BMW’s E89 Z4 may not feel quite as athletic as its E85 predecessor, but in terms of styling, ride comfort, efficiency and potential performance, the latest incarnation of the Z4 Roadster certainly ticks all the boxes. Few cars are better looking, especially when clad in eye-catching Valencia orange paintwork – modelled here by the latest entry-level sDrive18i M Sport Roadster. With a 7.6-second 0-62mph time it’s cheaper to insure than more illustrious versions, and with an asking price of just £33,165 (before adding options) it’s guaranteed to turn heads. But for a slightly reduced outlay you could buy a much more potent Approved Used Z4 sDrive35i M Sport instead, or even a 35iS model.
In fact, pre-face-lifted 35i Z4s (like the 2012 Deep Sea blue car you see here) can be bought for less than £20,000, whilst a face-lifted late-2015 35iS would set you back no more than £36,000. Some serious food for thought then. And although speccing a brand-new Z4 to meet your own exacting requirements has undoubted appeal, with Approved Used Z4s packing the warm reassurance of one or two years’ BMW warranty the choice is a pretty hard one. So would the new Z4 or the Approved Used Z4 deliver a more rewarding three years’ ownership?
With Mercedes’ glamorous SLK very firmly in its sights BMW knew that its new 2009-on E89 Z4 Roadster had to be a looker. And with over 10,000 UK buyers of the pre-face-lifted 2009 to 2012 model even the most cynical critic would have to accept that BMW’s designers succeeded. Whether the automatic hard-top roof is down, or up, from almost all angles the Z4 Roadster has to be one the most attractive contemporary sports cars. Drive any distance at all and you can’t help but notice the admiring glances. Even in a relatively understated dark colour the charismatic E89 still seems to enchant many passers-by; and so it came as little surprise that the styling received only the merest of tweaks when BMW face-lifted the Z4 in 2013. In came white LED corona headlights with a white eyebrow, some additional chrome detailing, side-gill LED lights and minor enhancements to some of the cabin materials. And of course a new entry-level 18i model – like the Valencia orange M Sport you see here. Originally part of a new Pure Design Traction package you can now spec any Z4 in this arresting colour if you so wish.
As mentioned earlier the performance is strong enough for buyers who are more concerned about looks and image than outright performance; and with a base asking price of just £33,165 it’s cheaper to buy and insure than any other Z4. You’ll currently pay just £180 a year in road tax too, whilst the combined economy figure of 41.5mpg is highly commendable for a 1480kg car.
With that 2013 face-lift leaving the Z4 looking almost identical, buyers of a pre-2013 Approved Used model won’t feel short-changed in any way though. And with plentiful supply, second-hand E89 prices are seriously attractive – enabling you to afford a potent low-mileage 35i M Sport for the same money as that new 18i Roadster.
Our immaculate 50,000-mile 2012 Approved Used Z4 sDrive35i M Sport test car for example was advertised for just £19,466, but you can pick up the earliest E89 Z4 35i Roadsters for as little as £16,500. Even a face-lifted 2015 Z4 35i M Sport is only £30,000, with a tweaked 2015 35iS model yours for £35,000. We’d opt for the pre-face-lifted 35i which offers the very best value at the moment – with the 2013 model tweaks so limited just add a private plate and it could pass for a new car.
Compared to the 18i of course, the performance is in another league altogether, with the benchmark 62mph mark smashed in just 5.1 seconds. And the acceleration in most gears borders on electric. The 35i M Sport can still do the low-speed cruise thing extremely well too though, with a surprisingly pliant ride – and of course an enticing throaty growl when required. The 18i sounds somewhat feeble by comparison, despite the best efforts of BMW’s sound engineers – who have at least imbued the 2.0-litre car with an appealing metallic roar under heavy throttle.
Cabin differences are pretty minimal, with the latest 18i M Sport possessing a near-identical feeling of quality, and either car can be bought with a six-speed manual transmission (like our blue 35i) or an automatic gearbox – as sported by the orange 18i. Performance and economy are little affected by your choice of transmission.
Rear end grip levels on the road are reassuringly high and, although the 35i E89 is less hardcore than the previous E85 3.0i rag-top (and feels a tad heavier than the latest 18i) it still dispatches sweeping B-roads with aplomb. Road tax, though, is £290 a year and the official combined consumption figure is 30.1mpg.
Our manual 2012 Z4 35i M Sport test car is in mint condition and boasts a comprehensive spec including Bluetooth hands-free, climate control, cruise control, High Beam Assist, the Driver Comfort package, heated front seats with full leather upholstery, rear Park Distance Control, and full M Sport styling including those tasty 19-inch alloys. This spec is typical of what you will find at BMW dealerships. Priced at £19,466 you could simply buy this car outright or – like the majority of buyers – put down a sensible deposit and fund the rest of your purchase via BMW Finance. With a £5000 deposit and 10.9 per cent APR this car would cost you £265.90 over 36 months on a PCP deal – assuming you kept to 15,000 miles a year. Put down a bit more, say £7750, and you cut the repayments to just £174.51 a month. You could then buy the car at the end of three years by paying a balance of £14,923.65, although most buyers won’t. If you really want to own the car then we’d recommend you buy it on HP Finance or with a bank or building society loan – which may work out cheaper. But research the rates available thoroughly, always comparing the APR.
We estimate a car like this will lose around £7549 in depreciation over a notional three year’s ownership, and when you factor in maintenance and servicing costs, fuel costs, road tax and insurance you can expect your Z4 35i M Sport Roadster to set you back a total of around £553 per month over this time.
A brand-new Z4 18i M Sport Roaster in contrast will be far more frugal, costing an estimated £675 less in servicing and maintenance, £330 less to tax, £300 less to insure and a whopping £2597 less to fuel over 36 months. But that’s not the whole story. Buy a new 18i Roadster outright on HP or a loan (rather than PCP) and your pride and joy could shed as much as £14,973 in depreciation in three years – making the total cost of owning a new Z4 18i M Sport £651 a month. That’s £98 a month more than the Approved Used 35i.
So if you’ve set your heart on the new Z4 then you’d be wise to look at PCP instead, you won’t own the car but you could finance it for around £390 a month with a £10,859 deposit (at 5.9 per cent APR) or just £311 a month if you could put down as much as £13,430. And these monthly repayments will be lower than HP or a bank loan.
Just be careful with that options list though, the Valencia orange Z4 18i M Sport you see here for instance actually packs a large number of optional extras, including the Comfort pack (£2065), 19-inch alloys (£575), Sport automatic transmission (£1895), the desirable Adaptive M Sport suspension (£660), heated seats (£325), Adaptive headlights (£360) and a £575 sound system upgrade. This little lot takes the asking price from a standard £33,165 right up to an eye-watering £41,365. And many Approved Used Z4 35i M Sport Roadsters will already have most of these items fitted by their first owner.
With so few cosmetic differences between these pre-and post-face-lifted Z4 Roadsters, styling plays almost no part in any decision – but the gulf in performance between these two is significant. So for those for whom show is nothing without get up and go, an Approved Used Z4 35i M Sport is pretty hard to resist. There aren’t a huge number advertised for sale though, so prospective buyers will need to be patient and have a degree of flexibility about colour. But if you can live with these compromises the six-cylinder choice is the clear frontrunner.
|New Z4 sDrive18i M Sport vs Used Z4 sDrive35i M Sport
|(New) sDrive18i E89
|(Used) sDrive35i E89
|Four-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo
|Six-cylinder, 24-valve turbo
|156hp @ 5000rpm
|306hp @ 5800rpm
|177lb ft @ 1250-4400rpm
|295lb ft @ 1300-5000rpm
|7.9 seconds (8.1)
|MAINTENANCE AND SERVICING:
|£540 (CO² 159g/km)
£900 (group 34)
|£870 (CO² 219g/km)
£1200 (group 45)
|TOTAL COST PER MONTH:
|£651 (averaged over 3 years)
|£553 (averaged over 3 years)
|Costs estimated over three years at the time of writing, assuming 2016 VED rates and fuel costs and a similar purchases a year – insured by a 45-year-old project manager living in the Midlands