BMW Z4 does 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds,
That history continues with this third generation of the Z4, which sticks to the tried-and-tested roadster recipe of a long bonnet and rear-set cabin – a classic configuration that will appeal to anyone looking for open-topped driving thrills.
BMW thinks that there will be initially around 2,500 buyers a year for this new Z4 – a pretty healthy number for what remains a niche segment of the market.
The design of the new Z4 is well resolved: sleek and contoured, with short overhangs, it looks good in profile, while the nose has a wide and shallow interpretation of BMW’s kidney grille, with a sporty, mesh-like surface.
Also notable is the fact that the new Z4 has a soft-top fabric roof, as opposed to the hard-top in its predecessor, which can open and close at speeds up to 31mph in 10 seconds.
A nifty optional windshield that just slots between the rollover bars is a neat and practical touch.
Buyers have a choice of three turbo-petrol engines to pick from.
The base sDrive 20i draws its power from a 2.0-litre engine producing 195bhp, enabling it to reach 60mph from a standing start in 6.4 seconds. Average fuel economy is a reasonable 47.1mpg, while emissions are also a not too prohibitive 137g/km.
The sDrive 30i uses the same engine, but is tuned to deliver 254bhp, the extra power reducing the 0 to 60mph time to 5.2 seconds.
However, there’s no economy or emissions penalty, with both being the same as the s20i.
The range-topping M40i gets a 3.0-litre, 335bhp engine to help it to 0 to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds.
That’s what you’d perhaps expect for a sports car, although 39.8mpg average fuel economy and 162g/km emissions are impressive.
The M40i certainly feels quick, with plenty of off-the-line pace and power for overtaking – handy on country roads with lots of corners, where available space is limited.
In-gear acceleration on motorways is equally impressive and the shifts themselves are swift and smooth, thanks to an eightspeed Steptronic automatic gearbox (which is mated to all the engines in the Z4 range).
The new roof opens and closes at up to 31mph in 10 seconds
Another of BMW’s illustrious traditions is the way that its cars handle. They’ve always been engaging and sporty, so it’s reasonable to expect that this new Z4 will follow suit. And it does.
The steering is accurate and has the right amount of involvement for most. It feels stable, grippy and agile, taut and flat in the corners, even at higher speeds.
Drivers can switch between Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings, which means the ride quality can be changed but it’s never overly firm. The cabin has the snug compactness of a sports car, but there’s sufficient space for both occupants.
They’re also cosseted in sports seats (sDrive 30i and M40i models get leather) that offer plenty of support and feel very comfortable.
The interior surfaces are also finished in high-quality materials, making the Z4 a perfectly pleasant place in which to spend time.
And you can spend more time in the Z4, with fairly lengthy trips now possible, thanks to a boot that can take a few decent-sized bags.
The Z4 has a head-up display and two 10.25-inch screens
Replacing the hard-top with a fabric roof frees up a lot of space, so the boot has more than doubled in capacity, to 281 litres, marginally bigger than its closest rivals while a couple of cabin bags and/or some soft-sided holdalls will fit nicely.
The cockpit is, as befits a sports car, very much driver-focused, with the likes of a head-up display and a pair of 10.25-inch displays – one for the instrument panel, the other for the infotainment system, which offers a wide range of options, including navigation and BMW’s ConnectedDrive online services.
Its infotainment system uses the latest version of the iDrive controller, which is easy to use.
However, the downside is there are lots of menus and submenus to navigate through, so some settings – especially for the car’s safety features – can be well buried.
The Z4 certainly does nothing to undermine BMW’s reputation for building handy sports cars. But it has strong competition, in the form of the Porsche 718 Boxster and Audi’s TT RS, while the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 can’t be discounted.
The Z4 acquits itself well in this company, but it wasn’t the leap forward that the company suggested it was going to be.
It’s very accomplished, but we’d still choose the Boxster’s more involving on-road personality. So while the Z4 will find many fans, its abilities aren’t exceptional enough to allow it to make history.
● Model: BMW Z4
● On sale: March 2019
● Price range: £36,990-49,050
● Engine range: Turbo-petrol – 2.0, 2.0 254bhp, 3.0-litre
● Power: 0 to 60mph in 4.5 seconds, 165mph top speed (3.0)
● Average fuel economy: 47.1mpg (2.0)
● CO2 emissions: 137-168g/km
● Rivals: Audi TT RS, Porsche 718 Boxster, Mercedes-AMG SLC 43
● Rating: ★★★★★★★★✩✩