Some 20 years have passed since I drove the original BMW Z4, then over some challenging roads in Scotland and now we have news of the latest version of this roadster. The updates include fresh design accents to the exterior, with enhanced standard equipment and a wider range of options to choose from. These new features not only underscore the sporting character of the Z4 but also build on its success in the company’s line-up and its important role in their long history of open-top sports cars.
I suppose I could say that the Z4 brings the traditional roadster experience to the modern era with powerful engines, rear-wheel drive and a classical fabric soft-top roof. Clearly the latest model is engineered with a focus on maximum agility, dynamism and steering precision and it features a contemporary high-class interior with a driver-focused cockpit layout. Moving to the exterior, and its appearance exudes sporting potency, particularly with the M Sport package which is now included as standard for the four-cylinder models. Those who choose this roadster will benefit from the expanded standard specification and a wide selection of exterior paint finishes, including three new variants, whilst additional M light19 inch alloy wheels and M lights Shadow Line provide extra scope for customers to put their own individual stamp on.
Instant power delivery, an enthusiastic appetite for revs, exemplary efficiency and the smoothness for which BMW is renowned are the signature characteristics of the three petrol engines also available for the new edition. The four-cylinder engine powering the Z4 sDrive20i teams up as standard with a eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission and this transmission comes with shift paddles on the steering wheel and a Launch Control function for traction-optimised acceleration off the line. The top-of-the-range model, whose six-cylinder in-line engine with M TwinPower Turbo technology is unmatched by any rival and displays outstanding performance. The three litre 340bhp unit develops peak torque of 500 Nm and powers the Z4 M40i from rest to 100 kph (62 mph) in 4.5 seconds. The four-cylinder engine, with a displacement of two litres and BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, stands out with its lively performance characteristics. With maximum output of 197bhp and peak torque of 320 Nm; the Z4 sDrive20i sprints from rest to 100kph (62 mph) in 6.6 seconds. With its compact proportions, minimised weight, low centre of gravity and almost perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the immense rigidity of the body and chassis structure and highly effective aerodynamics of this roadster provides the ideal platform for sporty handling that will enthuse and delight. Unlocking a compelling blend of agility and ride comfort is chassis technology which brings together a two-joint spring strut front axle and a five-link rear axle. Standard specification for all model variants also includes variable sport steering.
The M Sport suspension, as noted earlier, is now part of standard equipment, optimises driving dynamics with its firm damper and spring tuning. The Z4 M40i has adaptive M suspension with electronically controlled dampers M Sport brakes with a choice of blue- or red-painted callipers and the range-topping model is also fitted with an M Sport differential at the rear axle. There are a host of state-of-the-art driver assistance systems to enhance levels of both comfort and safety; standard specification includes Front Collision Warning with brake intervention, Lane Departure Warning including lane return, and the Speed Limit Info function with no-overtaking indicator. Among the items on the options list is the Active Cruise Control with Stop-Go function, Lane Change Warning, rear collision warning, crossing traffic warning, the Parking Assistant and the Reversing Assist Camera. Also available is the BMW Head-Up Display, which projects driving information onto the windscreen. The BMW Live Cockpit Professional ensures intuitive operation and intelligent connectivity and it brings customisable screens for the fully digital instrument cluster and control display. Its functionality also includes the BMW Maps navigation system, a hard-drive-based multimedia system, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, smartphone integration, a Wi-Fi hotspot and an alarm system. I have often been asked what does the Z mean in the Z4; it is the German word zukunft which translated means future and the Austrian built roadster has claimed to date sales in excess of 55,000.