After a four-year hiatus, the Z4 roadster is back – and you have Toyota to thank for that. To tell you all about it, we got in the driver’s seat of the top-spec variant – the one with the M-badge on it.
The only reason I can imagine to account for BMW’s decision to discontinue the Z4 a few years ago is that customers didn’t find it to be sporty enough. At least, I didn’t think it was when I drove it back then. BMW also saw the roadster market softening and wasn’t sure if it could sell enough units, and that’s when they decided to discontinue the previous model.
However, soon after that, Toyota and BMW joined hands and started working on a shared platform for a sports car. Toyota wanted to build a new Supra, but they didn’t have a suitable drivetrain or platform. BMW, however, was sitting on one. That’s how we got the new BMW Z4, which shares the same engine, transmission and underlying structure with the new Toyota Supra.
While the Supra is a coupe, the new Z4 is still a proper roadster and is now better equipped to serve its sporty mission. In India, we have two variants of the Z4. You can either opt for the less powerful sDrive20i, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine or go for the powerful M40i with the 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine. I obviously decided to test drive the one with the M-badges on it.
The M-badges aside, the M40i also has a few extra sporty elements in its design – but the overall silhouette and dimensions of both variants are exactly the same. The new Z4 has a more aerodynamic shape than before, but it also looks a little more disproportionate for the simple reason that its rear end is very chunky and wide relative to the mid and front sections, which are slim and svelte. But, don’t get me wrong, it’s still very appealing. Still, instead of commenting on the certainty of its aesthetic allure, I’ll leave it up to you to decide how it looks. However, what I can say with certainty is that this car is capable of grabbing eyeball everywhere it goes.
The Z4 now gets a soft top to help it reduce weight. It also has a shorter wheelbase than before but with a wider track. The M40i comes with 19-inch wheels that look great. The front is designed to improve airflow. The LED headlights are nice, and the wrap-around taillights look pretty cool too.
The interior of the Z4 is completely driver focused. The Z4 is strictly a two-seater roadster, so, obviously, the cabin is cramped, but once you lower that soft-top, it’s a completely different world. The dash is nicely set up and has a clean design. Ergonomically, the cabin is sound and has a nice, intimate feel to it. You sit low in the driver’s seat, which also has plenty of support. And I really love the M detailing on the seatbelts.
The center console and the controls are slightly angeled towards the driver. There is a 10.2-inch digital gauge that can be configured to your liking and, then, there’s a 10.2-inch infotainment display as well. The car also gets a Head-up display that changes depending on your selected driving mode.
In terms of connectivity, it does have Apple CarPlay and wireless charging for your phone. It’s equipped with some fancy features too, like low-speed automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection and forward-collision warning, as well as some more advanced features, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlamps and self-parking, which is optional. Overall, it’s a premium, driver-focused cabin.
Pure driving joy
The M40i gets a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo that pumps out 335bhp and 500Nm of torque. The engine is mated to an 8-speed auto gearbox that sends all the power to the rear wheels. Had there been a manual gearbox, I am sure many enthusiasts would have been overjoyed, but an auto is all this car gets in India.
The engine itself is pretty damn good, and the refinement is obviously great – with BMW engineering, it’s obvious, isn’t it? With 500Nm of torque, the car is no slouch – push down on the accelerator pedal when at a standstill, and in just 4.5 seconds you’ll see the speedo reading 100km/h. That’s quick! In fact, this car is so quick that it lapped the Nürburgring circuit six seconds faster than the M2.
There are, of course, different driving modes that regulate throttle control and overall response. Sport mode is where you want this car to be if you want to feel the rush of quick acceleration, firm suspension and sharp handling. When you’re on the highway or city, you can switch to a more relaxed mode. The engine has great character and is very generous. It can provide effortless power, or, if you want, it can offer a more subtle delivery of power.
The driving dynamics are really brilliant. The front suspension is mounted on a special aluminium subframe for precision, and the rear also gets an e-diff. The result is a much stiffer ride than before. The car feels very planted, and the chassis is well equipped to handle the generosity of the engine.
The steering is very intuitive and allows great accuracy around corners. The handling is impeccable, and that’s why this car is faster than the M2. With its top down, the overall driving experience of the car is considerably enhanced. When you drive it on a long, empty stretch, with the top down, you become aware of the speed not by looking at the speedo but by the ferocity of the wind blowing past you, it really makes you feel like a race car driver – it’s the experience of a lifetime for any enthusiast.
The only downside of the car is that the steering doesn’t offer a whole lot of sensation from the front wheels. But this lack is well compensated for by the rear-end, as you feel the e-diff working and proving ample traction as you exit a corner. The new Z4 is properly athletic, and serious drivers will no doubt enjoy it despite the slightly disengaged steering. And those who just want an open-air cockpit will enjoy it even more.
Do you need one?
The Z4 will probably be a third or fourth car for someone who is looking to enjoy the roadster lifestyle every once in a while. The M40i we were driving has a price tag of `78.9 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The lower spec version is `15 lakh cheaper. The Z4 mainly faces competition from the Jag F-Type 2.0 and the Porsche 718.
The Z4 is a convertible, and that makes it more appealing automatically – at least in my book. The Jag certainly looks better, and the Porsche, well, it’s a Porsche! The Z4 might not be as precise, but it certainly is tons of fun. While the last generation Z4 didn’t really impress me much, this one certainly had me smiling the entire time I was driving it.
- BMW Z4 M40i
Engine: 2,998cc / Six-Cylinders / Turbocharged
Power: 335bhp @ 5,000 – 6,500rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,600 – 4,500rpm
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / Rear-Wheel Drive
Price: ₹ 78.9 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-Factor: An open-air two-seater that’s a proper sports car – it’s now sharper and faster than ever before.
Also read - 2019 BMW Z4 launched in India at ₹ 64.9 lakh