much as before, with a straight-six at the front powering the wheels at the back. But sharing DNA with the Toyota Supra – 2019’s headline act for real-world (ish) cars – has boosted its credibility.
Around corners, nothing’s changed. The Z4 feels like the heavier, less precise car, to an even greater degree than the 185kg disadvantage over this nominally stripped-out 718 Boxster T suggests. The Porsche is as lithe and athletic as ever, with world-class balance. Making it more of a shame that its flat-four engine is so short of charm, you’ll use it with a similar level of emotion as the window switches. You’d learn to tolerate its sound over time, but you’d never love it.
The 718 counters with a purist-pleasing manual gearbox (though PDK is optional) and its famous front and rear boots, which lend it more practicality than you’d dare think. Both cars impress hugely in dull everyday driving, in fact, with the bigger-engined BMW actually the more fuel efficient of the pair, its mid 30s mpg not only reported completely accurately by the trip computer – an astounding rarity – but miles better than my last Garage car managed, and that was a flipping four-cylinder Hyundai. This is the closest the Z4’s ever got to the Boxster, and its extra two cylinders might just clinch victory.
So which wins? Um, neither. My £50k would be spent on the little French coupe sneaking up from left of field. Sure, it doesn’t have a folding roof, but I’m not sure I give a damn. Even lighter on its feet than the 718 – and with a paddleshift so good you won’t miss a manual – the Alpine A110 is an enthralling car to drive, albeit one that’ll be a bigger pain in the bum to run daily than the BMW or Porsche. Something I’m continually reminding a friend who’s got one on order. We’re both well aware it’s just badly disguised jealousy.
Mileage: 9811 Our mpg: 32.5
Photography: Mark Fagelson