The new Z4 is the third version of BMW’s popular two-seat sportscar. Out is the folding hardtop, replaced this time round by a smart fabric roof. We prefer the fabric design, but no matter your preference: the Z4 remains the most successful embodiment of BMW’s various experiments with two-seater sportscars to date. Remember the Z1, Z3 and Z8? All were good in their own idiosyncratic ways (values of Z8s these days are touching £200,000), but none made viable business cases for second generations. But the Z4 appears to have hit the nail on the head: a potent mix of sharp design, decent and competitive pricing, good space and two engines on offer mean it floats the boats of plenty of customers with differing needs. Since 2013, the car has been developed alongside Toyota, and shares its platform with the Supra.
The great thing about the Z4 is that it looks like a decent sportscar (and is one) but offers enough space to make it a daily driver with versatile space. The boot, for a start, is enormous, swallowing the weekly shop and a folded large dog crate. behind the seats a cargo net runs the width of the car, holding multiple phones, wallets and small bags. There’s also a lovely deep cubbyhole behind the seats for stowing valuables.
There’s an optional heads-up display, well worth having if only for the fun of seeing the revs rise in the windscreen when you have the powertrain in Sport mode. And you get BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional digital display behind the steering wheel which smartly sets the information apart and adds in your satnav map.
Our test car came with the Technology Package (parking assistant, head-up display, Harman/Kardon surround sound, and Bluetooth with wireless charging (fast becoming a necessity), all for £1,800. We also had the Comfort Plus pack, with heated steering wheel, wind deflector, electric front seats and lumbar support (£1,700), and a very smart M Sport Plus pack, with 9in jet black double spoke alloys, M Sport braking system and adaptive suspension, M seat belts and high-gloss black shadow lines, all for £1,950.
You can choose from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with two power outputs (197 or 258 horsepower) or a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine in the M40i, both mated to an automatic gearbox. We had the base two-litre engine which suits this car perfectly: it’s not a serious muscle car or heavy GT: it’s a lithe little sportscar, light on its feet, and sharp through the bends. The revised suspension set-up is a noticeable improvement on the previous Z4, with great body control and fantastic lateral grip when power drives through the rear wheels. The steering is precise, although you can feel the car’s weight when you try to hustle it along.
This or a Porsche 718 Boxster, we hear you wonder. They feel like slightly different cars, with the Z4 having a more grown-up, sophisticated edge to it. Both are at the top of their game however, so the choice will be largely subjective. Certainly this car wears its new suit with a certain elan lacking in the previous generations, and we are relieved they’ve ditched the folding hardtop. The Z4 seems to echo every small sportscar wearing the badge that has gone before, while upping the game dynamically and stylistically for this mass-market premium roadster. We’d urge you to try the 2.0-litre engines before you’re seduced by that glinting M badge though: the Z4 suits a perky powerhouse that keeps it fleet of foot.