Oh, you know I said, "Yes!" when our Chief Mama Kristin Varela asked me if I'd like to drive the 2009 BMW Z4 for a stint (one of the days was my birthday). All of my friends and neighbors were extremely jealous, and I loved every minute of driving this indulgent little creature from BMW.
This wasn't my first time in the two-seater Z4. I test drove the 2007 Z4, but it wasn't a convertible and I had a lot of problems with it. I had to duck just right to get in the door, which was tricky with its ultra-bolstered seats. Once inside, the '07 felt dark and reclusive, but the Z4 has been redesigned for 2009. There's more room now, and the convertible version remedied almost all my gripes. The grin on my face from driving the Z4 erased any other petty complaints I'd otherwise make.
Let's be clear, the Z4 isn't a family car. However, if you've already got a trusted family-hauler or two in the garage, it'll work well as a fun-to-drive car that's mostly for grownups. If your family consists of you and a child, you could make a case for trying to make the Z4 into a family-hauler, but it's a tough sell since there's not a lot of trunk space for that grocery store run with the kid in the passenger seat. Keep in mind that there isn't a tiny backseat in this car for storing all of those bags.
You know the Z4 is sexy-looking, but you didn't know it's sexy under the hood, too. My test car had a twin-turbo inline-six-cylinder engine that got me everywhere in a big hurry. For the first time in who knows how long (ever), some dude tried to pick me up at a stoplight. I just laughed and left him in the dust.
The Z4 took off from stoplights like a banshee; it was awesome. I went into this test driving fully expecting to get a speeding ticket, and I was more than willing to make that sacrifice for this powerful car. The Z4 takes premium gas - no big surprise there - and gets an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg city/highway.
The Z4 has a Dynamic Drive Control that allows the driver to adjust the car's steering and accelerator settings to for their preferences. It can be adjusted to normal, Sport or Sport+. The Z4's suspension was stiff - not unbearably so - but more people want that in this kind of car.
If looks are everything to you and performance, well, not so much, then you can go for a Z4 without the bigger engine and turbocharged deliciousness. It eases up on the hit on your wallet and starts at just over $45,000. My test car started at $51,650 and rapidly accelerated to $63,470 with some pretty hefty options.
Thanks to the Z4's redesign, this convertible is bigger both inside and out. It's gorgeous-looking, and the retractable hardtop makes it hard to tell it's a convertible.
What's even better is the hardtop seals so well that there's no potential for rattling, buffeting or ill-fitting window closures - unlike a canvas droptop. The Z4 can quickly transform from a cool coupe to a sexy roadster. The bonus is that it does it with the push of a button in 20 seconds, according to BMW. There's no getting out of the car to fold stuff up here.
Speaking of sleek, the Z4 also received an update in the looks department for 2009. The headlights and front grille look angled and sharklike. It has more curves, and it's definitely more aggressive-looking than past Z4s and some of its competitors. I do like a more assertive-looking vehicle, so color me satisfied.
When the top was down, I loved the contrast between the Z4's red leather interior and its Alpine White paint color. It was super sporty-looking. It even looks good with the top up, but the visibility isn't great. I found myself double- and triple-checking the blind spots before making any moves.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
During my test drive, a guy made the mistake of calling the Z4 a "chick car." "If you'd sat in the car, you'd know there's nothing 'chick car' about it," I told him. "There's no spot for my purse, no spot for my lip balm, and I can maybe fit a wallet in that glove box. Pssh." He tried to tell me that the red-colored leather interior pushed it into chick-car territory. Wrong.
The interior is Coral Red; it's eye-catching but not feminine-looking. Available sun-reflective leather seats reflect infrared radiation to help keep them cooler in the sun. Wow.
The beautiful, comfortable interior almost made me forget there was no place for my purse, lip balm and nearly a passenger. But I kind of liked it that way. My test drive of this car fell during the second week of school, and I can tell you that there's no better treat after a long summer break than to be in a car by yourself, where only one other person - who should be an adult - can fit.
The Z4's center console is tiny but useful. There's a tray that can hold narrow items like phones or MP3 players, my boss' lip gloss (she left it in there, I didn't steal it), and maybe a pen and small pad of Post-Its.
The dash is simple-looking with a screen that pops up for the iDrive system, a multimedia system that controls everything from the sound system to the navigation system. The current iDrive system is an improvement over older versions. It makes a lot more sense and is quite iPod-friendly. While I find all of these systems to be irksome, BMW's has always been the trickiest, and I'm glad to see some improvements have been made. There are actually some easy-to-use buttons with labels on them, and the menus are much more simple and obvious than in previous years. Thank you, BMW.
What would a MotherProof.com review be without mention of the cupholders? The Z4 has one that's housed in the center stack by the passenger's left leg. It's removable, but it's sturdier that the in-dash version of earlier models (if slightly less nifty). There are a couple smaller, less-usable cupholders inside the center console, next to my boss's lip gloss, but it seems they'd only hold a drink when you're parked because they're pretty shallow.
As I mentioned, there was no place for my purse in the Z4's cabin, but there's room for it - and not much else - in the trunk. Fortunately, there's a pass-through in the back of the cabin that allows access to the cargo area. Huzzah!
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny
Are you wondering how I'm going to give this review a mom's perspective (glorious, childless, top-down outings not enough, eh)? Well, the Z4 has a set of Latch connectors as well as a passenger airbag sensor that turns off the airbag if someone who weighs less than 80 pounds sits in the passenger seat. You heard it here, people.
The Z4's seats are bolstered, but I was able to install a booster seat without any problems. Full disclosure: Our booster seats are contoured, which works better than standard booster seats in sporty cars with bolstered seats. Yes, I took the kids - one at a time - for a spin in the Z4, and my youngest daughter loved it. She especially loved wearing her sparkly sunglasses while riding in it. Both of my kids were able to open and close the passenger door without any problems, but smaller kids wouldn't be able to handle the long, heavy doors as well. My children were able to buckle up by themselves, too.
There's plenty of safety features to help ease any anxiety about kids riding in the front seat of a convertible, including front and rear anti-roll stabilizer bars and a rollover protection system. However, I'd think twice before putting an infant or toddler in this car. I just can't get past my own mental hurdle about kids riding in the front seat. I know people do it, and for some it's a necessity, but I'm a little paranoid about the whole thing. If you have a family car with a backseat, that's where the kids should be riding.
The Z4 has antilock brakes, stability control - with a brake-drying function for wet weather, traction control and front- and side-impact airbags as well as a driver's knee airbag.
The Z4 hasn't been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, just so you know.
In Diapers: The Z4 has Latch connectors, but I just don't feel good about recommending this car for little ones. They need to be in the backseat of a car with at least two rows.
In School: A booster seat will fit in the passenger seat, but I'd only do that in a pinch.
Teens: There's no way I'd let a teen drive this, but they can ride in it.
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