New BMW Z4 is a more polished roadster
Latest BMW Z4 M40i is fast and supremely agile if not as gorgeous in approach as previous model
When you study the new BMW Z4 roadster from very close quarters you will notice that it has markedly grown. It’s now 4,324mm long, which is 85mm more than the previous generation. Yet the new car feels too tight a fit once nestled inside. This is because the wheelbase, the area between the front and rear axles that’s used to carve out an interior has shrunk by 26mm in a move to create a more dynamic drive quality.
The new Z4 appears on the back drop of traditional segment rivals being phased out, one after the other. For some reason there is waning interest in the roadster genre as seen by Mercedes-Benz discontinuing the SLC, and Audi has announced that it is culling the TT. For those sun and thrill seekers who still hanker after premium roadsters, the latest Z4 provides improved digital features aimed at enhancing the classic driving experience of power, noise and handling in a strictly-for-two chariot.
Starting inside the smaller but plush cabin which mimics that of the new 3 Series and X5 with its flush buttons and hexagonal shaped surfaces decoration, our test unit featured a stronger dual-zone climate control, leather seats, Bluetooth connectivity, USBs and importantly for a weekend toy, there’s a thumping sound system with an onboard music storage hard drive.
An electrically operated cloth roof opens and shuts on the go in 10 seconds, at driving speeds up to 50km/h. BMW says boot capacity is 281l; in real-life terms this means two average flight-spec luggage bags that can be swallowed up with the roof up or down, and this is exactly what I was able to achieve.
As with current BMWs, our Z4 test unit featured mode buttons to tailor engine, transmission and damping parameters for Comfort, Sport and Sport + sensations. The first setting makes it an ideal daily drive. It wafts…soft of…better than ever.
Sport is a compromise between the two extremes. Sport+ is where you want to be for maximum effect in roadster tingles. The suspension doesn’t crash into imperfections but the enriched performance shows that it now shoots off the line cleanly, with none of the rear-end waywardness of the previous model which made you anxious in keeping it pointed straight, wary of any potential to oversteer.
The 250kW and 500Nm 3.0l turbocharged six-potter is the perfect mate. It’s rated with a 7,4l/100km fuel consumption average.
Off the boil it’s pleasantly tractable, unfazed by inclines. A new 8-speed automatic gearbox and honed suspension kinematics control and strong brakes make it an absolute weapon of speed when the horns grow.
There’s a tangibly better responsiveness and a very real sense of rigidity in its assembly too, with scuttle-shake now seemingly banished to the dark ages. The car is never ruffled as the roads become twisty, cambered or the surface broken. Reactions are sharp and sure. Even the tugs on the gearshift paddles click-in the gears with pleasing immediacy.
Then there’s the exhaust note that is as entertaining and cultured as it should be for a hot BMW six-cylinder lump. Just find a tunnel to properly hear it in.
The BMW Z4 M40i
Styling will always be subjective but sadly I’m not sold on the Z4’s new front. Unlike the previous car, I find it’s too guppy-eyed, fussy and characterless. However beyond the face the rest of the body unfolds brilliantly, flowing with strength and delicateness to finish off at an exuberant statement rump.
BMW’s assertion that the new Z4 be regarded as a distinctly different machine from the last generation is truth. It’s only the decreased room in its cabin that is the fly in the ointment. The rest of it elevates it to higher roadster standards.
Eschewing the folding metal roof in favour of a cloth is a good move. This shaves off weight and improves performance and efficiency. Importantly, it halves the time needed to peel off the roof, which is the default appeal of this genre of car.
Type: turbocharged six-cylinder
Capacity: 2,998 cc
Type: Eight-speed Auto
Top speed: 250km/h (as claimed)
0-100km/h: 4,6 sec (as claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 7.4l/100km (as claimed)
Sport brakes, M sport differential, adaptive M Suspension, wind deflector, interior and exterior mirror with automatic anti-dazzle function, electric seat adjustment with memory for driver's seat, child seats ISOFIX attachment, seat heating for driver and front passenger, automatic air conditioning, Auto Start Stop function, ECO PRO mode with coasting function and Proactive Driving Assistant, stability control, ABS brakes, four airbags, rollover protection system, tyre pressure indicator.
COST OF OWNERSHIP
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Five-year/100,000km Service Plan
Lease*: R21,989 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
BMW Z4 M40i
Performance, refined chassis, shouty exhaust
Cramped interior, frontal styling
A beastly wind-in-your-hair experience
****Value For Money
Porsche 718 Boxster GTS, 269kW/430Nm — R1,185,000
Jaguar F-Type V6, 250kW/450Nm — R 1,127,000