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Wow! Times flies when you are having fun… or when you’re older than 21. Over the last 30 years, BMW have certainly created many fun-filled moments for owners of their Z cars. What began in 1989 with the Z1, followed by the Z3 in 1995, the Z8 in 2000 and now the third generation Z4 all of which are the cause of great stories of motoring joy.
Each one of the Z cars from BMW are iconic fashion statements. Their bold designs make them stand out in a traffic herd of bland sameness. For that reason, like in life, we look for fault in what is different. This article isn’t about nitpicking at the new Z4, asking the questions: is it the unlimited urban sports droptop? Is it more dynamic to drive than it’s Porsche Boxster rival? These questions may be relevant to certain discussions, but not this one. Instead, I’m going to take you on the experience that is the BMW Z4.
For those of you who appreciate aesthetic beauty, enjoy the finer things in life and have little need for practicality, keep reading!
This 30-year history of Z car engineering is sewn together with a magical thread. This thread is woven around a platform that must have a 50/50 weight distribution, a powerful front-mounted engine, a rear wheel-driven set up, a long bonnet where the driver is seated just in front of the rear wheels and a low centre of gravity. Oh, and another important thing: a convertible roof. BMW’s interpretation of these elements is finessed by an outstanding gearbox. In the case of the new Z4, there is an outstanding 8-speed example.
The Z4 range is engineered for someone who enjoys driving - they like speed, the visceral nature of a sports car character while never forgetting comfort and technological innovation, all while the wind blows artistically in the wind. With that said, BMW understand their customers’ needs and make cars for them. This isn’t a supercar, it’s a roadster.
Locally, the new Z4 is offered only in two engine variations, the sDrive 2.0i that offers a perfect balance of power and torque for city use - (145 kW / 320 Nm). That’s enough oomph to get you to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds. This is all you really need. Just enough power to get its tail to slide in a bend and enough to dart away from the scene of the crime. Your other choice is the M40i version that we all would want (250 kW / 500 Nm). This unit takes two seconds off your dash to a 100km/h. More importantly, this model is endowed with substantially more power. There’s enough to bring out the hooligan within and daring to reach speeds that will get you locked up. This isn’t to be confused with Mercedes’s SLC range that is rather limp-wristed by comparison. This unit takes two seconds off your dash to a 100km/h. Overseas there is also a 3.0i model that I’d assume offers a fair balance between what we have on offer.
Perhaps of controversy is the fact that BMW entered into a partnership with Toyota when developing the Z4. Financially with good reason - over the past 30 years, the motoring landscape has shifted. Buyers no longer desire, as they once did, sports cars and sedans. The world wants SUVs and crossovers. Interestingly, in 1997 sales of the Z products were almost 60 000 units in the US and Europe. In 2007 sales were below 30 000 and in 2017, below 5000. So why continue? Cars like the Z4 symbolize dreams. Motoring enthusiasts and those who see their world in design need the wind blowing in their hair, they want to drive versus being driven and making a bold statement is part of their life. So, a partnership was forged - Toyota provided the platform which costs hundreds of millions while BMW provided engine, gearbox and other technologies to Toyota for their iconic Supra. It is a win-win! We now have two fantastic sports cars that carry the torch of dreams forward for each of their brands.
This new chassis from Toyota is wider, has a shorter wheelbase than before all while being stiffer than before. This has improved the driving experience over the Z4 it replaces. I know, I owned that car. I owned the sDrive 3.5i in 6-speed manual.
The new Z4 improves and moves the nameplate forward – technology is to notch, arguably my favourite infotainment and connectivity system. It’s intuitive to use, simple to understand and adds value to the car’s motoring package. Perhaps a superfluous discussion is its accommodations – seating for two, decent boot space and limited storage bins - it’s a roadster after all! But they are decent.
Well done BMW! You got me smiling.
Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, Jaguar F-Type Convertible, Abarth 124 Spider, Mercedes SLC, Porsche 718 Boxter
sDrive 2.0i R759 442
M40i R1 036 698
Service and warranty
5 year / 100 000 km maintenance plan
sDrive 2.0i R759 442
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