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BMW Z4 Convertible (2018 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The BMW Z4 is definitely worthy of consideration for anyone wanting a glamorous two-seat soft-top. The entry-level versions brilliantly play the part of stylish, high-quality runabout that can also double as a comfortable long-distance cruiser, while the most powerful Z4s deliver lots more in the way of performance, agility and engagement, making them plausible alternatives to a Porsche Boxster.

Pros

  • Good range of engines
  • Comfortable over long distances
  • The M40i sounds fabulous

Cons

  • Flimsy optional wind deflector
  • Some important kit is merely optional
  • 20i isn’t the sports car some might be expecting
Pick of the range
BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport
Has the looks and plenty of performance.
Most economical
BMW Z4 sDrive20i Sport
No slouch, despite its relatively efficient petrol engine.
Blow the budget
BMW Z4 M40i
The only model with a charismatic six-cylinder engine.

Interested in buying a BMW Z4?

How good does it look? 4/5

The Z4 has a sporty stance on the road regardless of the variant you choose, though there are three distinct looks depending on the version. Sport and M Sport cars are differentiated by their bumper designs, alloy wheel options and even paint colours, while the M40i version that tops the line-up gets larger wheels and an even sportier exterior makeover to set it apart. All cars receive distinctive LED lights all-round, an unusual mesh grille up front and an exhaust outlet at each side of the car at the back (the M40i’s are of a different shape). A high-level brake light accentuates the neatly integrated rear spoiler, while the prominent vents behind the front wheels are subtly restyled between the trim levels. The roof is a multi-layer fabric affair (available in two colours) that electrically folds away in 10 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph.

What's the interior like? 4/5

The cabin of the BMW Z4 has a pleasingly minimal appearance, but that hides a wealth of cutting-edge connectivity and control technology. At the heart of it all is BMW’s dual-screen set-up, where one large high-res display takes the place of traditional instruments in front of the driver and another allows access to the vast number of infotainment sub-menus in the centre of the dashboard. That’s a touchscreen, which works well, though the driver can use voice control or the rotary controller in the centre console to operate all functions. While it takes a while to get used to, it’s undoubtedly a slick system. What’s more, every button and switch has a nice slick action, adding to the quality feel of the car. The only fly in the ointment is a surprisingly flimsy wind break that fits between the roll hoops behind. Excellent seats, though.

How practical is it? 3/5

Few roadster buyers prioritise practicality, but it’s good to know that there’s space to go away for the weekend with your significant other and all your clobber. The Z4 is about on a par with its main rivals in terms of boot space, holding 281 litres of luggage. Thankfully, that figure is unaffected by the roof being up or down. Inside the cabin, the door pockets are very small, but the centre console has good space ahead of, and behind, the gear lever. There’s additional space behind the two seats, including a restraining net, but smaller items tend to slide around annoyingly here, so best tuck them into the (average-sized) glovebox.

What's it like to drive? 4/5

From its appearance, you might expect the Z4 to have a sporty character. Well, it does and it doesn’t, depending on which version you go for. Select a more humble specification, and the driving experience is actually surprisingly sedate. The ride is smooth and comfortable, the cabin is pretty well isolated from the wind with the roof down, and things are pretty quiet with the rag-top in place. This actually makes it surprisingly civilised on a long journey, making it feel more like a miniature grand tourer than a racy little roadster. It does a good job in the twisties, too, with lots of grip, decent body control and direct steering, but it’s also true that you don’t get the same level of agility and involvement as you do with some rivals. M Sport cars can be upgraded with the M Sport Plus package, which brings with it an adaptive suspension (allowing the Z4 to be more comfortable or more sporting at the touch of a button), bigger brakes for the sDrive20i model and a sophisticated electronically-controlled rear differential for the sDrive30i. All of these items are standard on the Z4 M40i and they transform the Z4 from being a comfortable cruiser into a truly engaging sports car. It’s capable of sustained high-speed b-road blasting, and yet in the Comfort setting, it’s perfectly good at tackling more mundane motorway journeys, too.

How powerful is it? 4/5

There are three petrol versions of the BMW Z4 offered, all using the same (excellent) eight-speed automatic gearbox. The sDrive20i and sDrive30i (‘sDrive’ is BMW’s way of saying ‘rear-wheel drive’) share a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. They vary only in output and performance, so the 20i’s engine makes 197 horsepower, while the 30i produces 258 horsepower. The 20i’s performance is adequate rather than enthralling when you stick with the more normal driving modes, but it’ll still be absolutely fine for those who just want to smoke about looking glamorous. What’s more, the engine really wakes up when you select the sportier modes, with much more eager performance thanks to more rapid responses from the gearbox. The 30i feels a good bit perkier still, and is 1.2 seconds quicker in the benchmark 0-62mph sprint (a respectable 5.4 seconds), but be mindful that, with the increase in power, your level of acceleration can be limited by traction at the rear wheels, especially in the wet. For the ultimate performance and sound, go for the Z4 M40i. It’s the only model powered by a six-cylinder engine (3.0-litre turbo) and it sounds sensational. Needless to say that, with 335 horsepower being sent to the rear wheels, it’s rapid.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

If you’re worried about running costs, then stick with the entry-level versions of the Z4, as they’re cheaper to buy, run on less expensive tyres and come with lower insurance costs. Nonetheless, any sporty rear-drive sports car with a soft-top will attract a significant premium from the insurers. Version-for-version, the various Z4s are fairly economical if you don’t push them too hard too often, certainly in comparison to their petrol-powered rivals, but BMW does not offer a diesel version like some rivals do. Naturally, the M40i, with its large engine, uses more fuel than the other models in the range. However, the Z4 should retain its value well, helping offset some of the running costs.

How reliable is it? 4/5

There isn’t sufficient data on the reliability of the current BMW Z4 to make a call on it, but for reference, its predecessor fared better than most of its rivals, notably the Porsche Boxster. Like all BMWs, the Z4 comes with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty that includes BMW Emergency Service.

How safe is it? 4/5

BMW generally fares well in terms of Euro NCAP scores, though low-volume production cars such as the Z4 don’t tend to go through the crash tests. Even so, the Z4 has a rigid body structure to aid its handling that also benefits safety. Keen responses will help it avoid a crash in the first place, and there are plenty of airbags in the cabin should the worst happen. And, an Isofix mounting is standard for the passenger seat to hold a child seat in place. As is the norm in the sports car class, the most advanced driver assistance systems, such as active cruise control, are on the options list.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

Impressively, the Z4 comes as standard with a set of gorgeous sports seats, upholstered in soft leather than can be had (for no extra cost) in a variety of colours. You’ll pay extra for electric adjustment on any version other than the M40i, however. The snazzy dual-screen dashboard is also standard across the board, with numerous connectivity functions included. Saying that, there’s a head-up display and wi-fi hotspot on the options list as part of a technology package, which isn’t cheap, though it also includes upgraded sound and Bluetooth systems, plus a sophisticated automatic parking function. The Sport and M Sport variants share the same basic equipment, and it’s only the visual upgrades inside and out that set the M Sport car apart. The M40i gets a unique look, an enhanced mechanical package and upgraded seats.

Why buy? 5/5

There are two camps of buyers that the BMW Z4 is likely to appeal to. On one side are those that prioritise style and technology, looking for an attractive convertible with a sporty image. The Z4 ticks all those boxes, even at the entry-point to the range, giving the likes of the Audi TT Roadster and Mercedes SLC a good run for their money. Depending how it is specified, however, the Z4 can also be an exciting and dynamic sports car to rival the Porsche 718 Boxster. If you’ve already decided that a two-seat roadster suits your lifestyle, the Z4 is certainly worth a look.

Interested in buying a BMW Z4?