The hype for the new Z4 was eclipsed by the arrival of the way-too-German Toyota Supra. If you think BMW wouldn’t have come up with a Z-car this year had it not been for the Supra, you’re almost right. Dismal sales figures were an indicator that few people were willing to put down a deposit for a roadster. But BMW had to engineer a platform to suit the Supra, so that’s what this car stands on. We’re glad that it’s here, even if it’s looks are a little marmite to some.
We saw this car last year at Pebble Beach – a stunning concept that appeared to have been carved out of a bar of marble with a sharp chisel. But the production car looks nothing like it. Up in the front, the headlamps make it look perpetually surprised. Viewed from the rear it’s even more disappointing to see that the kink at the top of the boot lid that we saw on the concept is absent. However we do think it looks rather aggressive from behind and has a lot more presence than any previous era Z4.
Some would argue Z-cars were never really that pretty, others would go against them. However I think most would agree they were supposed to be tiny, fast, and fun. That’s where the G29 matches its legacy. The M40i model goes around the Nurburgring in eight minutes, quicker than the original M2! It will launch from 0-60 in 4.2 seconds and all of this without a roof! Even the base engine, the 20i, is no slouch. It takes 6.6 seconds to get to 60 mph. There is many things to like, and some to dislike about the new model of Z4, but we urge you to try one before you make your mind up.
The handling benchmark was the original M2 – it just had to be. No, the steering isn’t as communicative, BMW has pioneered this technology and is obsessed with filtering what they call “bad feedback”. Whatever that is. But the tiny wheelbase and an electronic differential do tell you what’s happening on the road. You can feel the diff working in the corners, and that’s the kind of fun you can expect to have in this car.
Engine designations are a bit misleading for those familiar with 90s BMWs. There are only two engines, in two states of tune each. The 20i makes 200 hp, the 30i makes 255 – both come with the four-pot turbo. The straight-six in the 40i models makes 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The Z4 M40i is no exception, however as always, BMW seem to under rate the power figures with people often seeing 350 hp+. That makes it arguably the fastest Z you can buy today. It gets adaptive dampers as standard, which really does make it very capable on track, whilst maintaining a great ride on the roads.
The new BMW Z4 is unlike the old Z4, but it is also a bit more welcoming – both in its appearance and dynamics. It establishes a controlled environment for you to have fun in. All the things you don’t like about it – you won’t notice them when you’re in the driver’s seat with half your head in the direct wind. Not fast enough? Look at your face already!