I drove a $64,000 BMW Z4 to see if this high-end roadster is worth the hefty price tag - here's the verdict
- I sampled BMW's revived roadster, a 2019 Z4 sDrive30i that has been outfitted with a bunch of M-Sport performance extras.
- The BMW Z4 has always been a very sporty two-door, and the new model is no exception.
- I did like the car in the 30i trim, with its 255-horsepower four-cylinder engine. But even that is a lot of oomph for a roadster.
- BMW builds the Z4 so well that you're getting your money's worth, but you could spend tens of thousands of dollars less and get an equally fun set of wheels.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The world needs roadsters. That's my belief, anyway. And fortunately, there are several automakers who share my view.
BMW has been in the modern roadster game since the 1990s, but its lineup briefly lacked a two-seat drop-top since the 2016 model year. That gap was filled in 2018 when an all-new Z4 was revealed (it's a collaboration with Toyota, which sells the car as a Supra).
I'm old enough to remember the arrival of the stylish Z3 back when Bill Clinton was president; that car was meant to rival the Mazda Miata by being a burlier, more sporty front-engine, rear-wheel drive two-seater with a ragtop. The Z3's lineage lives on in the new Z4, which is yet again matching up against the Miata. And yet again bringing more horsepower to the open-air party.
I generally don't like a whole lot of HPs in a roadster, which I think of as a car meant to zip around winding roads at 40mph. The Z4 is a helluva lot more car than that. It intends to eat winding roads for breakfast.
How did I feel about getting behind the wheel of that menacing proposition? I felt pretty good - BMW let me borrow a Z4 sDrive30i that had been outfitted with a whole mess of M-Sport high-performance extras. This was the roadster turned up to 11.
It was also - Gulp! - a $64,000 car. That's rich for a roadster.
Too rich? Read on to find out.
The 2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i arrived at our suburban New Jersey test center wearing a fetching "San Francisco Red Metallic" paint job. The as-tested price was $64,000, with thousands of dollars in extras adding to the $50,000 MSRP.
The Z-Series roadsters date to the late 1980s for the Bavarian automaker, but the model that really defined the two-seater for BMW was the original Z3 of 1996.
A major — and welcome — change for the sixth-generation Z-Series was the replacement of the retractable hardtop with a soft-top.
Yes, this eliminates the Z4's chances to do double-duty as a coupé, but honestly I prefer a proper ragtop on a roadster.
Plus, I just think the soft top looks right.
It also retracts very quickly, activated by a switch between the seats. The top stows in about five seconds — and takes up essentially no space in the trunk.
There's a removable windscreen between the protective roll bars.
The BMW Z4 is sharp and aggressive, a far cry from the retro Z3 of the mid-1990s, with its throwback, almost steampunk allure ...
... see what I mean?
While I rather like the overall shape of the Z4, with that long hood and scrunched rear, the headlights are a bit much.
They're larger and complicated.
And on my tester, they were LEDs. I can't argue with them at night, but I'd prefer something more low-key.
The BMW kidney grille is a presence up front. but it's blacked out and stretched, so it sort of loses its kidney-ness.
The Bavarian-flag badge hasn't changed, however.
The side vents evoke that beloved Z3 of the Clinton years.
My Z4 came with a few BMW M-Sport high-performance goodies, including M-Sport brakes, part of a $2,450 "Track Handling" package. The 19-inch wheels were an extra $600.
The Z4's rear is something of an optical illusion. In profile, it's out-of-proportion with the front, even with the decklid spoiler adding a flourish. Viewed directly, it's svelte, well-designed, and a credit to the car.
The tail lights, also LEDs, are better than the headlights.
But I don't care for the scoop coming off the fender flanks.
Somehow, that simple black-blue-white propeller (it isn't, but whatever, still looks like one) redeems everything.
The seat-back roll bars are a valuable safety feature, in the unlikely event that the Z4 encounters physics that overcome its low center of gravity.
Time to take a peek beneath the hood.
The 2.0-liter, twin-turbo four-cylinder in our sDrive30i trim level makes 255 horsepower and an impressive 295 pound-feet of torque. That grunt from the small motor had us fooled that we might be driving the 3.0-liter inline six that's also in the lineup. It makes 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 mph time in the sDrive30i is about five seconds, and that's plenty quick for this type of car. Fuel economy is appealing: 25 mpg city/32 highway/28 combined.
If you've ever owned a roadster, you know that truck space is hard to come by.
But the Z4's is surprisingly generous. Roughly 10 cubic feet.
Now let's slip inside.
Two seats — good! The interior is black and "Ivory White Vernasca Leather." I have to say, with the Frisco Red exterior and this creamy interior, we're getting far afield of old-school roadster simplicity.
The seats are derived from competition designs and are an M-Sport special. They're superb, but I wouldn't call them forgiving.
Storage is extremely limited in the cabin.
But the back wall between the cabin and trunk is an ideal place to locate some speakers for the excellent Harman Kardon surround-sound system, part of a $2,500 "Executive Package."
If you're the driver, you can set the heated seat nice and low and engage in some terrifically spirited motoring.
The instrument cluster is all digital and quasi-analog. It evokes the familiar BMW cluster of yore, but updates them to display speed and tachometric data on opposing curves.
The leather-wrapped, multi-function wheel has one of the few M-Sport shout-outs.
The eight-speed transmission sends power to the rear wheels through an M-Sport differential. The joystick is standard-issue bimmer these days, but a bit more techno than what I'd like in a roadster (what I'd like is a six-speed stick). There are also paddles behind the steering wheel, for kinda sorta manual shifting. Buttons enable selection of the drive modes: three Sport modes, Comfort, Eco, and Adaptive. The last one learns your driving style and adjusts accordingly.
The 10.25-inch infotainment screen runs BMW's much-improved iDrive system, with Apple CarPlay as a backup option. Navigation with this setup is excellent.
There's a one-year SiriusXM satellite radio subscription. Bluetooth pairing is straightforward, as there are USB and AUX ports for device connection.
iDrive also includes a suite of apps.
So what's the verdict?
The BMW Z4 was the last car that departing Business Insider Transportation Correspondent Ben Zhang drove. (He liked it!)
- Sam Altman, who was already wealthy before starting OpenAI, reportedly doesn't own any equity in the company behind ChatGPT
- Five planets will stage a rare spectacular event in the night sky on March 28
- Elon Musk reportedly left OpenAI's board in 2018 after Sam Altman and other cofounders rejected his plan to run the company
- Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals and kitchen appliance maker Butterfly announce merger
- ICMR comes up with first ethical guidelines for application of AI in biomedical research, healthcare
- Measures taken by IIFCL to keep bad loans under check: Parliamentary panel
- Microsoft adds 'AI-generated stories' to its Bing search
- Housing sales up 14% annually in Jan-Mar to 1.13 lakh units across top 7 cities: Anarock