BMW has taken the covers off its new Z4 sports car – revealing a more grown-up roadster with, on paper at least, the power, proportions and panache to give cars like the Porsche Boxster a run for its money.
Revealed at Pebble Beach during the Monterey Car Week automotive extravaganza in California, the new Z4 aims to set a new dynamic standard for a Z car, signalled by the new look and switch away from a retractable hard-top to a more sports car-like folding fabric hood.
Front-mounted straight-six, manual as well as paddle-shift gears, rear drive, more sporting proportions, a low centre of gravity, 50:50 weight distribution and a super-stiff but lightweight platform – shared by the forthcoming new Toyota Supra alongside which the new BMW has been developed – are all hallmarks of the newcomer.
In time there will be an entire range of new Z4s but for now, ahead of its full debut at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn, we are being shown just one model – the version BMW clearly believes sums up what the reborn Z is most about.
And that is the M40i in top-line First Edition form, complete with 335bhp turbo six and M Sport suspension, brakes and electronically controlled diff. The result, asserts BMW, is a new-found dynamism and agility for a Z car, along with spirited performance and 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds.
BMW has attacked the sports car market from various angles during the near-20 years it has been producing Z-badged cars. It has tried the quirky (the Z1 with its drop-down doors), the expensive (the limited-run Z8) and the middle-of-the-road Z3. Since 2002 BMW’s sports car has worn Z4 badges, the outgoing model featuring the now out-of-favour folding hard-top. Saving weight – as much as 60kg – and lowering the centre of gravity are now seen as greater priorities.
And the looks? There are lots of distinctive new details – the vertically stacked lights, mesh backing for the BMW kidney grille and air outlets aft of the front wheels, plus plenty of driver focus in the cabin – but more than anything it’s surely the car’s new stance that signals anew this car’s intentions. Porsche watch out? We’ll see when the first cars arrive in the UK for spring 2019.