The Z4 is BMW’s only two-door, two-seater, front engine and rear-wheel drive convertible sports car.
It started with the Z1 in 1989 with the unique slide down doors.
The Z3 followed in 1995. It was produced until 2002.
Amongst all the Z cars, the Z3 was the best-selling, with almost 300,000 sold.
It was probably because James Bond drove one in Goldeneye.
BMW released the first Z4 in 2002 and sold 115,000 units till 2008.
The last-generation Z4 found 200,000 owners between 2009 and 2016.
The Z3, Z4 and the limited-production Z8 (5703 units produced between 2000 and 2003) have long bonnets and short rear ends.
Classical roadster proportions, then.
BMW has reverted to a soft-top for the third-generation Z4.
The older model, which had a folding hard-top, effectively made the car both a coupe and a convertible.
The new Z4 is 85mm longer, 74mm wider and 13mm taller than the previous one.
The roadster should be more agile, too. The Z4’s wheelbase has been shortened by 27mm, while the front and rear tracks are now wider by 98mm and 57mm respectively.
The Front and rear axles are new. A double-joint spring strut does its duties at the front and a five-link takes care of the rear.
Huge, detailed air ducts dominate the Z4’s front, making it look more aggressive than its predecessor.
But strangely, the headlamps are rather huge for BMW’s sports-oriented cars. They are at odds with the sleek and elegant tail-lights.
Like the nose, the rear end also receives a pair of air ducts. Two trapezoidal tailpipes add to the occasion.
Codenamed G29, the latest Z4 shares the same platform with the all-new Toyota Supra.
This is the result of a collaboration between the two carmakers.
However, everything else about the Z4 – including the way it drives – is pures BMW.
Our test car is the flagship M40i.
It has a 2998cc straight-6 engine that churns out 340hp and 500Nm of torque with the aid of a twin-scroll turbocharger.
These figures enable the Z4 M40i to accomplish the benchmark century sprint in 4.5 seconds.
The German roadster hits the sweet spot in many ways.
The car’s handling is pure fun.
It displayed exquisite balance as I swept along the Arrabida mountainside outside Lisbon, thanks to its 50:50 weight distribution.
The Z4 felt neutral in the bends with no tail-happy tendencies like say, the Kia Stinger.
However, the mountain road was greasy from rain that morning.
I did not want to push it too hard and put the roll-over protection system behind the seats to the test.
On the straights, the Z4’s massive engine torque begs you to push it harder and harder.
Keep an eye on the head-up display (the first in a Z4) for you will shortly be driving at illegal speeds without realising it.
I wished they had let us loose on the nearby Estoril racing track, like we did in the 8 Series the other day.
I so wanted to push the car as much as I could in a safer environment and explore its limits.
Yes, the Z4 comes with all forms of control like a domineering wife.
There is Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Dynamic Brake Control (DBC), etc.
But I’d rather have a taste of them in private surroundings, as opposed to a public place, which is embarrassing.
The steering wheel is well-weighted and like a good coach, tells you how much to turn in and out in every corner for that perfect line.
In Sport+ mode, the Adaptive M Sport suspension (standard in the M40i, together with M Sport brakes and electronically controlled rear M Sport Differential), feels too stiff only over very bumpy surfaces.
Luckily it is not stiff enough to loosen my dental fillings.
Over the same type of tarmac aberrations, it is progressively less bouncy in Sport and Comfort modes.
The engine note is typical of BMW’s straight-6 engines – melodiously sporty throughout its rev range.
The motor also makes a sweet pairing with the 8-speed automatic transmission.
Said gearbox has shorter ratios in the lower gears for faster pick-ups and features Launch Control, too.
The holy grail of large volume car manufacturers is for their sporty models to finish a lap of the 20.83km Nurburgring circuit and its 73 corners in under 8 minutes.
The Z4 completed it in 7 minutes, 55 seconds.
The standard black soft top is top-notch, as it insulates you from the outside world almost like a coupe does.
It takes 10 seconds to open or close it, and the roof can be operated when the Z4 is being driven at speeds of up to 50km/h.
A black top is never over the top. If you want something different, then Anthracite (a shade of gray) with silver effects is an option.
There is 50 percent more boot space than the previous Z4. It remains at a constant 281 litres whether the top is open or closed.
Inside, the dashboard’s design is similar to the one in the latest 3 Series. The instrument panel is an all-digital affair.
The Z4 has some 8 Series design cues, such as the start-stop button on the centre console.
There is also a Control Display, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with up to 10 menu pages.
With the roof closed, there is still ample headroom and elbow room, so you don’t feel claustrophobic in this top-drawer environment.
Leather and Alcantara are standard in the M40i. There is a pair of large cup holders under the centre armrest.
To keep you safe and preserve your driving licence, Collision Warning, Pedestrian Warning and Lane Departure Warning are standard in the top of the range Z4.
Other than the M40i which will probably retail at around $300,000 before COE, Singapore will also get the sDrive20i and sDrive30i variants.
These latter models are powered by turbocharged 2-litre engines, with outputs of 197hp and 258hp respectively.
There is 320Nm of torque in the “lesser” sDrive20i and 400Nm in the more powerful sDrive30i.
The all-important zero-to-hundred times are 6.6 seconds and 5.4 seconds.
The Z4 M40i’s direct competitor is the Porsche 718 Boxster. The 718 Boxster hits 100kmh in 4.7 seconds from standstill.
The 718 Boxster S, with its larger turbocharged 2.5-litre flat-4, goes from rest to 100km/h 4.2 seconds.
But the Porsche starts at $278,788 without COE. And you must be prepared to accept the absolute “basic” version.
This means it will not be equipped with LED headlamps, Porsche Active Suspension Management, Porsche Torque Vectoring with a mechanically locking rear differential, and the Sport Chrono Package.
Specifying the 718 Boxster with enough options so that it matches the M40i’s standard features will see the car’s price shoot past the BMW’s $300k tag by about $8k, if not more.
BMW Z4 M40i 3.0 (A)
TYPE Inline-6, 24-valves, turbocharged
CAPACITY 2998 cc
BORE X STROKE 94.6mm x 82mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11:1
MAX POWER 340hp at 5000-6500 rpm
MAX TORQUE 500Nm at 1600-4500rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 221.5hp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
DRIVEN WHEELS Rear
0-100KM/H 4.5 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 13.5-14.1km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 168-162g/km
FRONT Double-joint spring strut axle, hydraulically damped
REAR Five-link, hydraulically damped
FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs
TYPE Michelin Pilot Super Sport
SIZE 255/40 R18 (front), 275/40 R18 (rear)
TRACTION AIDS ABS, DSC
KERB WEIGHT 1535kg
TURNING CIRCLE 11m
PRICE INCL. COE To be announced (Z4 sDrive20i starts from $281,888)
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km
+ BALANCED HANDLING, NICELY WEIGHTED AND COMMUNICATIVE STEERING, INLINE-6 ENGINE NOTE
– FRONT DESIGN COULD BE BETTER, STIFF SUSPENSION ON SPORT+ SETTING, PORSCHE 718 BOXSTER PRICING