The Z4 has been around for thirteen or fourteen years or so, and it’s a familiar face in sports car comparisons. So familiar, in fact, that I hadn’t released that global production of the E89 finally stopped in June of this year. Motormessenger grabbed the keys to the Regensburg-built model to see if it’s worth considering as a summer plaything and future classic.
As the facelifted E89 model, this generation of Z4 brought a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder motor to the range. While it’s pokey enough at junctions and traffic lights, it feels a little underwhelming in a car with a folding metal roof.
The N20 motor under the bonnet delivers 181bhp and 199lb ft of torque, with a deep-noted burr at low revs which sadly fades away as you climb the rev range. The sDrive 20i motor replaces the naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre 23i from the pre-facelift model, delivering more torque than the 23i but at the expense of some overall horsepower.
While the Z4’s motor is a little disappointing aurally, the roadster is an incredibly nimble machine when you show it the right road. You can rely on the chassis to pull you round a tight B-road corner precisely because there isn’t enough power to really overwhelm the rear wheels. This is thanks to the £660 Adaptive M Sport suspension option, which allows the driver to chose from Comfort, Sport and Sport+. The last option even disables the traction and stability control, which makes the Z4 even more biddable through the corners. The 20i isn’t a tail-out toy but more of a precise tool; the chassis isn’t as communicative as, say, an E92 M3, but it sticks to the road well.
The six-speed gearbox offers up a great shift, with a shorter throw than you’d imagine in comparison to the slightly lethargic engine. The stubby gearknob is one of the best elements of the driving experience, and the positive-feeling shift takes your mind off the occasionally thumpy ride. Thankfully, however, there’s no scuttle-shake present even on the cobbliest of roads.
Make no mistake, the Z4 is a well-worn design. Originally unveiled at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, there are elements of the design that are no longer present on new BMWs (such as the rectangular car key which slots into the dashboard). But despite the familiarity of the shape, the Z4 is a well-proportioned machine.
The long, flowing bonnet is classic sportscar, and the multi-angle adjustable seat means that you’re soon slung low within the interior. The BMW 507-evoking dashboard trim and side badges add a dash of nostalgia to the contemporary design, and seeing the Z4’s broad hips in the side mirrors just add to the drama. Estoril Blue – a colour previously seen on M models – also displays well on such a curvaceous design.
As to be expected from a German car, the Z4’s interior is a lesson is sobriety. The gorgeous A/C and heating controls are simple to use and well-styled, and the angled instrument clusters add to the sporty vibe. Leather seats, a USB connection and Bluetooth connectivity are all standard fare, and my test car came with the £1.5k Comfort Package option. This includes a wind deflector, folding and automatically-dimming mirrors, extended storage in the boot, parking sensors, automatically-braking cruise control and extended lighting (including LED exterior handle lights).
While it’s a bit cheeky of BMW to charge for a wind deflector (surely an essential in a convertible car), it’s a common industry practice done by brands as diverse as Audi and Renault. Nevertheless, for convertible fans living in the north of Scotland, you’ll be pleased to hear that the optional heated seats work a treat on a cool August evening with the roof down.
The flip side of purchasing a Z4 with the 2.0-engine is that it’s both cheaper to purchase and to run than the full-fat models. List price for a brand-new Z4 earlier this summer began at £29,480, though with options it is very easy to breach the £35,000 barrier. For some, that’s a lot of money for a two-seater toy, no matter how well it drives and how usable it is. One of the saving graces of the Z4 is its increased efficiency, helped in part by little things such as stop-start technology. Boulevard cruisers will be pleased to hear that total engine CO2 output decreases to just 159g/km and fuel economy increases to 41mpg, making the Z4 a more cost-efficient option than ever before.
Well, a convertible is not the most practical offering, but the Z4 offers ample boot space when the roof is up. It’s a surprisingly wide boot, too, but you lose most of it once the large metal roof stows away. There’s also a thin ledge with netting behind the seats, which can be used to hold thin objects (but is pretty useless at holding your shopping). The BMW scores strongly because its engine is run-of-the-mill, so servicing and maintenance is much like any other regular 3 series. That said, you might want to take another car to Costco to pick up your brand new TV.
VALUE FOR MONEY
One of the benefits of buying a run-out model is that there’s generally some generous kit levels available. Before the Z4 stopped production in June, standard options along with the sat nav, Bluetooth and USB connection mentioned earlier included electronically-assisted steering, a multifunction steering wheel, ISOFIX points for child seats and even automatic headlights. As a result, there’s very little to add on to the options list, making the purchase price even more palatable.
As you would expect, the Z4’s electronically-folding metal roof is a doddle to use and integrates snugly with the car whether up or down. It even makes a decent fist of isolating road noise from the large 19-inch wheels. When the roof is down, the Z4 makes complete sense as a well-built if slightly staid roadster. It’s not an out-an-out driver’s car – especially with this engine – as it’s best enjoyed at seven-tenths.
But for me, part of the reason of buying a convertible sports car is to hear and experience the engine. Despite a strong chassis, great design and good kit levels, the 20i needs a six-cylinder to really sing. Of course, if you really want such an engine, you could always get yourself a slightly 25i equipped with an inline six…
OVERALL RESULT: 19.5/30
With thanks to John Clark BMW for the Z4 to review. If you’d like to learn more about their range, visit www.john-clark.co.uk/bmw.
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