The latest BMW Z4 is not entirely new, but like many people who purchase them, it has undergone some cosmetic surgery to look fresher, younger and in this case, prettier actually. I have always had a soft spot for the Z4. It just feels right that BMW should have a car like this in the line-up.
I like that it’s sort of a scaled down supercar. It certainly gets attention, but I feel like it mostly gets attention from people who are very interested in their own biceps. Or handbags. Which is a pity, because the Z4 offers a pure driving experience that, if you’re interested in driving as something other than a way to get around, ticks all the boxes.
Rear-wheel drive, manual gearbox (optional), strictly two seats, a low slung stance and an impossibly long bonnet, housing a peach of an engine in the 2.0 four-banger turbo tested here, or the rather fiery 3.0 straight-six turbo nicked from the 335i. What, fellow enthusiasts, is not to like?
Interior features and specsMy driving position resembles how most people recline in a bath, so the seating design of the Z4 suits me rather well. Again, this offers that supercar feel. The dash presents you with a chunky leather lined steering wheel, which might actually be too thick. But it feels good; challenging. Hitting the start button, a widescreen which was hiding in the dash flips out neatly and becomes the centre point of a curvy, sculpted dash.
Simple dials and switchgear are the order of the day here; there’s much less fuss than in other BMWs. The Z4 really benefits from the latest form of iDrive, with a large jog wheel surrounded by “hot-buttons” for functions you might use most often: Nav and Radio for instance. Visibility out of the cabin is limited, and that bonnet seems never ending. The haunches over the front wheel arches rise just into your vision; every road looks just a bit better through this view.
It does however make the Z4 difficult to park, but BMW’s park assist with what I call the Reggae Radar graphic (green = safe, yellow = you’re getting close, red = stop immediately) does help a lot. It also looks like a Rastafarian’s beanie, which I always find amusing. The roof opens and closes at the touch of a button, and is quite a marvel to behold. When reclining, it looks like a transformer lying down for a nap. When the roof is closed, you might as well be in a fixed-head coupe. The folding hard top has come a long way indeed.
Engine and gearboxThe screen gymnastics mentioned above are accompanied by a lovely burble on start up. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a much more menacing engine at play here. Those force-fed four cylinders in the BMW Z4 2.oi have been tuned to produce 135 kW and 270 Nm. Not stellar numbers, but crucially peak torque is available from 1 250rpm, up to 4 500rpm, which ensures that you hardly ever feel like there’s not enough oomph available.
0 – 100km/h is a respectable 7.2 seconds (claimed), enough to keep you nipping at the heels of all the hot hatches out there. BMW’s clever 8-speed gearbox does a sterling job of selecting the best ratio for the conditions, and in Sport mode, it will hold quite a high gear to ensure there is max torque and power available to push the car out of a corner when you get back on the throttle.
Drive and handlingThe lighter engine up front also has the advantage of reducing the tendency to understeer, or wash wide during cornering, meaning a lighter, nimbler drive, again adding to that feeling of purity of experience. However, I do feel that as the Z4 has grown up and evolved, the driving experience, at least in this model, has increasingly become detached.
BMW knows its market, and most buyers of this model aren’t looking for a white-knuckle driving experience, but rather a refined, sporty car that will enhance what people think of their faces. That said, the ride remains firm and the rear-end occasionally flirts with oversteer more than your average sporty sedan. The layout of the car takes some getting used to, sitting this far back is certainly different. It can be a little intimidating at first, but after a few twisty roads in the BMW Z4 2.0i, you might begin to wonder why all cars aren’t like this.
BMW Z4 2.0i – Facelift changes and upgradesThe latest Z4 benefits from BMW’s Efficient Dynamics program, allowing you to select between various modes which automatically set up the car to make the best of the available power, or the available fuel. EcoPro mode reigns in the car so much, it’s a bit like driving through custard.
The throttle goes numb under your foot and the dials upfront display graphics to help you drive more efficiently. There’s also a reward system at play here, as the system ashows you how many kilometres you’ve added to your range by driving like an octogenarian. Excellent, given the current fuel price. The most noticeable change to the exterior is the Corona Ring headlights, which look fantastic. Clear glass wraps around four stark, bright rings which themselves surround the lamps; these run during the day. It has revitalised the look of the car significantly.
Fitted with the M-Sport package of my particular test unit, the BMW Z4 2.0i drew admiring glances wherever I travelled. It is a striking car, slightly odd looking perhaps, but in a good way. My test unit was in Melbourne Red, which I’d recommend with a black roof. (Incidentally, Melbourne Red was not inspired by sunburnt Australians).
BMW Z4 ConclusionThe smaller engine in the line-up might not look the most attractive to fanboys or enthusiasts, but in the real world it has more than enough power to keep most drivers interested, while returning decent fuel consumption. The exterior and interior mods from the mid-life cycle refresh have brought the interior bang-up to date, and the exterior now looks fresher, and even more sporty.
At nearly R600 000, it is not a cheap exercise though, but is in line with its rivals. It will be interesting to see how this market is impacted by the potential arrival of a Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ convertible. That will be a 2.0, rear-wheel drive with properly good looks.
BMW Z4 SDrive20i price in South AfricaR593 501 – with the base model manual coming in at R540 000.
2014 BMW Z4 SDrive20i Specifications
|Engine||2.0 litre turbocharged inline-four petrol|
|Power||135 kW @ 5 000 rpm|
|Torque||270 Nm @ 4 500 rpm|
|0-100km/h (Claimed)||7.2 seconds (claimed)|
|Fuel economy||6.8l/100km (claimed on the combined cycle)|
We dislike: . Price, perhaps BMW could look at a stripped down, more focused version? . fairly harsh ride over bumpy roads, most likely the run-flats though . the people who buy them