The redesigned BMW Z4 is bigger inside and out than its predecessor; it also packs more power under the hood and more luxury under its new retractable hardtop roof. It looks less controversial, in part because the prior soft-top Z4 was among the most risqué designs of its day. Its successor has more curves and fewer chisels, and the convertible hardtop eliminates the need for a dedicated coupe model.
Trim levels include the sDrive30i and turbocharged sDrive35i. Both have standard Dynamic Drive Control, a feature that allows drivers to vary steering and accelerator settings to suit their tastes. Anyone considering the entry-level Z4 might cross-shop Nissan's redesigned 370Z; a loaded Z4, on the other hand, could compete with the Mercedes-Benz SLK, Audi TT and Porsche Boxster.
BMW says all surface lines strive toward a point on the road ahead. Such is easily evident in the headlights and hood. BMW's dual-kidney grille remains front and center, but the old Z4's oddly cut lines and offset surfaces are largely gone.
Some may notice that the front overhang — the distance, in profile, between the wheels and the front of the car — is longer than usual, particularly given BMW's penchant for taut, short-overhang profiles. That's because the automaker stretched the Z4's length nearly 6 inches while keeping its wheelbase essentially unchanged. At 166.9 inches long, the Z4 is roughly even with the 370Z; the TT is slightly shorter, while the Boxster and SLK are the longest and shortest, respectively, of the group. The Z4's 35.1-foot turning circle ranks about midpack.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels are standard. BMW says the two-piece aluminum hardtop power-retracts in just 20 seconds; many hardtop convertibles take 25 seconds or more.
The two-seat interior offers noticeably more headroom and legroom than before, as well as more storage options — albeit few compared to a conventional luxury sedan or coupe. BMW claims all-around visibility is up 14 percent over the last Z4, thanks to larger side and rear windows.
Available sun-reflective leather reflects infrared radiation better to render less-than-scorching surfaces on a sunny day. Other options include leather-upholstered dashboard and door panels in the sDrive35i, as well as dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and a heated steering wheel. With an optional trunk pass-thru, BMW says the Z4 can accommodate a full-size golf bag with the top down, or two bags with the top up.
The automaker's iDrive unit, included with an optional navigation system, has been revamped with better graphics, more shortcut keys and improved menu functionality. Gone are the old flip-out dashboard cupholders, replaced by a removable holder that sits beside the gearshift, much like the cupholder in the 6 Series.
Under the Hood
The sDrive30i's 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine makes 255 horsepower and 220 pounds-feet of torque, working with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. A twin-turbo 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 300 hp and 300 pounds-feet of torque powers the sDrive35i, which comes with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. BMW says the manual shifter has the shortest throws of any stick shift it makes. Both automatics have steering-wheel paddle shifters.
BMW says the Z4 sDrive30i can hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds with the manual and 6.0 seconds with the automatic; its pricier sibling hits the mark in about 5 seconds with either transmission. Such performance compares closely with the non-AMG SLK (5.4 to 6.1 seconds), Boxster (4.9 to 5.6 seconds) and TT (5.3 to 6.1 seconds), all according to their respective automakers. (Nissan does not provide performance figures, but various enthusiast publications have clocked the stick-shift 370Z around 5 seconds.)
Front and seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard, as are four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, with larger discs on the sDrive35i. Traction control and an electronic stability system with a high-threshold performance mode are also standard. The stability system employs a brake drying function to keep the discs dry during wet weather.
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