Z4 hits the sweet spot

BMW's third-generation roadster is a soft top with a hardcore approach to fun

The soft top of the BMW Z4 goes down in 10 seconds, even on the move at up to 50kmh.
The soft top of the BMW Z4 goes down in 10 seconds, even on the move at up to 50kmh.PHOTOS: BMW
The BMW Z4 features a cabin lined with premium materials (above).
The BMW Z4 features a cabin lined with premium materials (above).PHOTOS: BMW

The Z4 is BMW's only two-door, two-seater, front-engined and rear-wheel-drive convertible.

The latest third-generation roadster - which shares its platform with the yet-to-be-launched Toyota Supra coupe - goes back to having a soft top, after the previous Z4's folding hard top.

The new car is 85mm longer, 74mm wider and 13mm taller than its predecessor. Its boot is 50 per cent bigger at 281 litres - whether the roof is up or down.

Its front and rear axles are new. A double-joint spring strut does its suspension duties in front and a five-link takes care of the rear.

Huge and detailed air ducts dominate the front of the body, making the car more aggressive than its predecessor. The rear end also receives a pair of air ducts below elegant lights similar in shape to the recently launched 8-series.

The test car is the flagship M40i, with a 2,998cc straight six-cylinder churning out 340hp and 500Nm of torque with the aid of a twin-scroll turbocharger. It sprints to 100kmh in 4.6 seconds.

  • SPECS / BMW Z4 sDRIVE20i; sDRIVE30i; M40i

  • Price: $220,000; $250,000; $300,000 without COE (estimated) 

    Engine: 1,998cc 16-valve inline-four turbocharged; 1,998cc 16-valve inline-four turbocharged; 2,998cc 24-valve inline-six turbocharged 

    Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shift 

    Power: 197hp at 4,500rpm; 258hp at 5,000rpm; 340hp at 5,000rpm 

    Torque: 320Nm at 1,450-4,200rpm; 400Nm at 1,550-4,400rpm; 500Nm at 1,600-4,500rpm 

    0-100kmh: 6.6 seconds; 5.4 seconds; 4.6 seconds 

    Top speed: 240kmh; 250kmh; 250kmh 

    Fuel consumption: 6.1 litres/100km; 6.1 litres/ 100km; 7.4 litres/ 100km 

    Agent: Performance Motors

The roadster hits the sweet spot in many ways. Handling is pure fun, with exquisite balance as the car sweeps along the Arrabida mountainside outside Lisbon.

Its engine note is typical of BMW's inline-sixes - melodiously sporty throughout its rev range as it punches through the car's eight-speed automatic transmission.

The steering wheel tells the driver how much to turn in and out in every corner for that perfect line.

In Sport+ mode, the suspension feels overly stiff across bumpy surfaces. Otherwise, it is well damped.

Large volume car manufacturers aim for their sports cars to complete the 20.83km Nurburgring circuit in under eight minutes. The Z4 completed it in seven minutes 55 seconds.

I wish BMW had let us loose on the nearby Estoril racing track. I so wanted to push the car harder and explore its limits in a safer environment as the mountain road was slippery from rain that morning

The soft top is top-notch. It insulates one from the outside world almost like a hard top. It also goes down in 10 seconds, even on the move at up to 50kmh.

There is ample head and elbow room in a cabin lined with premium materials. The fascia is similar to the soon-to-be-launched 3-series.

This is the second BMW after the 8-series with the start button on the centre console, a more natural reach to fire up the engine.

Other than the M40i, Singapore will also get the sDrive20i and the sDrive30i. These are 1,998cc inlinefour versions with 197hp/320Nm and 258hp/400Nm respectively.

The new Z4 range is due in Singapore by the second quarter of next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'Z4 hits the sweet spot'. Subscribe