Stand out from the crowd: BMW Z4 ups the agility
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With its jutting front jowels and wide low-slung profile, there is no mistaking the new BMW Z4 sports car.
Its unique appearance makes it stand out on the road, while the six-cylinder burbles away as it accelerates to the speed limit in less than four seconds.
It has such a low centre of gravity that it handles like a true sports car, albeit an extremely comfortable one.
That sprint is smooth and virtually effortless as the eight-speed sport automatic transmission slices through the gears.
The steering is nicely balanced and there is even plenty of room in the boot, making the Z4 roadster a practical proposition.
Operating the electric hood is quick and easy, and it can be raised or lowered up to 50 km/h.
BMW New Zealand is selling the gruntiest and most sporty version of the Z4, the M40i. It is powered by a 3.0-litre engine that puts out 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque.
The rear-wheel drive model has a shorter wheelbase than its predecessor, making it more agile on the road.
It is wider and stiffer than the previous Z4. Helping to achieve an agreeable result, the new Z4 is also light.
The front of the car is low and wide, with a shallow version of BMW’s trademark kidney grille.
It looks great in the test car’s Misano Blue metallic paint.
The front jowls accentuate the Z4’s sporty appearance and provide smooth air flow into the engine bay.
With the soft top down, the Z4 has a flat waistline, with two door creases flaring from another air vent just in front of the doors.
The top crease rises towards the top of the door, and accentuates the roadster’s broad hips.
That gradual rise towards the rear spoiler on the boot lid not only looks cool, but allows the Z4 to provide for the big boot, without jeopardising the appearance.
Make no mistake, this sports car is a vast improvement on what has gone before.
The Z4 M40i’s tyres come from the BMW M4, and the brakes are also M-developed.
It has adaptive M suspension. To drive the Z4 feels agile and fast.
Seats are comfortable and there is none of the flighty handling you sometimes experience in a sports car.
Instead it feels well-grounded, especially when pressed hard around corners.
The Z4 is a conversation-starter, and during the week we drove it, conversations often included a mention of the model’s half-cousin, the new Toyota Supra that has more of a cult following.
The two models share basic engineering, and are built at the same BMW plant in Austria.
Neither the Supra nor the Z4 could exist without the other. BMW knows the market for sports cars is declining, and it appeared the Z4 would be dropped from BMW’s model line-up.
The future of the Supra was also in question, because Toyota lacked a platform for it.
Enter BMW and its attachment to straight-six engines and rear-wheel drive, a mix made in heaven for Supra fans.
The outcome is a new Supra that will be tuned and set up differently, and have different handling characteristics. Though they share the same platform, they are aimed at different audiences.
The Z4 has a sporty feel on the road, but it delivers that sports car experience while riding smoothly and flat, and in great comfort.
We expect the Supra will be gnarlier, and we’ll see when it arrives later in the year.
In the meantime the Z4 is a practical, comfortable and pleasing drive, delivered with all the latest connectivity and driver assist technology you would expect for a car that costs $133,800 before adding optional extras.
On the test car the M seat belts and metallic paint added $1690 to the base price.