I have been set a challenge to see how different a car review is perceived when written by a man or a woman. Therefore, Fiona Shafer, our Motoring Editor for Dynamic, is writing the same review having spent the same time with the car did. I can’t wait to see the results as l have asked Design to keep them from us until publication...
By Senior Mtoring Editor, Maarten Hoffmann
MD of Platinum Media Group
The Z4 was introduced in 2002 and went on sale in Europe in March 2003. Unfortunately, it always suffered from the same reputation as the Audi TT – that of being a ‘hairdressers’ car, a phrase coined by the Top Gear hooligans that, inadvertently, can seriously damage the reputation of any model. Sadly, they were not wrong as it was small, under powered and certainly did have a specific demographic.
This third generation model changes all that – it’s powerful, beautifully designed, fast, stable and a seriously nice place to be. This is the car BMW has been developing in tandem with Toyota since 2013. What BMW has done however, is to entirely redesign the car’s suspension (struts featuring up front and, for the first time in a Z4, a five-link system at the rear). Lightweight aluminium components have been adopted to save on unsprung mass, while new subframe mounting techniques have been used at both ends and the tracks are wider – by a significant 98mm at the front. IE: it’s chunkier, lighter and more comfortable to spend time in.
Buyers will be able to choose between 194bhp and 255bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engines in the 20i and 30i respectively. A 3.0-litre turbo straight six (M40i), with M Performance derivative status, sits temptingly atop of the range and is endowed with 335bhp and 369lb ft of torque.
The Z4 features BMW’s new-generation ‘Live Cockpit Professional’ digital instruments and its ‘BMW Operating System 7.0’ infotainment set-up. It’s also the first Z4 with a heads-up display. The latter is optional but always worth having as your eyeline is where it should be – on the road ahead. The virtual assistant can be given a name; I called mine was ‘Fiona’, and if you are chilly, say ‘l am cold’ and she will pop the heating on. Likewise, say ‘take me home’ and the SatNav springs into life and guides you home. She also works as a live manual for the car so ask her anything and she will tell you where it is or how to do it. Clever old Fiona.
You’ll need to keep a wary eye on that speedo too, because the Z4 can certainly stretch its legs. The car’s turbo straight six pulls with lots of guts and great throttle response from low speed, and keeps pulling with smoothness and freedom in its delivery all the way to 155mph. BMW’s preference to dial in contrived engine noise through the speakers in the car’s more dynamic drive modes might be a bugbear for some, but you quickly forget about that and enjoy the drive. And there’s the point – this is a car that you really want to drive, making it the journey and not the destination that’s most important.
Inside is a very nice place to be with all-new seats designed for this model that hold you well in corners and everything on the dash is well placed and at hand. To save weight, we have an electric soft top rather than the heavy old hard beast and as weight is always the enemy of performance, this helps and makes no difference to the drive as little wind noise is evident. It also offers you more boot space which is always welcome. The statutory BMW rotary dial to flick through the various menus works well and does get away from all the very annoying touch screen variants we are awash with. In my opinion, touch screens are dangerous to use on the move and the Land Rover Defender l currently have on my drive is a testament to that.
The drive is a hark back to the old days of small, powerful sports-cars with rag tops and all the power going through to the rear wheels. This means losing the back of the car is easy on wet corners and spiffing good fun if you like that sort of thing but if you don’t try, it won’t happen so there is nothing to be concerned about. Being so low to the ground, the acceleration always feels quite special and it will pull endlessly if you give it the beans.
The ride is acceptable and the steering is very precise although somewhat lacking is feel through the wheel but, to be honest, we are getting used to that these days, whether we like it or not.
If l was in the market for a two-seater rag top, this would be very high on the list and would be in front of the Porsche Boxster and the Audi TT. It’s fun to drive, looks sensational, goes like a train, is built like a Panzer tank and makes any journey a joy. What more do you need – go buy it.
Model tested: Z4 sDrive 30i
Engine: 1,998 turbo V6
Power: 258 bhp
Speed: 0-62 - 5.4 secs
Top: 155 mph
Economy: 38.7 mpg
Price from: £36,990
By Dynamic Motoring Editor, Fiona Shafer
MD of MDHUB
The new BMW G29 Z4 Drive 30i M Sport produced an unstoppable grin on my face before I even got into it, always an exceptionally good sign.
Being very honest, I have been looking for this “sign” for a while now. Whilst I have been extraordinarily lucky thus far to review some exceptional cars for dynamic:
• Mercedes E53 AMG,
• Jaguar F Pace SVR and I Pace,
• Audi E Tron 55 Quattro and SQ7,
All of which were spectacularly fast, brilliantly engineered and all eye- watering expensive, none of them quite had the complete “Va Va Voom” I so craved.
Greedily, I wanted the whole experience of a stylish, fast BMW, but with the sheer joy and fun that a great convertible sports car provides. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, I also wanted a car with intuitive technology that even I could completely understand and enjoy at a price that I could afford.
I will caveat all of this with – if you enjoy driving, then I think that everyone should have the experience of a convertible sports car at least once in their life, even if only for a short while or for a holiday rental or a very sweet romance.
Appreciating this is an entirely personal choice, my mantra remains – if you are going to seriously invest in a car, do not buy one unless it makes your heart sing, every day.
Back to the Z4...
Still grinning ridiculously, I then had to navigate as to how I manoeuvred my 6ft Amazonian, part German frame into the gorgeous Magma Red (Burnt orange to you and me) Vernasca Leather seats ... rather seamlessly as it transpired. Even to my surprise. There was more bootie space for me than actual boot space for you, but I would expect nothing less from my Teutonic ancestors and their design capabilities. I bow down to them.
It was an unseasonally cool May evening as I drove the Z4 away from Brighton Marina.
With the new cloth roof down (just because I could and it wasn’t raining) and wearing a ridiculously inappropriate chiffon peasant blouse and leather boots (but that is what happens when you drive a sports car – they make you change your wardrobe!), I drove from Brighton over the hills to the High Weald; the evening air, still holding the scents of the day – ozone, diesel, bluebells, manure and wild garlic; all the reasons I SO love a sports car with its roof down. After a challenging day, a convertible will always give you
a feeling of a day at the beach before you get home.
I soon immersed myself in the driving experience with the extraordinary Paolo Nutini singing Scream (Funk My Life Up) as I sped along the lanes around Glyndebourne Opera House, on the Hardman Karman sound system. I had every reason to join in and sing. “Makes you wanna scream... Hallelujah”.
The Z4 has come on in leaps and bounds from the earlier models and the cheeky hairdresser car moniker that they unfortunately got labelled with. In fact I don’t think it is even a distant relation to them now unless you really want to do a DNA test.
It is a gloriously understated car, stylish with a simplicity of design that I adore.
The technology in the Z4 was wondrously straightforward – it is 100% BMW (despite the German – Japanese partnership with Toyota). I could understand everything immediately.
It was highly intuitive, and it also had a small hard copy manual (how quaint … not seen one of those for a while but which we all need if you break down in the middle of nowhere with no GPS or signal) . It also made me smile for other unexpected reasons – you can delete your history of stored relationships, you can have Do not disturb – passenger on board, you can have a “ vitalize “ or a “relax” car care programme and concierge services – for requests of all kinds. Let’s be frank, who needs a hotel?
Yay or Nay?
• Absolutely fabulous value for money – Starting at £36,990
• Ergonomically gorgeous – the leather interior was to die for
• The soft top fitted snugly and was very quiet
• Visibility better than most convertibles
• It was enormous fun, and I did not want to give it back
• The parking brake button is rather too close to the Sunroof button for my liking, unless you are thinking of having your own ejector seat for unwanted passengers
• The cup holder compartment is directly under your elbow, the designer must have had a momentary lapse of reason
9.5/10 - Can you tell I aboslutely loved it?