The BMW Z-roadsters are over 20 years old now. It all started in 1989 with the Europe only BMW Z1, a funky two-seat roadster with doors that opened by going down into its sills. As far as I know, the Z1 is the only production car to ever have such a door arrangement.
The Z1 wasn’t made in large numbers and is hence a very rare car. Its successor however, was one of the best-selling roadsters of its time, the Z3.
The Z3 probably had one of the best car launches ever, since it was endorsed by James Bond in the flick “Golden Eye.” Such publicity and a relatively low starting price meant it was an instant sales success.
In its five-year production run, the Z3 was made available with many engine options, and in the final years, a Z3 coupe was also added in the line-up. However, while the Z3 was popular, it did have a reputation of being a poser’s car rather than a driver’s car.
BMW decided to change that with the introduction of the first-generation Z4 in 2002. This car was much sharper to drive than the Z3, so it got the enthusiasts attention. However, the Z4’s styling was unusual to say the least.
It was penned by the American car-designer Chris Bangle; who described its styling as “flame surfacing.”
Whatever you wanna call it, it certainly looked a bit weird and took time to grow on the public. As a result, the Z4 was not as successful as the Z3 was in the showrooms.
Since 2009, BMW has been selling a new generation model of the Z4. This has been the first Z-roadster to have a folding hard-top roof, something that Mercedes-Benz has been offering since the mid-90’s.
The styling of this new Z4 is smoother and less controversial than the previous model. I like the new look, but I also prefer the edginess of the older model.
The new cars interior look and feel is greatly improved though. Not only have the quality of materials improved, the interior is now much more spacious than before and it looks much more inviting, certainly looks like the sort of place where you can spend a lot of time in then!
Having taken one on a long drive, I would advice against doing so with the roof down. Why you may ask? Because of the wind buffeting. My test car, which even had a wind-blocker, still had a bit too much wind turbulence at highway speeds than I personally would like. As a result, I decided to pull into a service station and put the roof back up. This is easy to do since all you do is push a button and in less than 30 seconds the roof is in place.
Back on the road, with the roof up, it is still not the quietest car on the planet, but it’s not bad either. What really impresses is it’s excellent ride quality and comfortable seats.
However, roadsters such as this are not meant for covering long distances. Their main role is to entertain on back roads.
In this department, this car does extremely well. The Z4 has lots of grip, and the chassis feels very capable, which just encourages you to dig deeper and deeper into its handling abilities. Trust me, this is a very satisfying car to drive on country roads.
Things only get better when you start exploring its new motor. The new base engine is a 2.0-liter, inline four-cylinder, TwinPower Turbo motor, that produces 241-hp and 258-lb/ft of torque. This motor, which is found in many BMW models these days, feels much more alive and exciting in this application. Not only does it sound good, it picks up speed very rapidly and just shoots you down the road. Just how fast? 0-100 km/h is dealt with in 5.9 seconds (feels a lot quicker than that to be honest). Top speed is electronically limited at 210 km/h, or you can have the limiter raised to 250 km/h if you go for the optional speed package.
I like this engine a lot, but I like its gearbox even more. While you can have the standard six-speed manual gearbox, my test car had the new eight-speed automatic gearbox. This transmission is incredible. It swaps gears faster than you can blink and the shifts are smooth. Plus the noises this gearbox allows the car to make are truly spectacular, trust me, you’ll find tunnels to blast through in this car and they’ll always plant a smile on your face.
So while this gearbox works like any other automatic, which makes it easy to deal with in a traffic jam; however when you’re in the mood to have some fun, it delivers again.
Couple that with an eager engine and a chassis that really enjoys being on back roads, and you end up with a truly enjoyable little roadster. Sure it might not be perfect for long-distance drives, but then nothings perfect.
If you really like this Z4, and you should if you’re alive, then you should go out and try one out yourself. Prices start at $54,300.