By Nauman Farooq
The BMW “Z” cars are 30 years old now, starting with the Z1 in 1989. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m fairly confident that the (E30 based) Z1 is the only production car ever made where its doors went down into its sills – a very interesting and unusual car it truly was!
In 1996, corresponding with the launch of a new James Bond film called ‘Goldeneye’ – starring Pierce Brosnan in his first outing as “Mr. Bond” – came the Z3. Offered for about six model years, the (E36) Z3 was a hit because it was priced very well (the base car was about $35,000) and was available with many different engine options.
In the year 2000, again corresponding with another James Bond movie release ‘The World Is Not Enough’ saw the debut of the Z8 – which to date is not only the most expensive and most powerful “Z” car BMW has ever produced but also the prettiest. It was penned by Henrik Fisker; who then went on to design Aston Martins and now runs his own car company. Mark my words, the (E52) Z8 is a future collector car, and whatever you’re going to pay for one now, it’ll be worth a lot more in the next decade or so.
All the BMW “Z” cars so far have only had one generation of models before they were given the ax. But in 2003, BMW decided to replace the Z3 with a radical new model called the Z4 – and this time it would get more than just one generation of models.
Designed by Chris Bangle, its styling caused quite a stir when it was revealed. Unlike previous “Z” cars, it wasn’t something most people would describe as pretty –it had no soft, rounded edges– but get behind the wheel and it was truly a huge leap forward from the Z3 in terms of dynamics – the (E85) Z4 was a driver’s car. This was also the only “Z” car to receive a ‘coupe’ variant.
In 2009, the Z4 received a complete redesign, and this model became the first (and so far only) “Z” car to receive a power-folding hard-top roof. The styling was a lot softer than the car it replaced, and due to the extra weight of the heavy metal convertible top, its performance wasn’t the sharpest. Still, in the ‘sDrive35is’ trim, it performed quite well and was fairly luxurious, so think of the (E89) Z4 as more of a cruiser than an out-and-out sports car.
Ten years after the launch of the E89 comes an all-new model – the G29 Z4. BMW opted to be a bit more daring with its design, taking inspiration from the E85 Z4, this G29 series Z4 has sharp lines, ditched the folding hard-top in favour of a much lighter folding soft-top (that takes just 10 seconds to go up or down), and has put driving dynamics at the forefront of its development. Did it work? Has BMW made the ultimate roadster?
Let’s find out!
Styling: One of the main reasons anyone buys a car like the Z4, is based on the way it looks. While most BMW “Z” cars have featured daring –often controversial- styling, the E89 model was considered too soft, and hence it is perhaps the least loved of all BMW “Z” cars. For the new (G29) Z4, BMW dared to be different, and has come up with a roadster that looks like nothing else on the market.
The new Z4 has sharp lines and edges, most of which don’t translate very well in pictures, but see the 2020 BMW Z4 in the flesh (I mean, metal) and you’ll very quickly start admiring it. There are some clever details that really grab your attention as you walk around it. It is very nearly “perfect” – but there is one detail I would love to change, and that’s the front hood!
When you see the hood from the front of the car, you’ll notice two large creases. It almost looks like “The Incredible Hulk” was walking by it in an angry mood, and gave the Z4 hood his famous “Hulk smash” treatment. In some colours, that crease really stands out; however, in my test cars Misano Blue Metallic paint, it was barely noticeable. So, when buying the new Z4, choose your colours wisely.
Overall, I think this new Z4 is a stunner, and the more people see it, the more they’ll appreciate it.
Interior: If the exterior hasn’t won you over, the interior definitely will. This new Z4 has one of the nicest looking interiors I have ever come across in a roadster; it has wonderful seats, plus all the gadgetry (iDrive, navigation, infotainment, etc) you can possibly wish for!
However, some purists will argue that what they’d really like to see is a manual gearbox in this new Z4 – currently it is only offered with an automatic gearbox – but you can’t make everyone happy, right!
Overall, the Z4 offers a great place for two people to spend time in.
Powertrain: The 2020 BMW Z4 is offered with two engine choices. The motor in the sDrive30i model is a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four cylinder unit that produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed to just the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. I have not tested one with this motor, so cannot comment on what it’s like.
The one you’ll want is the one I tested, the Z4 M40i model. This version gets a twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0L inline-six cylinder motor that is good for 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque.
Power, again, is only sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This 2020 Z4 M40i is the second most powerful “Z” car ever offered by BMW – only beaten by the V8 powered Z8.
Performance & Driving Dynamics: As you’d expect, the Z4 M40i should be a fast car, and it is! The sprint from 0 to 100 km/h takes just 4.0 seconds, while top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h.
But here’s the thing, the numbers don’t even tell you half the story, because the real attention grabbing feature of the 2020 Z4 M40i is the way it drives!
This car feels alive in your hands, and the chassis gives you wonderful feedback, so you always know what the car is doing underneath you. So, it’s playful, and that’s exactly what you’d want from a car like this. In “Sport Plus” mode, the exhaust opens up, the throttle sharpens up, the steering beefs up, the suspension tightens up, and after a few minutes on a twisty back road, you’ll come to the conclusion that this is just about the most perfect roadster ever made – loved every single minute with this car.
Plus, when you’ve had your fun and now need a comfortable, fairly quiet, long distance commuter, it’ll do that too – and that’s not something you can say about most roadsters.
The suspension dampers soften up, the exhaust gets quieter, and it relaxes and munches up the miles – it even has adaptive cruise control to further ease with your travel.
Trust me, if I were to pick a car to drive across Canada in, this Z4 M40i will be my choice. This way, I’d have a comfortable car for the long highway treks, and a tarmac shredding weapon for when the roads get twisty – hence, the perfect tool for the road.
Fuel Economy: In my fuel economy cycle (170 km of highway driving + 130 km of city driving), I averaged 9.6 L/100 km, which is incredibly good for a car with this much power and performance, and I am sure it would have drank even less fuel if I wasn’t enjoying burying the throttle every chance I got. So, this is a performance car that isn’t going to cost you a fortune to run!
Pricing: The 2020 BMW Z4 sDrive30i is yours from $62,650. The M40i version starts from $76,100 (plus freight/PDI, dealer fees, and taxes). Throw in some tasty options, and when all is said and done, you’ll be spending about $100,000 to put one on the road!
Verdict: So, is it worth it? Is the Z4 M40i worthy of departing $100,000 from your bank account?
Well, it looks good, has a wonderful interior, excellent ride comfort and chassis setup, sounds good, goes fast – in fact, the Z4 M40i is quicker than the more powerful Z8 from 20 years ago, and it costs quite a bit less than half as much as Mr. Bond’s former company car – I say the new Z4 is absolutely worth every penny.
Guess that’s what I’ll be doing now, collecting all the pennies I can find, because I have to have the new Z4 play a more permanent role in my life.
Also, given how everything in the future is likely going to be either a hybrid or be fully electric, this current Z4 might be your last chance to own a good ol’ fashioned roadster with a great combustion engine. Cars like this will become extinct in the not too distant future, so you might as well enjoy them while you can!