by: Mike Ginsca
Performance – The BMW Z4 is now in its second generation life cycle and BMW has drastically updated it from its predecessor. This sDrive35 model is fitted with the same 3.0L twin-scroll turbocharged engine found in the 335i coupe/sedan/cabriolet which produces 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The standard engine has plenty of oomph to catapult the Z4 but this particular car has some upgrades that push the power to almost 400 hp. The most notable upgrade is the remapped engine control unit (ECU) that has altered the timing and fuel mixture to allow for more power, more torque, and faster spooling of the turbocharger. Couple the retuned ECU with an exhaust system and a cold air intake and with less than $3000, the Z4 is as powerful as a Porsche 911 Carrera S. Channeling that power is a 6-speed manual transmission that is a joy to use even on a daily basis.
Ensuring that all that power goes to the road is the job of the 255 wide rear tires fitted to beautifully designed snowflake aftermarket wheels. Adaptive M suspension lets the driver choose between 4 different settings ranging from comfort to sport+. In comfort mode the car is a big improvement over the previous generation of Z4 as every bump and imperfection in the road is absorbed. On the other end of the scale, in Sport+ the suspension is set to its hardest setting and dynamic stability control is switched off but to my surprise the ride is still acceptable for a luxury roadster. The steering system has been changed this year from hydraulic to electro assisted and while it is agile and quick to respond to inputs, it has a slight vague feeling to it. It feels as though there is just a tiny bit too much steering assist therefore making it feel lighter than what it should actually be.
Comfort – Usually roadsters tend to be harsh riding cars due to their short wheelbases and sporty characters but as I mentioned earlier, BMW has managed to make the new Z4 sporty without sacrificing comfort. Not only does the suspension absorb the bumps on roads but the leather seats also do their part in keeping the driver and passenger comfortable. Space is plentiful inside the cabin even for people taller than 6’ but when that metal hardtop gets folded away, trunk space is drastically reduced.
The interior styling of the Z4 is beautifully designed and incorporates some styling cues found in other BMW models such as the suspension settings buttons and the iDrive control interface. One thing that I can’t understand is why have an electronic handbrake in a roadster? An old fashioned mechanical handbrake is so much more fun.
Odds and Ends – The styling of the new Z4 has elegant flowing lines that will no doubt turn heads and stand the test of time. This particular Z4 sits a few mm lower to the ground and is equipped with a chin spoiler that gives the car a slightly more masculine look. However when you first start driving the car, it feels much larger than it actually is. In reality, the driver and passenger sit just in front of the rear wheels and the wheelbase is actually shorter than that of a Ford Focus but the long hood gives the illusion of it feeling larger than it actually is.
As part of BMW’s new goal to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, BMW has also included some efficientDynamics technologies to the Z4. Brake energy generation is one of the technologies that reduce fuel consumption by recovering electricity when the driver applies the brakes thus putting less strain on the engine and the electrical system. Another feature to reduce fuel consumption is an auto start/stop feature that shuts off the engine when the Z4 comes to a complete stop. The auto start/stop feature may be a bit intrusive for some drivers but the system can be turned off.
Overall this second generation Z4 is a good improvement over the last in terms of a luxurious roadster than can be used for day to day activities or as a weekend getaway car in the countryside.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.