When BMW first released the Z4, the Bavarian firm rekindled the spirit of the classic roadster with a car that vastly improved on the dynamic attributes of its retro-cool Z3 and Z8 models. But the all-new Z4 has shifted the goalposts further – its all-round capabilities will appeal to buyers who want to make a style statement, as well as driving enthusiasts.
Featuring the “trademark” as-close-to-the-rear-axle-as-possible seating position and a long, low-slung bonnet, the E89 Z4 now blends classic proportions with a retractable hardtop. Situated up front is a prominent pair of kidney grilles, wider air intake and dual round headlamps in typical fashion of the Bavarian brand. The BMW Z4 measures 4 239mm in length, just over 100mm longer than before – and the 2 496mm wheelbase allows for overhangs of 850mm at the front and 893mm at the rear.
The side view is dominated by horizontal lines that accentuate the design of the front and rear fenders. The signature ‘gills’ behind the front wheels with integrated LED indicators, a long curved bonnet, and newly-designed 17-inch wheels round off the car’s side profile. The new Z4’s rear end appears to have a hint of 6 Series about it especially in the way the boot pushes out between the taillights Three rows of LED light up the rear, the third being a horizontal light set deep in the boot lid.
The two-piece aluminium hardtop is a first for BMW roadsters and all-round visibility is said to have increased by 14 per cent over that of the current Z4. The higher roofline and larger door openings allow for more convenient access when the roof is closed. The individually-retractable side windows are 40 percent larger, as is the rear glass windshield, which is 52 percent larger for more rearward visibility. Compactly stored in a new rear compartment, the aluminium hardtop can close, or open, (via interior switch or remote key fob) in 20 seconds. Comfort Access allows loading and unloading of the boot with the top down, by moving the stored aluminium shell to an interim position to ease the removal of larger objects. Despite the use of lightweight materials, the new Z4 tips the scales at 1 480kg, 145 kg more than the previous model.
The Z4 is available with a choice of three inline six-cylinder engines The range starts with the 2,5-litre straight six-equipped sDrive23i. This unit develops 150 kW and 249 N.m of torque, propelling this model from zero to 100 km/h in 6,6 seconds with a top speed of 242 km/h. The second of these powerplants is the familiar naturally-aspirated 3,0-litre unit doing service in the outgoing Z4. In sDrive30i guise it produces 190 kW at 6 600 r/min and 298 N.m of torque at 2 600 r/min. Last, but not least, is the twin-turbocharged variant in Z4 sDrive35i form with 225 kW and 406 N.m of torque from 1 400 r/min.
Mated with a six-speed manual gearbox, BMW claims a zero to 100 km/h sprint of 5,6 seconds for the sDrive30i, and 5,1 seconds for the sDrive35i. Although the use of a six-speed automatic on the Z4 sDrive30i slows the benchmark sprint down to 6,0 seconds, the Z4 sDrive35i, equipped with the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, accelerates to 100 km/h from standstill in 5,0 seconds, going on to an electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h when equipped with the optional sport package.
BMW’s EfficientDynamics technology has been applied to all three engines to improve fuel economy. This includes variable Valvetronic valve management or, respectively, High Precision Injection direct petrol injection technology, Brake Energy Regeneration, and on-demand management of ancillary units.
With rear-wheel drive, near-optimal weight distribution, a long wheelbase and low centre of gravity, the BMW Z4 boasts superb dynamics and employs traditional spring-struts with its “double-jointed” front suspension made largely of aluminium, and a constant-geometry rear axle tailored to suit the Z4’s handling characteristics. The agility of the Z4 may be further enhanced with the optional Sport Package featuring Adaptive M Suspension with Electronic Damping Control.
The new Z4 also comes with an upgraded, lightened braking system. At the same time the BMW Z4 is claimed to the first car in its segment to feature an electrical parking brake activated and released by a button on the centre console.
All entertainment, information, navigation and telecommunication functions are manipulated by a revised iDrive controller in the centre console and readouts are displayed on a folding high-resolution display on the instrument panel. The CD/MP3 compatible audio-system is also available in high-end format with up to 14 loudspeakers, two additional subwoofers and amplifier output of 650W.
Prices: (automatic in brackets)
sDrive23i R506 500 (R527 400)
sDrive30i R583 500 (R604 400)
sDrive35i R682 500
sDrive35i DCT R711 200