Come on, that can’t be all you’ve got So far, the Z4’s proved less than the sum of its parts. But we’re going in hot pursuit of the thrills that must lie beneath. By P Taylor / #BMW
Here’s a second chance to make a first impression. When I first drove the Z4 at its launch in October last year, it was a good car but not an exciting one. It felt more like a saloon that happened to have two seats and a soft-top than a spinetingling sports car. I’ve been wondering if I judged it harshly, especially after enjoying driving its closely related, co-engineered Toyota Supra platform-mate recently. Now the Z4’s got an entire British summer (and a bit of autumn too) to argue its case.
The Z4 range starts at £37,115 for the 20i model, with a 196bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, or £40,815 for the same engine hopped up to 256bhp in the 30i. This car, however, is the range-topping Z4 M40i, with a musclebound 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six under its stubby bonnet.
Compared with the rest of the range, the M40i also gets larger 19-inch wheels (with tyres essentially the same as those fitted to the current M3/M4), adaptive dampers (optional on 2.0-litre cars) and an active diff, as also fitted to the Supra. Less dynamic niceties include electrically adjustable seats with leather-meets-alcantara upholstery and extra aluminium trim compared with lowlier models.
Our car’s also got a fancy paintjob, the optional Frozen Grey II metallic matt paint priced at £1880. In addition to the paint there’s a further £3450 of options: the £900 Visibility Package (adaptive LED headlights and automatic high-beam assist); the £750 Comfort Package (heated steering wheel, wind deflector, keyless entry and start, and a through-load serving hatch from boot to interior); and the £1800 Technology Package (head-up display, Harman Kardon surround-sound speaker system, wireless phone charging, rear-view parking camera and automatic parking assistant).
So many of the ingredients are there for a truly great sports car – engine set back for a 50:50 weight distribution, short wheelbase for agility, wide track for stability, clever diff and great throttle response by any standards, not just for a turbocharged engine.
Maybe a bit of extra soak-time will help the Z4’s true character shine. I’m looking forward to getting to know it again over the coming months, and finding out if it can thrill as well as cosset.
The Z4 has traditionally been more about sun-dappled boulevard cruising, rather than being a car to inspire an early alarm and the long, twisty way to work. Here’s hoping this one’s both.
Great throttle response by any standards, not just for a turbo engine
paint will set you back a cool £1880
The story so far
Soft-top Supra twin with big-chested straight-six, short chassis, clever diff. Equivocal reaction at launch; it has six months to set us straight
+ Great throttle response; refinement; everyday usability
- Odd proportions; is it exciting enough?
Price £49,185 (£53,865 as tested)
Performance 2998cc turbo straight-six, 335bhp,
Max speed 155mph (limited)
Efficiency 33.2mpg (official), 31.3mpg (tested),
Energy cost 18.3p per mile
Miles this month 299
Total miles 4746