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 mature alternatives to a rawness of a Porsche Boxster.
Reasons to buy
- Good range of engines
- Comfortable over long distances
- The M40i sounds fabulous
At a glance
Running costs for a BMW Z4
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.
Reliability of a BMW Z4
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.
Safety for a BMW Z4
BMW generally fares well in terms of Euro NCAP scores, so it's no surprise that the Z4 has earned the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. 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 comfortable is the BMW Z4
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 it in place though – unlike the previous version – it has a traditional fabric hood rather than a folding metal hardtop.
It does a good job on twisty roads, 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 comparable cars, be that the Mazda MX-5 at the lower end or Porsche 718 Boxster at the other.
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.
Features of the BMW Z4
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.
Power for a BMW Z4
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. The 30i feels a good bit perkier still 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. The six-cylinder engine is a real selling point in this sector, especially against the Porsche 718 Boxster which is now a four-cylinder. The BMW’s engine sounds brilliant and, with 340 horsepower, is seriously rapid too.