20 September 2014
BMW’s Z4 continues the German carmaker’s tradition for long-nosed, rear-drive roadsters, a tradition that evokes the classic 507 from the 1950s, revived more recently with the Z1, Z3 and Z8. The Z4 carries on from where the previous iteration, launched in 2003, left off, but with one major difference. This time around, there won’t be separate roadster and coupe versions, just a single variant with a two-piece, electro-hydraulically operated retractable hard-top roof that can be raised or lowered in 20 seconds, which, not only covers both bases, but also takes the Mercedes-Benz SLK head-on.
We drove the base sDrive 23i model powered by a 2.5-litre engine producing 204bhp, which allows it to achieve the 0-62mph sprint in a time of 6.6 seconds, before heading on to a top speed of 151mph. The 0-62mph time puts it in the same territory as the Mercedes-Benz SLK (the 280 gets there in 6.3 seconds, while the 200 Kompressor is a second slower) and Audi TT coupe (also 6.6 seconds; the roadster is 0.1 secs slower). It’s certainly not lightning fast, but it pulls well right through the rev range up to 7,000rpm and offers enough thrills to satisfy buyers who are looking for a sporty roadster as opposed to a focused performance car. Indeed, the Z4 sDrive23i offers a good compromise between sportiness and sensible motoring, capable as it is of fuel economy of 33.2mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 199g/km.
The Z4 comes with Drive Dynamic Control fitted as standard, a system that adjusts the throttle and steering responses, and the Dynamic Stability Control (traction control) to suit the driver’s tastes. There are three settings – Normal, Sport and Sport+. In addition, you can opt to add Adaptive M Sport Suspension, which controls electronic dampers to adjust the ride. All this technical jiggery-pokery, however, can’t change the fact that, as the Z4 is a sports car on run-flat tyres, the ride is going to be pretty firm – which it is, even in Normal mode. Switch to Sport and Sport+ and it borders on harsh, especially when driving over poorly surfaced roads. The steering is electrically power-assisted, so it perhaps lacks some of the feel you get with a hydraulic set-up, but it’s not bad. All in all, the Z4’s driving dynamics might not quite match the Porsche Boxster’s, but they’re pretty good nonetheless.
The new Z4 appears well built and uses high-quality materials throughout. The plastics in the cabin are soft-touch and textured, which is what you expect in a premium car such as this. All the switchgear is also of a high quality, displaying a satisfying certainty when switching and turning. The new folding hard-top also seems pretty solid. In contrast to some of the more complex folding roofs on the market, this two-piece unit is simple but elegant in its operation. Having fewer components, it should also have the advantage of being less likely to fail. The previous Z4 doesn’t show up in reliability surveys, largely because it never sold in large enough volumes. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that rear tyres were prone to wear and some owners experienced niggles. That said, BMW has a reputation for reliability, coming 10th in the JD Power customer satisfaction league for manufacturers.
There is no crash-test score from Euro NCAP for the Z4 as it is yet to be tested. However, the previous iteration recorded four stars for adult protection and two stars for pedestrian protection, with the verdict from the organisation that it was a “very strong-scoring four-star car”. The new model should test even better, thanks in part to the hard-top roof offering greater protection than a fabric roof in the event of the car rolling over. There are plenty of other features to help owners to stay safe. There are driver and passenger airbags, plus head/thorax ‘bags integrated into the seat backrests; belt latch tensioners and belt force limiters activated by a sensor-controlled electronics; BMW ConnectedDrive, which offers roadside assistance and contact with the emergency services in the event of an accident; plus the usual electronics, including traction control and brake pre-tensioning, drying and fade compensation.
The Z4 is a two-seat sports car with a folding metal hard-topped roof, so there’s not exactly a great deal of space. If you’re planning to go to Ikea for anything more than a bedside lamp and multipack of Dime bars, you’ll need to borrow a van. Bootspace isn’t bad, though: with the roof down, there’s 180 litres of space (more than a Mini) and, with the tin top up, there’s 310 litres available (about the same as an Astra). The cabin is also a decent size, with room for adults of all sizes, plenty of stowage compartments and a shelf behind the seats. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach, while seats are manually adjustable. The seats, though, are not very supportive, so if you spend a long time driving (we drove the car from Inverness to London) you’ll find yourself feeling a bit stiff at the end of your journey.
You don’t buy a sports car if frugality is your main concern, so prospective purcahsers probably won’t be too shocked by the sDrive 23i’s £28,650 base price. There are plenty of ways to spend even more money, too, such as a Sport Automatic transmission for another £1,765; a multimedia sat nav system for an extra £2,135: Adaptive M Sport Suspension a £930 option; and a speaker system with 14 loudspeakers and 650W amp costing £815. Running costs are decent enough for a car of its type: fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 33.2mpg (34.4mpg with the auto ‘box) with CO2 emissions of 199g/km (192g/km), putting it into Band J for road tax (£215 per year). The sDrive 23i sits in Group 17 for insurance. Residuals for the Z4 should hold up well, with valuation experts CAP predicting it will retain 45% of its value after three years or 36,000 miles.
Submitted: 02/06/2009 15:44:01
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