BMW returns to form with epic car
BMW and Toyota split the bill to make the new Z4 and Supra sports cars and the result is an exceptionally thrilling machine.
Here are five things you need to know about the BMW Z4.
IT'S A PROPER BMW
Once upon a time, you could guarantee any new BMW would be a driver's delight. That's not the case today - you have to choose carefully, particularly when shopping for a small car or SUV. Some of the brand's recent efforts are a long way from its "ultimate driving machine" tag line, but the Z4 remains true to the brand's driving ethos, with powerful engines driving the rear wheels in a family of low-slung convertibles.
AND NOT A TOYOTA
The current Z4's story is entwined with Toyota's reborn Supra sports car - the duo were developed as twins so the manufacturers could save money. But there's a lot of BMW in the Toyota and not a hint of Japanese flavour to the Z4, which gave very little away in the development process. While it's (almost) fair to call the Supra a BMW, the opposite isn't true of the Z4.
DESIGNED IN AUSTRALIA
We weren't blown away by the Z4's looks at first, but the roadster looks increasingly attractive now. That might be because BMW has pushed the boundaries with subsequent models, such as the new 4 Series coupe. Penned by Australia's Calvin Luk, the Z4 has uncompromising long-bonnet proportions, a folding canvas roof and big wheels that prioritise style over practicality. Inspired by the classic BMW Z8 roadster, it's the sort of car that compels you to turn around to sneak another peak at the end of each trip.
WHAT A MOTOR
The range-topping Z4 M40i is particularly peachy, as it has the brand's best engine, a smooth and sonorous 3.0-litre inline six with an appetite for revs and torque for days. Updated for 2020, the Z4's peak power rose from 250kW to 285kW, enough to reach 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and make it a serious rival to the likes of Porsche's Boxster S.
This isn't a delicate sports car like the Boxster. It feels more like a muscle car, with a powerful motor, long bonnet and tail-happy approach to cornering if you're greedy with the throttle. The engine and eight-speed automatic transmission are the best part of the Z4 driving experience - effortless shove when you're cruising, and proper punch when you ask for all it can give. Other elements are a little less refined, such as heavy, feel-free steering, suspension that thumps over bumps, and brakes that lack the second-nature precision of the best in class.
More like a Mustang than an MX-5, the Z4 is fun in its own way, but not a dynamic stand-out.
YOU GET PLENTY OF TOYS
Priced from $124,900 plus on-roads (about $138,000 drive-away), the six-cylinder M40i sits at the top of the range, ahead of less-potent four-cylinder models. Big brakes and a limited-slip diff are part of the package, as are toys such as a digital key - either your credit card or some smartphones - an electronic dashboard, active cruise control, Harman Kardon surround sound and adaptive LED headlights.
Handsome, powerful and well-equipped, the BMW Z4 M40i is a classic roadster, though it would benefit from a more polished drive.
BMW Z4 M40i VITALS
Price: About $138,000 drive-away
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo, 285kW/500Nm
Warranty/Service: 3-year/unlimited km, $1650 for 5 years
Safety: Not rated, 6 airbags, automated emergency braking, active cruise, lane keep assist
Cargo: 281 litres
Spare: Inflation kit
Originally published as BMW returns to form with epic car