The all-new BMW Z4 launched into the SA market recently. Double Apex attended the local ride and drive event held in the Western Cape.
BMW’s Z4 has been mentioned in several stories over the past few months, but not always for the right reasons. The latest roadster from Munich shares its platform with the newest generation Toyota Supra, much to the annoyance of some motoring fans. Comparisons between the two are moot as the buyer profile is quite different.
Click here to read our initial impressions of the new BMW 3 Series.
BMW’s legacy of roadsters stretches further back than even its sports saloons. This Z4 is the latest in long line of open-top cars that includes the breath-taking 507, the quirky Z1, and more recent namesakes.
In keeping with tradition the Z4 is roadster ie a roofless two-seater with pert dimensions. In an effort to differentiate the models in its portfolio, BMW designers are giving each line-up its own distinctive appearance. This is quite evident in the Z4 with extremely wide kidney grilles, raked headlamps and a unique graphic on the flanks. A chunky rear end with slim taillamps lends it an air of muscularity. BMW has retained a folding soft-top to keep mass to minimum and ensure ideal weight distribution with the roof up or down.
Clean and high-tech
The cabin boasts BMW’s new interior design language, to group controls into specific functionality sets. On top of that the Z4’s cabin is also driver-centric, creating a cockpit-like feel for the person in charge.
Modern amenities abound, but the interior design treatment feels uncluttered and simple, as it should be. The simplicity of the design comes, in part, from the adoption of the latest infotainment system, which now includes wide format (10,25-inch) touchscreen interface. Occupants can interact with the system via the rotary iDrive Controller, buttons on the steering wheel or voice control – neat.
BMW SA will be offering two engine options for local Z4 buyers. First up is a turbocharged 3,0-litre straight-six unit. This engine is similar to that found in the M240i and it produces 250 kW of power with peak torque of 500 N.m. BMW claims that the Z4 M40i can sprint to 100 km/h from standstill in 4,6 seconds.
A 2,0-litre four-cylinder unit completes the line-up. Cars fitted with this powerplant are badged Z4 sDrive20i. The smaller engine delivers 145 kW with maximum torque of 320 N.m. The 20i Z4 manages the benchmark sprint two seconds slower than its sibling. In proper sportscar fashion, both models are rear wheel drive.
Hitting the twisty road
On the national ride and drive event I got to sample just the one derivative of the Z4, the 2,0-litre. BMW chose a route that traversed several different types of roads. We set off from the Cape Town CBD about an hour after sunrise, so we decided to stow the fast-acting top and enjoy the crisp morning air.
On the motorways leading into the Boland area, we managed to hold a conversation despite traveling near the speed limit, and the cabin remained wind-free. Heading off the major roadways we got to tackle the dangerous and tricky Bainskloof Pass that links Wellington to Slanghoek. Here, you are faced with a twisty rock-lined road that is bumpy and narrow ie not ideal for any driving heroics.
Thanks to wider tracks, front and rear, as well as a shorter wheelbase, we were able to hustle the Z4 through this complex section of tar and it maintained good composure all the while. The dynamic suspension set-up dealt with the undulating surface in an impressive manner and not once did we experience any heart-stopping moments, despite our slightly quick pace.
The 2,0-litre engine doesn’t feel decidedly punchy, but it does relish high-revs, which makes it fun to drive. You really have to work the motor to extract the best from it.
For BMW purists this latest generation Z4 is going to be a treat. The styling makes it stand out, the interior is as high-tech as anything else from the brand of late, and it is dynamically adept as most drivers could hope for.
In the niche segment that is occupied by the Audi TT, Jaguar F-Type, Mercedes-Benz SLC and Porsche Boxster, the Z4 can hold its head high. I’ve not experienced the 3,0-litre version yet, but I am willing to bet that the 20i variant is more car than most buyers will ever need.
BMW Z4 sDrive 20i R759 442
BMW Z4 M40i R1 036 698