By KBB.com Editors
BMW's purest sports car in the traditional sense, the Z4 returns in 2011 wearing the flowing liquid lines and power-folding hardtop introduced in 2009. It is the only two-seater currently in the BMW lineup and, unlike the previous generation Z4, it's obtainable only as a convertible, with no coupe option available. It is offered in three trim levels: sDrive30i, the turbocharged sDrive35i and the top-level sports trim, the sDrive35is.
You seek the traditional precision and excitement of a BMW driving experience in a purely sporting platform. As with other BMW hardtop convertibles, the Z4 offers the option of going top-down with the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, with the option of deploying the power hardtop should the weather turn sour or the sun become too intense.
If you're looking for a true coupe experience with a fixed roof, you might be better off going with the BMW 1 Series. The Z4 is also the only two-seater in the BMW range, so there are only two seats and trunk storage is somewhat limited, particularly when the top is stowed.
From summer 2011, a special equipment package will be offered, called Design Pure Balance, with leather interior upholstery in a new color, Cohiba Brown, contrasting white stitching, additional black leather features, Fineline Anthracite wood and sport seats. A special paint finish, Mineral White metallic, is also available in connection with the package.
Driving Impressions Nothing drives quite like a BMW and, given the Z4's inherent sportiness, it's especially true of this car regardless of trim level. The top-level sDrive35is delivers a level of driving...exhilaration offered by no other BMW not badged with an "M." The driver's seating position is ideal and goes a long way toward influencing the overall driving experience. Steering feel is good and its actuation precise, if not quite on the level of a Porsche Boxster. We've still not sampled the naturally aspirated six-cylinder, but either one of the turbocharged engines offers all the power and torque you could want at virtually any speed, and particularly in the sDrive35is. The DCT transmission is quite good and offers the best of both worlds – smooth cruising and instant manual access to gears – although it's still not as fun as shifting with a true manual clutch and gear lever.
Adaptive M Suspension
Available as part of the Sport or M Sport packages, the adaptive suspension offers three settings (Normal, Sport, Sport+) that allow the user to stiffen or soften the shock absorbers through Electronic Damper Control (EDC). EDC allows the choice of a less jarring, more comfortable ride, or a stiffer, more hardcore option for spirited driving.
Double Clutch Transmission
Even though such systems are not quite as entertaining as pumping a clutch pedal and rowing through a set of gears with one hand, BMW's DCT transmission, like Porsche's PDK, offers gear selection speed that simply cannot be matched by a person. Unlike older sequential systems, fully automatic operation is virtually seamless. It truly offers the best of both worlds.
The updated exterior of the new-generation Z4 has generally received rave reviews, its lines at once softer and more flowing than the outgoing generation, yet just as dynamic and, in some views, more mature. It retains the classic Z4 proportions, however, with a long, bulging hood, a wide, imposing front fascia and an abbreviated rear end that give the car a distinct visual sense of motion, even while it's sitting still. Some would say the folding power hard top is a major improvement over the soft top, offering coupe-like interior acoustics even at highway speeds.
Whichever trim level and corresponding engine you choose, one thing is certain: The car will come equipped with BMW's famous and long-standing inline six-cylinder engine. The engine in the sDrive30i is naturally-aspirated, while those in the sDrive35i and sDrive35is feature BMW's twin-scroll turbocharging technology, which enhances power while maintaining overall efficiency. The sDrive30i and sDrive35i have a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, while the sDrive35is has BMW's seven-speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT) as standard. The front suspension is by double-pivot struts and the rear is a multi-link design. A much-improved iDrive information interface lets you access the audio and communications systems, and the Z4's safety systems include all-season traction control, a rollover safety system and run-flat tires.
The sDrive30i can be equipped with a six-speed sport automatic transmission, while the sDrive35i can have the DCT gearbox, allowing the convenience of automatic operation or lightning-quick manual-gear selection. Bundled option packages include a Citrus Yellow Package, with painted yellow interior accents and sport seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara; M Sport Package, with adaptive M Suspension, sport seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and a top-speed limiter that allows more speed; Premium Sound, with a hi-fi audio system, USB adapter and Satellite radio; and Premium Package, with special upholstery options, Bluetooth capability and special ambiance lighting. Stand-alone options include comfort access keyless entry, iPod/USB connectivity, Park Distance Control and navigation.
The BMW Z4 sDrive30i is powered by a 3.0-liter naturally-aspirated engine, BMW's signature power unit for decades on end, which delivers 255 horsepower in this application. However, the turbocharged unit in the sDrive35i is considered to be one of the best forced-induction engines ever designed, delivering 300 horsepower with no perceptible turbo lag. And the version found in the sDrive35is offers even more: 335 horsepower at 5900 rpm and 332 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1500 rpm. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the sDrive30i and sDrive35i, with a sport automatic optional on the former and the Double Clutch Transmission optional on the latter. The sDrive35is receives the Double Clutch Transmission as standard equipment.
3.0-liter in-line six (Z4 sDrive30i)
255 horsepower @6600 rpm
220 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/28
3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six (Z4 sDrive35i)
300 horsepower @5800 rpm
300 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (manual), 17/24 (DCT)
3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six (Z4 sDrive35is)
335 horsepower @5900 rpm
332 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24
By JohnV on Tuesday, January 13, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun, performance, comfort, mpg, hardtop, design"
Cons: "trunk lighting - that's it!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my 3rd Z4, and the best one we have owned. Our 2009 & 2011 last generation Z4's were great cars but never quite felt like they were "finished". The ride, performance and handling were all BMW but the finesse of the interior was not quite there. Fast forward to the 2013 Z4; its got the performance, ride and handling that you expect with an interior that is larger, more comfortable, has all the creature comforts you expect and best of all it can be used year round now that is has an amazing hardtop. We just got back from a trip from central NJ to Boston this weekend and averaged 71.7 mph while getting 32.2 mpg. That's with a 4 cylinder and automatic. Don't worry, that little four cylinder has better performance than the last Z4 we had with a 6 cylinder. I very highly recommend this car to anyone looking for a car that is the whole package. It doesn't hurt that you don't see many of these on the road. If you want exclusivity without the crazy price that exclusivity sometimes demands, this is the one!"
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Sparkey on Tuesday, July 08, 2014
I owned and sold this car
Reason: Mechanical Problems
Pros: "Beautiful body design."
Cons: "Lots of mechanical and electrical problems."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Lifters replaced TWICE since purchased, fuel pump replaced, brakes repaired several times, starter replaced, climate control panel replaced, OEM tires very loud and hunt on the road, adaptive headlights repaired, lots of squeaks and rattles. I will never, ever buy another BMW Z4. I must say the BMW dealerships have been very helpful trying to get things repaired properly . . . too bad, I do like the design of the body but mechanically and electrically it has lots of problems."
14 people out of 25 found this review helpful
By alex on Friday, January 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "beuty.gas milge.hard top.awsme inter(wood).lge nav"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I leased this car, now plan to buy it...excellnt car,fun to drive reliable, and gas mileage....36miles to gallon coming back from vegas! Fit and finish great..navi great with big screen! And all of this with the best part....when you put the top down..gorgeous....poetry in motion!! Who cares about cupholders!"
19 people out of 34 found this review helpful
By Spare Tire Disappointment on Wednesday, January 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,800overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks and Driving Fun"
Cons: "No spare tire, outdated technology package"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I fully enjoy the look and drive of this car. It is amazingly fun to drive and it turns heads in the looks department. Several things annoy and disappoint me, however. I do not feel comfortable taking this car on short (300 mile) trips, no spare tire. Yes, it has run flat tires (difficult to replace) but after you get to a rest stop on a turnpike, then what? Wait and wait for a flat bed truck to tow you to where ever for a tire? Very time consuming and it stops a fun trip dead in it's tracks. Next, the navigation screen is not clear and crisp (as it is on my Acura) and does not change automatically when you cross into another time zone (as it does with my Acura). Then, no back=up camera, that's just sad. Additionally, the upgraded sound system is not good. I traded a 370Z on this car and it had a better (Bose) system. So many easy to correct errors and I fault myself for not doing my homework to find these things out before I bought this $70,000 car. I will just enjoy the car around town on nice days with the top down. My next car will not be a Z4."
8 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By mcsquared on Sunday, December 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great looks, fun to drive"
Cons: "Interior noise with top up, Tire life"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I ordered this car from Germany because manual transmissions are very difficult to find. It took about 2 months to receive it after I put down my deposit. The service from the dealer has been exceptional. My only complaint is a rattle in the roof panel when the top is up which the dealer has not been able to resolve."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Fear and Loathing in LA on Monday, September 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "Beautiful Vehicle"
Cons: "Not a safe car to drive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have a 2011 BMW Z4 ( Vin# wbalm5c51be378952 ) with around 16,000 miles on it that has been constantly in the shop for a variety of electrical, mechanical and structural issues. These issues range from the driver’s side of the hood unlatching again and again after multiple services to the car, continually not starting and stalling out when driving at slow speeds. Each issue has been serviced multiple times and as of yet none of the issues have been resolved. Further, these issues have persisted in spite of countless service visits. The vehicle has stalled in stop and go traffic and while making left turns and my friends and family refuse to ride in it for safety reasons. It has now come to a point where I am actually fearful to drive the car. I have been formally reprimanded at work for getting there late due to my car not starting or needing to be taken into service. I keep it in a garage that is both air conditioned and heated. I am a high school counselor and work just 5 miles from my house and usually just drive it to work and to visit my parents on the weekend. I take the car for all of it’s services and only put super-unleaded gas in it. I really can’t think of how I can treat the car better or care for it more. I am sad I own this car and even sadder about the lack of ability BMW has to fix even the simplest mechanical problems..."
20 people out of 27 found this review helpful