KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 5/26/2011
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'll Like This Car If...
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.
You May Not Like This Car If...
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.
What's Significant About This Car?
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.
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.
Notable Standard Equipment
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.
Notable Optional Equipment
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.
Under the Hood
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
The base Z4 sDrive30i, with a naturally-aspirated inline six cylinder engine, is right around $48,000. The turbocharged sDrive35i is about $54,000 and the top-level and very sporting sDrive35is will be over $63,000. If these prices sound high for a two-seater, remember that included in the price of every BMW is comprehensive no-cost scheduled maintenance for your first 50,000 miles or four years of ownership, as well as unlimited roadside assistance. The Z4 is expected to return above-average residuals over time, higher than the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, but lower than those of the less-expensive Nissan 370Z.