- First chance to see production Z4 M40i First Edition
- Prototype driven on road and track
- Keep an eye out for the full Z4 review coming soon
These are the first official pictures of the 2019 BMW Z4 Roadster - a two-door, two-seat convertible sports car with an illustrious set of rivals. We've already had an early drive, and details of pricing and launch dates are starting to trickle through.
So far BMW has only released details of the range-topping M40i First Edition version of the new Z4, which comes with a 340hp, six-cylinder turbocharged engine and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. It'll hit 62mph from rest in 4.6 seconds.
Featuring Frozen Orange paintwork and optional 19-inch wheels, this highly specified model features almost every available part on offer and gives us our first glimpse at the car's cabin too, including BMW's latest iDrive multimedia system and an optional Harman Kardon surround sound stereo.
All of the controls face the driver, while a 10.2-inch screen in the centre of the dash displays multimedia information and an identically sized screen to the left takes the place of a traditional instrument cluster to display driving figures and some digital dials.
The two front seats are electrically adjustable and sit in front of a pair of speaker grilles each for that optional hi-fi.
That fabric roof operates in 10 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, and doesn't impact the 265-litre boot volume whether up or down.We're told its insulation is as good as the previous Z4, which featured a folding metal hardtop - no mean feat.
There's a radar hidden in the front bumper that will make basic driver-assistance systems possible, but don't expect anything too advanced: the Z4 is meant to be a drivers' car and as such doesn't need the semi-autonomous driving systems that the 7 Series, for example, has.
So that's the kit. Now on to our prototype drive...
We also had a prototype drive in a heavily disguised Z4 ahead of its official unveiling, and if you’ve driven either of the previous Z4s, it’s a bit of a revelation. The first was too firm to be enjoyable, while the second was far softer and less fun to drive.
Thanks to adaptive suspension (standard on M40i models) and a clever electronically controlled limited-slip differential, the 2019 model manages to be better at both low- and high-speed driving. Its steering is very responsive to small inputs even in the Comfort drive mode, but dial up to Sport or Sport+ and it’s riotous fun.
The car is able to almost eradicate bodyroll if you’re driving seriously quickly, yet moving slower the suspension gets much softer and the steering gets lighter. It’s a highly impressive machine in this respect, with two very different characters on call at the touch of a button.
Its 50:50 weight distribution helps here too, with the engine positioned so roughly two thirds of its weight is behind the front axle’s centreline.
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. It’s certainly not the worst out there in this respect.
The engine’s great as well. BMW has worked to make it more responsive for the Z4 (a similar motor is available on several other of the firm’s models) and that suits its sports car character well. It’s hugely powerful too, so overtaking is simply not a problem, and sounds great.
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
This is only a very early test of the new BMW Z4, but we’ve been impressed with what we’ve seen so far. It feels noticeably better to drive than the previous model, and potentially up there with Porsche 718 Boxster for outright fun. That’s seriously high praise.
To find out what it's like to drive in production-ready form we’ll have to wait for the international launch in October 2018.
Customer deliveries are due to start in spring 2019, and we're expecting the M40i to cost somewhere between £48-49k - slotting neatly between the 718 Boxster and the Boxster S.
More information about the rest of the range and technical features will be available on 19 September.