2020 BMW z4
A Balance of Sport and Luxury
BMW’s completely reworked Z4 sportscar is either its fifth or sixth generation of the company’s volume two-seater. A sixth generation would include counting the bigger V8-powered Z8 Alpina, a true BMW rival to Mercedes SL series and a car that made a short appearance from 2000 to 2003. Readers may remember the Alpina unkindly sawed in half during the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.
I covered BMW’s original Z3 launch back in 1995, driving the little roadster to the company’s test track at its then new Spartanburg, South Carolina manufacturing plant. This affordable Bimmer was more of a Mazda Miata rival than the kind of grand touring convertibles that luxury brands typically offer and it sold briskly during its first decade. The Z4, introduced in 2002 added more power and substance and in 2009, a retractable hardtop just like its German rival.
Sharing the Burden
In an era where sedans are giving way to trucks and SUVs and when less than four doors are a sales challenge, it’s surprising that BMW is offering a new Z4. It’s not as if the brand is short of model offerings. And this car wouldn’t appear if BMW ‘s product planners had to go it alone, but Toyota wanted to resurrect its Supra and the new Z4 had just the right ingredients. Although some Supra purists complain about discovering more BMW parts in their Toyota than they expected, it’s not as if they partnered with Opel.
There’s no folding steel roof on the Z4 so despite a bit longer and wider body, the car was able to shed a few pounds from the last generation, although at 3,457-pounds curb weight, it’s hardly svelte. The weight extracts a penalty for those who wish to corner carve with abandon, but it also gives this Z4 substance that previous versions lacked. Parked alongside my neighbor’s new M850i convertible, it looked like a car that could compete in the six-figure price category. Perhaps BMW will inadvertently give the SL some competition.
The well insulated soft top retracts quickly at speeds up to 31-mph and we kept it that way for a trip to wine country to retrieve a few boxes of the spirits. The top does not intrude the trunk and it swallowed the goods with room to spare. In top-down mode, the Z4 is quite civilized with an exhaust note that’s surprisingly adult in tone. And on the highway with windows up, conversations or entertainment are easy on the ear.
The instrument layout and large screen are a nice improvement including the iDrive menus and addition of touch screen controls. But the Apple CarPlay experience was among the worst I’ve experienced in a new model, forgetting its connection with astonishing regularity. And the cupholders now reside in half of the center glovebox where beverages are hard to reach and the armrest is sacrificed. But these faults are hardly deal breakers if you want a sporty luxury roadster without writing an enormous check
THE FINE PRINT
2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i
TYPE: Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 2.0-liter Twin Turbo I-4
HORSEPOWER: 254 @ 5,000-RPM
TORQUE: 294 lb.ft. @ 1,500-RPM
BASE PRICE: $49,700
PRICE AS TESTED: $63,845
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 25-city, 32-highway, 28-combined