BMW Z4 Review
The Z4 is an economical sports car, with thrills thrown in – but there are quicker and more involving rivals
Strengths & weaknesses
- Impressive fuel economy and CO2 emissions
- Compact and sporty looks
- Practical boot
- Not the quickest
- Low standard equipment levels
- Less engaging to drive than rivals
All convertibles are a luxury and are usually second cars, something bought to add a little fun to a person's driving life.
But they’re a luxury that many British car buyers opt for – we’re the second biggest market in Europe for convertibles – so the all-new BMW Z4 has no shortage of rivals. Competing head-on with the Z4 for buyers’ hard-earned cash are the Audi TT (including the more hardcore RS variant), Mercedes-Benz SLC and, of course, the Porsche Boxster. It's a relatively small market segment, but a competitive one.
Looks are very important in the convertible game, and BMW’s designers have judged the Z4 just right. It has the sleek styling that a sports car needs, while there’s just the right amount of contouring and body sculpting to make it look interesting, without being too fussy.
The long bonnet and set-back interior are classic sports car features, while the mesh in the standard BMW kidney grille adds another hint of sportiness.
The Z4 feels agile and grippy, with impressive body control. However, it's not as involving as the Porsche Boxster, which feels sharper and more engaging. The most powerful version of the Z4, the M40i, is less fun than the Audi TT RS, too, which is quicker and more powerful, yet feels entirely composed.
While we’re on the subject of speed – which is an important consideration when forking out for a sports car – none of the Z4 variants are hugely impressive. The sDrive 20i is slightly slower than many of the hot hatches on the market, such as the Hyundai i30N and Volkswagen Golf GTI; the sDrive 30i is a little quicker, but still nothing to write home about. While the M40i is however, 0.1 of a second quicker to 62mph than the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 and Boxster, but 0.7 seconds slower than the TT RS.
The interior is as classy as you’d expect to find in a premium sports car, with high-quality materials, and exemplary fit and finish. Comfortable and cosseting sports seats are standard, but leather is only available on the two upper trim levels. Twin 10.25-inch screens and the head-up display are reserved for M Performance cars.
The entertainment system offers access to a range of online services, and is generally useful and intuitive. Although, there are too many submenus, and Apple CarPlay in only accessible via Bluetooth, as opposed to through a USB cable – and we also found the connection to it to be a little flaky.
For a sports car, the interior is spacious with a good of range of movement in the seats and plenty of shoulder-room. The boot is also a lot more practical than was the case in the previous generation of Z4: that car had a folding hard-top, but the fabric roof of the new car requires less space, so the boot capacity has doubled in size to 281 litres. There’s enough room for a couple of cabin bags, and/or some soft-sided holdalls, making the Z4 more usable for longer trips.
The Z4 is an accomplished sports car, which is more economical than its rivals, with usable practicality and that all-important fun-to-drive quality. But it never feels quite as sharp as the Porsche Boxster and isn’t as quick as the Audi TT RS.
|Three years/Unlimited mileage
|£205 - £515 in first year, £140 thereafter
Best BMW Z4 for...
Best for Economy – BMW Z4 sDrive 20i
The sDrive 20i and 30i both have the same impressively economical 47.1mpg fuel consumption and 138g/km emissions figures, so there’s nothing between them.
Best for Performance – BMW Z4 M40i
The range-topping M40i is the most powerful Z4 on sale, with a 340PS output and a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds.
- October 2018 the Z4 is first shown in public at the Paris Motor Show
- October 2018 UK orders open
- March 2019 first deliveries of the Z4 in the UK
Understanding BMW Z4 names
There are three engine variants available to Z4 buyers. The sDrive 20i and 30i are both based on a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine, but tuned to 194bhp and 254bhp respectively; the M40i has a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine producing 335bhp.
Trim M Performance
There are three trim levels to choose from – Sport, M Sport and M Performance, which offer greater amounts of equipment as the price increases.
All versions of the Z4 come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, called Steptronic.
BMW Z4 Engines
sDrive 20i, sDrive 30i, M40i
Buyers can choose their Z4 with one of three petrol engines. They start with the sDrive 20i, which draws its power from a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine that makes 194bhp enabling it to reach 62mph from a standing start in 6.6 seconds. The official fuel economy is 46.3-47.1mpg (depending on wheel size), which is good for a modern sports car (lower than the comparable Porsche Boxster, Mercedes SLC and the Audi TT), while CO2 emissions are also an admirable 137-139g/km.
The more powerful sDrive 30i uses the same engine, but is tuned to deliver 254bhp, which reduces the 0-62mph time to 5.4 seconds. However, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions remain the same as the s20i.
Under the long bonnet of the range-topping M40i lies a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, which generates 335bhp to help it sprint to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds.
It certainly feels quick, with plenty of straight-line pace from a standing start and lots of shove for overtaking – useful on country roads with lots of corners and short straight sections, where the space is limited. In-gear acceleration in motorway situations is equally impressive and the shifts themselves are quick and smooth, thanks to an eight-speed automatic transmission (which is standard right across the Z4 range).
However, while this spec Z4 matches the Porsche Boxster for speed, the Audi TT RS is considerably quicker (0-62mph in 3.9 seconds). The bigger engine means a lower fuel consumption figure of 38.2-39.8mpg, which, alongside the 162-168g/km CO2 emissions, are lower than the Porsche Boxster S, Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 and Audi TT RS.
BMW Z4 Trims
Sport, M Sport, M Performance
There are three trim levels for the BMW Z4 in the UK.
The Sport model features design elements in high-gloss black on the front crossbar and the rear apron’s insert, along with 18-inch light-alloy wheels, LED headlights, collision and pedestrian warning with city braking, lane departure warning, variable sport steering and two-zone air conditioning.
M Sport models add a three-section air intake for the front apron, prominent side skirt contouring, a rear apron with side surrounds and 18-inch M light-alloy wheels. Leather seats are another standard feature.
M Performance cars only come with the M40i engine. They include Vernasca/Alcantara leather upholstery, adaptive suspension, differential, lumbar support, BMW Live Cockpit Professional, which includes a two 10.25-inch screens (one for infotainment, the other for the instrument panel).
BMW Z4 Reliability and warranty
The Z4 isn’t covered by the Auto Express Driver Power survey, as it’s too new and, more importantly, its limited sales volumes mean that buyers don’t respond in large enough numbers for it to show up in the table.
A positive sign is that a couple of BMW models do appear in the latest Driver Power survey, with the 5 Series and 3 Series in the top half of the table. That doesn’t transfer to satisfaction with the brand overall, however, as BMW is only 21st in the list of most reliable manufacturers.
The BMW warranty is relatively standard compared to those of its rivals, in that it lasts three years from new, but it does cover unlimited miles.
Used BMW Z4
At time of writing the Z4 is not yet on sale, so there are no used examples yet available.
When they do start to filter on to the market, expect prices after three years to be around 50% of the original cost. Despite steady demand for them, roadsters are still something of a niche market, so they do tend to lose a chunk of their value when second-hand.
However, if you’re really after a used BMW Z4, don’t dismiss the previous generation model. Made between 2009 and 2018, the old Z4 is still a great looking sportscar, and one refined enough for day to day life as long as you don’t need a big boot.
Keep an eye out for post 2012 models badged as S20i and S30i. Both are frugal and fast and provide the best performance for price.