Motoring: BMW Z4 will remind you of warmer days
The second-generation Z4 has been with us for a number of years, and there are a few updates for 2014. If you look really hard, you'll spot that the headlights and the front bumper have changed slightly... and that's about it.
It's the same story when you step inside. The interior is fundamentally the same as last year's car, but the infotainment software has been updated. That is just fine, because I, for one, never had an issue with the interior of the Z4. For a two-seat convertible, the interior is quite spacious, and the ergonomics are spot on. You can spend an entire day in one and feel comfortable.
There have also been no changes under the hood, as you still get three engine options to choose from. My most recent tester was the middle of the pack version, which is referred to as the sDrive35i model. This version gets a turbo-charged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder motor that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox; for $1,950 extra you can have the optional seven-speed dual clutch gearbox (as fitted to my tester). While I love my manuals, I love its dual-clutch gearbox even more because the shifts are clean and fast and my hands always remain on the wheel.
That is a good thing, because when you grab this car by the scruff of its neck and tear down some twisty roads, it rewards you like few cars ever can. This is a proper sports car, and not just a posing pouch — its performance numbers can back that claim. It can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.3 seconds, and in Canada, its top speed is electronically limited to 210 km/h. If you want to go faster still, BMW will happily sell you the sDrive35is model, which is quicker and has a higher top speed.
While the Z4 is a car any car enthusiast would love to own, it would appeal to those who just like to enjoy a nice sporty car. Press one switch for 19 seconds and its power-operated folding hard-top disappears in its trunk (which will affect your luggage space). When the weather permits, this is some truly fantastic open-air motoring.
I am quite a fan of the Z4, but even I'll admit that it could have been better. My first main concern is about wind buffeting. While the air flow is fine in town speeds, on the highway it does get a bit too windy, even with the side windows up and its wind deflector in place. Secondly, I wish the styling update was a bit more aggressive — it would have helped move the Z4 from its current “chick car” status. Finally, I wish BMW had offered an “M-version” of this Z4 with the V8 engine from the E92 M3. That would have elevated this car onto a whole new performance level and allowed it to compete head on with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz SLK55.
The Z4, as it is, is a fine vehicle, and with a base price of $63,900 for the sDrive35i model that I tested, it is priced well too. But, even if I had the money, I wouldn't buy this version. Why? Because the base version, the sDrive28i with its 2.0-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder motor is more nimble, nearly as fast and sips less fuel (I averaged 7.6L/100km in the 28i, and 10.7L/100km with the 35i). Ideally, I'd want to own the sDrive35is model, which is the fastest, loudest, most enjoyable version of the current Z4.
While at this time of the year, you're probably thinking of buying some all-wheel drive SUV/CUV, I say, plan ahead and start getting ready for next summer.