BMW Z4 car review
- We like...Looks; power
- We don't...Tiny boot when roof is down
The Z4 is a stunner. Good looks in cars are much down to personal taste but we’ve not found anyone who thinks this two-seat BMW is anything less that gorgeous. And, yes, it is one of those cars that appears prettier in the metal than in pictures.
Here we’ve the twin-turbo 350i S-drive, the top of the line Z4. The car’s only lately gained the retractable metal roof shown here while the engine is also new.
Fire it up and there’s a bass rumble from the exhaust that’ll rattle your neighbours' windows. Once on the move, though, it settles to a muted thrum. The cabin’s snug for two but there’s good leg-room. Drivers long in the body may find their head brush the roof lining; otherwise it’s easy to get comfy, although for us the at-wheel position works best when the seat is low and the wheel is forward. The roof folds beautifully but takes up almost all of the boot, leaving space for just a single mid-sized squashy holdall.
It’s searingly quick. You might expect that the seven-speed auto transmission might take the edge from its power but no; it lets the 3.0, six-cylinder motor pull hard in any gear. It’s no high-revs screamer though, topping out at modest engine speeds. And the transmission intervenes to change up a gear before you reach its maximum, regardless of whether you’ve selected ‘normal’, ‘sport’ or ‘sport+’ modes. These options also tune throttle, damper and steering responses.
If you’ve a mind to pick the gears yourself you can. But where other makers’ paddle-operated gears use one control for up, the other for down, BMW’s allows two-way shifting from either paddle. If you’ve another car in your household that also paddle-shifts, the difference will be confusing. Still, at least BMW’s set-up is on the money for speed and ease of change.
Glancing at the ribbon-skinny sides of those tyres, you’d imagine that this BMW abandons ride comfort to give everything to precision and control. However, so long as you leave it in ‘normal’ mode there’s a surprising comfort and subtlety in its ride.
Is the Z4 a great driver’s car, beating the Porsche Boxster that could be yours for similar money? For us it’s not quite there and the fault lies with the steering. BMW may have trumped rivals by giving its 3- and 5-series saloons a feel and precision from the wheel you won’t find elsewhere. But here there’s not the same degree of communication. It’s good, but the responses aren’t as intuitive, as ‘think and you’re there’ as you’d want from such a full-on performance machine.
The Z4 is, however, a car that always wants to go and its eager responses can make tootling along in stop-start traffic something of a chore. It’s at its best on a brisk cross-country rip across a mix of A- and B-roads, although its snug aluminium top does make it an agreeable companion on a long motorway trip, too. Top down, it’s civilised, its built-in wind baffle successful in preventing draughts. If you’re tall, however, you may find that the thick and low-set screen rail may impede your eye-line.
Should you buy one? Those looks may be enough: if not, its comfort, speed, class and sensible ownership costs provide more than a few reasons to buy. If you’re after the best drive for your money, though, a lengthy spin in a Porsche Boxster may just tip the decision elsewhere.
- Engines3.0-litre 6cyl twin-turbo petrol
- 0-60 mph5.9secs
- Insurance groups43
Motors.co.uk value verdict: