Test drive: BMW Z4 roadster celebrates the selfish two-seater life
What we’re driving: BMW's all-new 2019 Z4
What it costs: from $84,900
Why we’re driving it: BMW's third-generation Z4 roadster is now roaring onto Australian roads, and it's a powerful antidote to the dramas of life in 2019. Put the top down and put your foot down, then watch as the world takes on brighter colours and day-to-day concerns fade into the scenery.
This selfish two-seater is not for everyone, but the Z4 is a pure driver’s car, available in three levels of performance and equipment, which delivers on BMW’s commitment to provide 'ultimate driving machines'.
On the outside
The body of the Z4 is sharp and focussed, just like its driving dynamics.
While taking plenty of cues from the outgoing Z4 there is a lot more crispness to the design: from a much cleaner and tauter side profile to how the iconic ‘double-kidney’ grille is shaped and integrated into the nose, to the tiny aero kick-up on the boot instead of a giant ugly wing.
It's all the distinctive craft of transplanted Aussie Calvin Luk, who now works for BMW in Munich.
"There is something about sports cars, (they) have always been a bit more special,” Luk tells Australian Business Traveller. “It’s one of the more extreme emotional products that we have. So it has much more passion in the car.”
Luk pushed for return of the soft-top, echoing a call from the legion of enthusiastic Z4 owners. As snug and solid as the previous model's folding metal roof was, it also added weight, hurt the handling and stole space from the boot.
The soft-top closes and opens in just 10 seconds as speeds up to 50km/h, with a solid centre section to subdue noise and deter thieves.
To ensure there is no impact on the boot, which is pleasingly large with a ’ski port’ to slide long items through into the cabin, the roof folds down behind the seats without a cover.
“We asked a lot of questions to our current customers," BMW's Z4 program director Christopher Wehner tells Australian Business Traveller. "One major decision was to return to the soft top. We also wanted to focus on the new Z4 as a true sports car."
BMW continually refers to the Z4 as a roadster rather than a convertible, a distinction that Wehner says is important to the car and also potential owners, who don't want a vehicle compromised in any way by its open-air layout.
Wehner adds that a hard-top Z4 coupe was never even a notion, although Toyota went down that road for the all-new Supra which shares the Z4 underpinnings.
Under the bonnet
Engines in the Z4 are all in-line sixes, a favourite choice for BMW over many decades, but with the latest in turbocharger tweaking to ensure plenty of punch with smoothness and reasonable economy.
The three members of the new 2019 Z4 family are the s20i, s30i and M40i, with the M-car priced from $124,900 and promising a 4.5-second sprint to 100km/h.
All models are rear-wheel drive and have an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with paddles on the steering wheel for quick shifts.
One surprisingly good choice is ‘regular’ tyres for better grip with a smoother ride, instead of the harsh ‘run-flat’ type which BMW has been pushing for years and used on earlier Z4s.
On the inside
With two seats, plenty of room, minimal wind intrusion and a top that works fast when the weather turns bad, the Z4 ticks the key cabin boxes.
Interior materials change in subtle ways - like the finishing for the centre console - as you move up the Z4 range, but even the entry-level s20i has everything you need.
The large infotainment screen anchors a classy modern dashboard design, while heated seats are standard.
If that throaty exhaust note isn't your ideal driving soundtrack, the stacked speakers behind the seats stand ready to pump out your playlist.
The s40i sweetens the deal with better leather and more toys. That said, I'm not sold on the position of the cupholders: located under a cover at the back of the centre console, it's position which could lead to calamitous coffee spills.
Still, BMW says it was been chosen to reflect the switch to a cordless charging pad at the front of the console for smartphone storage, instead of - like many cars - in the cupholders.
On the road
Top down is the only way to drive a roadster. Winter is coming? Throw on a jacket and grab your favourite scarf.
There's only minimal wind buffeting up to freeway speeds, it’s easy to keep warm with the aircon and seat heater, and the car feels solid on the road without becoming harsh or bumpy.
It's comfortable and roomy, rides smoothly, has a solid kick regardless of the engine, and loves corners.
The nose follows the steering wheel and it’s up to the driver to decide how and when to stamp on the gas.
The roof is secure and quiet, and visibility is only slightly restricted in the rear three-quarters with no drama for parking.
BMW's latest Z4 looks great, oozes class and quality, and is an engaging and rewarding drive. Now we’re only waiting for the arrival of a full-house road runner from the M performance series to put the candles on this tasty cake.
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Test drive: BMW Z4 roadster celebrates the selfish two-seater life