Unlike the previous Z4, this one will only be available as a soft top, with no retracting hardtop version in the pipeline. It shares a platform with the forthcoming Toyota Supra coupe, so to retain both cars’ market share the two body styles will remain separate.
But with that said, BMW is still promising a far more entertaining car for drivers than the previous version. Andreas Ederer, product manager, joined us to walk around the car: ‘We didn’t have to make any compromises. This is the difference compared to the predecessor, there were more compromises in terms of sportiness and in this case it’s totally different. It’s pure sportiness.’
The new BMW Z4 appears startlingly close to the concept. The double-stacked LED headlights and new mesh grille design remain from the concept car, and there’s a radar for the rudimentary driver-assistance systems hidden behind a cowl on the left-hand side to keep it hidden from view. We’re told this is in keeping with BMW’s philosophy that the Z4 is a drivers’ car, so any assistance should be kept under the radar.
At the rear, the L-shaped light clusters have a fluid shape to them, much like the i8 and yet also harking back to the Z8 and other BMW’s of yore. They’re less fussy than the original concept’s, though.
A darkened brake light sits under the rear ‘ducktail’ spoiler, while reversing lamps and foglamps sit just above the rear diffuser.
As on the previous Z4, the long bonnet is a clamshell that lifts to reveal an engine sat around two thirds of the way behind the front axle.
Its side profile features fewer lines than we’re used to from BMW, and more use of twisting surfaces to create shadow. The windowline of the car is high relative to the driving position, which has the effect of making the driver feel very low down towards the tarmac.
The wheels you can see here are 19-inch items, which will be standard on the M40i, shod in Michelin rubber and sat in front of M Performance brakes.
The roof folds open and closed in 10 seconds at speeds up to 31mph, but why fabric rather than a folding metal hard top?
Andreas Ederer explains: ‘it’s lighter, it lowers the centre of gravity and it enables us to have the full trunk volume whether the car is open or closed. The soft top technology in terms of acoustic comfort is even better than the retractable hardtop we had on our predecessor, so therefore there is no reason whatsoever to go for another hard top.
Said luggage volume is a useful 265 litres, up from 180 in the previous Z4 and apparently big enough for a pair of golf bags, should that sort of thing flick your switch.
Ederer also offered an insight into testing the roof for opening at speed: ‘One of the engineers, at a very early stage when it didn’t have protection, managed to open the thing at 180kph! Nothing was bent, but it was very close to being ripped off.’
Expect 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds. It’s coupled with an eight-speed automatic gearbox including paddleshifters on the steering wheel, and there are Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes to pick between – though these have more relevance to the handling, covered below, than the performance.
With 50:50 weight distribution thanks to the engine’s location (around two third of it is behind the front axle), MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear end, the recipe is there for a half-decent sports car.
In addition, the M40i gets electrically controlled adaptive dampers and differential, with the latter similar in design to the M5’s and using identical software logic.
There may be a 20i and 30i versions, both using a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder ‘B48’ motor, and perhaps a manual gearbox for the 20i as was spotted testing. This last isn’t for performance, but rather to lower the base list price.