By KBB.com Editors
While some premium roadster drivers are serious about power, handling and feel, a good many are more interested in style and fresh-air fun. In a segment that includes the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Audi TT, no car can appeal to both camps more so than the latest Z4. Inside, outside and underneath, the Z4 has the makings of one of the all-time great roadsters.
If your desire for a premium roadster is driven by both performance and style considerations, you won't find a more satisfying car in the category than the 2010 BMW Z4.You May Not Like This Car If...
The 2010 BMW Z4 may offer more power than a Porsche Boxster or Cayman, but those who place a higher importance on balance and driving feel are likely to prefer the Porsches. If rear-drive performance is less than a primary consideration, you might find the Audi TT and its significantly lower sticker prices especially appealing.
Since the latest version of the Z4 was just introduced in the second half of in 2009, there are no significant updates for 2010.
We like driving BMWs. We like driving roadsters. Surprise, surprise; we've had a blast in the latest, greatest Z4. It's comfortable on the highway - far more so than the last model - but also delivers the goods when the going gets twisty. Steering feel is good, if not Porsche-perfect, and the new dual-clutch transmission shifts smoothly (important in auto mode) and quickly (important in manual mode). And we could hardly ask for anything more from the strong and responsive twin-turbo six (which is the only engine we've sampled in the latest Z4 to date). From a balance and feel and driving intangibles perspective, the mid-engine Boxster remains the category's gold standard. But throw power and style into the mix and the new Z4 just may take the crown.
Adaptive M Suspension
For a buyer who wants a Z4 softer, stiffer or both, the new Z4 offers an optional, three-setting "Sport Package featuring Adaptive M Suspension with Electronic Damping Control." "Normal" mode is softer than the standard suspension, "Sport+" mode is stiffer than the previous model's, and "Sport" mode splits the difference.
The transmission that made its debut on BMW's latest, world-beating M3 is yet another nail in the clutch pedal's coffin. In the 2010 BMW Z4, BMW's dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly and seamlessly, and engages more smoothly than the similar units we've experienced in VW, Audi and Mitsubishi vehicles.
The Z4's interior was also designed by a woman. While some of us have grown bored with BMW's slowly evolving interior design, settling into the 2010 BMW Z4 - especially one lined in lighter leather - might actually evoke stronger images of a chic hotel than the first BMW 3 Series you ever rode in. In addition to styling and materials quality, noteworthy interior bits include an available trunk pass-through for short skis, usable storage space behind the front seats and two more inches of interior width compared to its predecessor. Navigation-equipped cars enjoy the best version of BMW's iDrive central control to date, enhanced by a retractable, glare-resistant widescreen display.Exterior
When we saw the first pictures of the newest BMW Z4, we thought it looked good. When we saw it in person, we fell in love. The newest BMW drop-top combines perfect proportions and gorgeous lines in a roadster that's both classic and contemporary at once. Visual highlights include the wide front end, long, bulging hood, strong character line sloping upward from the rear wheel and a light, well-integrated hard top. We find it interesting that the newest Z4 looks more like an offshoot of the first Z3, than its immediate predecessor. BMW notes the Z4 is one of the few cars in history with sheetmetal designed by a woman, and we're hoping more are on the way.Notable Standard Equipment
Standard equipment on a 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive 30i includes 3.0-liter, six-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission, three-mode Driving Dynamics Control, Xenon Adaptive Headlights, Dynamic Cruise Control, rain-sensing wipers and an AM/FM/CD/SAT/AUX audio system. Some of the features you might be surprised to find on a vehicle costing more than $45,000 are manually adjustable seats, manual climate control and leatherette upholstery. Standard safety equipment includes front and side airbags, electronic stability control and adaptive brake lights, which activate more prominently during panic stops.Notable Optional Equipment
In addition to a 3.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder engine and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, a fully loaded 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive 35i includes a navigation system, iDrive, keyless entry and start, rear parking sensors, premium audio with iPod integration, trunk pass-through, Adaptive M Suspension, leather sport seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and power seats with driver-side memory.
The 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive 30i's 255-horsepower engine is another fine BMW inline-six engine, but the sDrive 35i's twin-turbocharged, 300-horsepower version is widely considered one of the best engines ever built. For some, any mention of turbocharging brings to mind words like "lag" and "surge" - both of which are virtually nonexistent here (and in many other modern turbos, thanks in large part to direct-injection technology). A six-speed manual is standard on both vehicles, a six-speed automatic is available on the sDrive 30i, but the standout transmission is the dual-clutch seven-speed unit available only on the 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive 35i.
3.0-liter in-line six (Z4 sDrive 30i)
255 horsepower @ 6600 rpm
220 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/28
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged in-line six (Z4 sDrive 35i)
300 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
300 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1400-5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 (manual), 17/24 (dual-clutch auto)
The 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive 30i starts at about $46,500. The 2010 BMW sDrive 35i starts about $6,000 north of there and offers a more powerful engine, leather upholstery and an available dual-clutch transmission (which still costs an additional $1,525). Fully loaded, the 2010 BMW Z4 tips the money scale at around $70,000. These prices are basically in line with comparable Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 and Porsche Boxster and Cayman models, and many thousands more than the Audi TT. As for resale value, we expect the 2010 BMW Z4 to be among the highest performing models in the segment.