BMW Z4 Roadster (2019) early drive review

PROS

  • Extremely user-friendly year-round
  • Excellent roof insulation
  • Very fast in M40i guise
  • Boot doesn't change volume with roof

CONS

  • Not as exciting as a Porsche to drive
  • M40i very expensive
  • Feels extremely wide on road
  • Lacks rear headroom

Parkers overall rating: 4.0 out of 5 4.0

This is the third BMW Z4 Roadster to be released, following the 2002 Mk1 and the 2009-2016 Mk2. Like its predecessors, it’s a two-seater rear-wheel drive convertible sports car.

While the previous Z4 featured a folding metal hardtop, the new car uses a motorised fabric soft-top, chosen to save weight, save time (it opens and closes in 10 seconds, while the car is travelling at up to 31mph) and reduce noise on the move.

Competition includes the Porsche 718 BoxsterJaguar F-Type ConvertibleAudi TT Roadster and the Mercedes-Benz SLC. 

Three engine choices from launch

The Z4 is available only with petrol engines from launch:

  • sDrive 20i – 197hp, 320Nm of torque, 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, 149mph top speed
  • sDrive 30i – 258hp, 400Nm of torque, 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds, 155mph top speed
  • M40i – 340hp, 500Nm of torque, 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, 155mph top speed 

All models come with BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic automatic gearbox, although one manual option will join the range in Europe in July 2019, available only with the 20i engine. Its principal purpose is to provide a lower-cost entry point to the Z4 range. It hasn’t yet been confirmed for the UK.

What's the 2019 BMW Z4 Roadster like inside?

The BMW Z4’s interior feels more like that of a saloon than a sports car. Its styling and controls are familiar from the latest 3 Series and 5 Series models, and the Z4 features the latest iDrive 7.0 infotainment system.

It’s spread across a 10.2-inch (diagonally) touchscreen, which can also be controlled by turning or tracing your fingers across the surface of a rotary clickwheel down by the gearlever, or by voice control.

The instrument panel too is a 10.2-inch screen, with configurable graphics within and between its speedometer and rev-counter displays.

Broad range of safety and driver assistance tech

Despite the Z4’s sports car routes it’s be available with a host of safety technology, including:

  • Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function and Lane Departure Warning as standard
  • Active cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic sign recognition, Lane Change Warning System, Rear Collision Prevention and Cross-Traffic Alert
  • A head-up display featuring speed, vehicle status and route guidance information
  • Active Park Distance Control and a rear-view camera combine to provide automatic parking
  • Reversing Assistant – capable of automatically reversing the car in tight spaces by storing the steering movements over the last section of road, retracing these exactly over a distance of up to 50 metres in reverse

BMW Z4 trim levels in the UK – Sport, M Sport and M Performance

The range starts with the entry-level Sport trim, with the level-up M Sport version getting a sportier-looking three-section air intake for the front apron, side skirt contouring and different alloy wheels.

The top M40i variant is in M Performance trim, which includes uprated brakes, differential and suspension.

How much is the 2019 BMW Z4?

At launch the 20i starts from £36,990, the 30i from £40,690 and the M40i £49,050, slotting neatly between the Porsche 718 Boxster and the Boxster S.

Sales start in March 2019.

Improved bootspace over previous Z4

The 2019 BMW Z4 offers a boot capacity of 281 litres (regardless of whether the roof is up or down), which is 50% more than the previous generation model. In addition to this, an optional through-loading system will allow longer items to be lay horizontally through the boot and cabin area.

So that's the kit. Now on to the drive...

What’s the 2019 BMW Z4 like to drive?

Depends which drive mode you’re in. As is the wont of modern BMWs, the default is Comfort, with switches near the gear selector ramping up to Sport and Sport + modes. The Z4 feels markedly different depending on which is selected.

So far we’ve tested the top six-cylinder Z4 M40i, which is fitted with extra mechanical goodies the lower four-cylinder models don’t get, in particular electronically controlled shock absorbers, which vary their stiffness on the fly, and an electronically controlled differential, similar to that fitted to the BMW M5.

In Comfort mode the suspension is very forgiving, the steering is light and it’s a very relaxing mode of transport, a car well suited to cruising. The electric power steering is very responsive to small inputs even in the Comfort drive mode, but dial up to Sport or Sport+ and it becomes much faster to react.

The suspension stiffens as you brake and turn the wheel, the result being that there’s very little body movement. The Z4 can be a surprisingly tail-happy car in Sport and Sport+, but to its credit it doesn’t feel unpredictable.

For a convertible car, its structure feels very stiff, which is a good thing for both refinement and handling. We found there was a very subtle shake through the car when tackling a mid-corner bump, but that’s something we’ve come to expect in convertible cars like this, and it’s far better than its predecessor.

The engine’s impressive, too. BMW has worked to make it more responsive for the Z4 (a similar engine is available in several other of the firm’s models) and that suits its sports car character well. There's plenty of power, so overtaking is done with ease, not to mention the backing of an exhilarating soundtrack (artificially augmented via the stereo’s speakers).

We’ve also driven the eight-speed automatic gearbox fitted here in other BMWs, and found it’s an impressively smooth yet quick transmission. Paddleshifters behind the steering wheel allow you to take manual control if you like, which is very rewarding if you’re driving quickly.

The Parkers Verdict

The new Z4 is noticeably better to drive than the previous model, but for outright fun it still can’t thrill as much as the Porsche 718 Boxster. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; if you’re looking for a sporty convertible that’s as relaxing and easy to live with as possible, the Z4 might well be for you.

Keep an eye out for the full Parkers BMW Z4 Roadster review coming soon

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