The E89 generation of Z4 hit the UK in May 2009 and featured the 23i, 30i and 35i, with the latter machine being turbocharged. The 23i was by no means a bad car, it’s simply a case that the 30i was better thanks to having an additional 54hp and 44lb ft of torque. Interestingly, both the 23i and 30i were quoted as having identical economy and emissions figures at 33.2mpg and 199g/km.
With the first gen Z4 BMW E85 / E86 had made what it thought was an out-and-out sports car but due to feedback from its customers it made the decision to create a less-sporting machine with the second gen, seeing the Audi TT and the Mercedes SLK as its natural rivals rather than attempting to gun for the Boxster’s crown a second time. If anything demonstrated this approach it was the adoption of a folding metal hard-top which added weight and complexity as well as making the car considerably more refined and a better prospect over the cold winter months. Its party piece was that the roof could be raised or lowered in a scant 20 seconds.
The 30i was well equipped, too, with two-zone auto air-con, xenon headlights and leather upholstery although as heated seats weren’t standard we’d recommend finding one with this option – it makes all the difference during top-down motoring on colder days. Very little changed during the 30i’s lifespan – an M Sport was available with more aggressive styling (and a £3100 price premium) – and there was a Highline Edition of the M Sport available in 2011 which included 19-inch wheels, Bluetooth, Professional Nav and a USB interface. The arrival of BMW’s four-cylinder turbocharged engines saw the model’s demise when it was replaced with the sDrive28i in the latter part of 2011.
Why should you buy one?
Quite simply because it’s a great car! No, it doesn’t offer Porsche Boxster levels of driver involvement but that doesn’t mean it drives like a soggy blancmange either – it’s a fine Roadster that will provide plenty of thrills yet with its folding hard-top is also a very refined coupé when the weather’s inclement.
We’ve flagged up the 30i here as being one to look out for as this was the very last naturally aspirated Roadster that the company produced and as well as offering plenty of thrills it’s now a relatively affordable machine. With the silky 258hp N52 ‘six under the bonnet it provides vivid acceleration yet doesn’t have so much power that it overwhelms the chassis.
What goes wrong?
The Z4 is proving to be pretty reliable, especially in 30i guise. One of the biggest bug bears seems to be rattles from the roof when in the raised position but often this can be sorted with lots of lubricant, pieces of felt and some patience. Go for a road-test in any potential purchase and keep your ears open.
The engine is generally good although there have been some cases of wear within the camshaft housings on higher mileage versions. The hydraulic valve adjuster problem that affected earlier versions of the N52 don’t affect the Z4. However, as the N52 in the 30i is a direct injection unit any repairs needed here could be expensive – injectors, NOx sensors and fuel pressure sensors have been known to fail, although it’s not a very common problem. The body should be in perfect condition – any dodgy panel gaps and mismatched paint will be telltale signs of one that’s been in an accident – walk away as there are plenty more to choose from. Rear light clusters are known to let in water and 19-inch rims can be susceptible to cracking.
The good news here is that the Z4 30i really shouldn’t break the bank to run. Road tax isn’t the cheapest at £265 a year (both manual and automatic) but this shouldn’t really be a deal breaker. Servicing can be done via BMW’s menu pricing system and typical costs should be around £136 for an oil service, £190 for an oil service with microfilter and £332 should the plugs need doing at the same time. A Vehicle Check is £59 and front or rear pads will set you back around £200 each end.
Your other major expense will be tyres – many owners will have ditched the run-flats – and how much they cost will depend on whether you have the 17-, 18- or 19-inch rims fitted. Typical run-flat costs would be around £360 for a set of 17s, £440 for a set of 18s and a slightly heftier £800 for a set of 19s.
How much to pay?
Prices for the 30i start at about £13k and rise to just over the £20k mark. The highest priced machines are The Highline editions, some of which evidently hung around at dealerships when they were new, as they weren’t registered until the second part of 2012! Standard-spec 30is start at around £15k from BMW main dealers and you’ll need the best part of £17k for an M Sport. While machinery is available slightly cheaper out of the dealer network we’d reckon on spending just a little more and getting the peace of mind that comes with a car with an Approved Used Warranty. Also, the market for Roadsters drops off significantly in the winter so drive a hard bargain – get some money off the sticker price or aim to get a second year’s warranty thrown for free.
Overall the 30i is a very pleasing prospect, and if you’re a fan of normally aspirated Roadsters this is the last of the breed! It has plenty of performance – 0-62mph in less than six seconds is plenty fast enough – and while it might not be desperately tacksharp in the handling department it’s still a tidy machine to drive rapidly across country, especially with that sonorous straightsix singing in your ears.
TECHNICAL DATA BMW-E89 Z4 sDrive30i
ENGINE: Straight-six, 24-valve, petrol
MAX POWER: 258hp @ 6600rpm
MAX TORQUE: 229lb ft @ 2600rpm
TOP SPEED: 155mph (155)
0-62MPH: 5.8 seconds (6.1)
ECONOMY: 33.2mpg (34.0)
EMISSIONS: 199g/km (195)
PRICE (OTR): £33,620 (£35,425)
Figures in brackets for automatic version