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2012 BMW Z4

Overview
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2012 BMW Z4 Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.6

BMW has been doing this roadster thing since the 1930s, although its entries into and out of the market are – at best – sporadic. The company's recent efforts (Z3 and Z8) have been decidedly retro, whereby a long hood and short rear deck are meant to combine a prewar feel with postwar performance. With the second iteration of the Z4, first introduced in 2009, we have a fully contemporary platform, the 2-seater's first folding hardtop and – starting with the 2012 BMW Z4 roadster – a turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant joining last year's two turbocharged 6-cylinder iterations. Here, then, comes the sun...

You'll Like This Car If...

If you enjoy the traditional architecture of a 2-seat roadster, but find the Miata too small, Chevy's Vette too large and Honda's S2000 too, well, pre-owned, the 2012 BMW Z4 roadster has a lot to recommend it. A low price, however, isn't among its most endearing attributes. Despite the downsizing under the hood, the promise is of better efficiency and not a lower window sticker.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you're looking for an expansive interior and great outward vision, BMW's 1 Series or 3 Series convertibles are arguably the better option. Despite its upsized footprint (relative to the Z3 or first Z4), this remains a smallish roadster with a very "personal" passenger compartment. To that end, don't expect day-to-day practicality. On any given weekend, however, Z4 roadster is a screamer.

What's New for 2012

The biggest news for the 2012 BMW Z4 is under the hood. The normally aspirated in-line-6 is gone. Its replacement, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four, is the new entry-level face of BMW, providing the performance foundation for the new 5 Series, the upcoming 3 Series and this, BMW's performance roadster. With similar horsepower, more torque (!), lighter weight and better balance, this newest Z4 promises to recall any number of great drop-tops, some of which were built by BMW.

Driving the Z4

Driving Impressions Our most recent drive of a Z4 was in the rain at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. And while all systems were go (including BMW's Dynamic Stability Control), given...

a choice we'd still prefer a dry track. The rain didn't diminish, however, the absolute pleasure one gets from behind the wheel. The BMW Z4, regardless of powertrain, is nothing more than a reinvention of the classic sports car, whose roots date back to the racing chariot. Of course, all of the classic elements are now elective. Wind in your hair? Only if you drop the top. Bugs in your teeth? That's BMW's motorcycle division. In short, the 2012 Z4 is simply an extension of your own personality and capability. If you bring your [racecar driver] Lewis Hamilton, it's game on. But the Z4 will work equally well if you bring your [sun-worshiper] George Hamilton.

6-Speed Manual Transmission
Call us crazy, but in the right car there are few things better than being fully engaged. And by that we mean the right hand is on the shift lever, while the left foot deftly operates a clutch. You're right – it ain't rocket science, but doing it well behind the wheel of a true Sports/GT supplies one of life's better moments.

Twin-Turbocharged Four
This isn't, by any stretch, a new idea. BMW, Saab, Porsche, even Buick, were offering turbocharged variants of their more "cooking" powertrains long before volume carmakers (or regulators) laid claim to the benefits. But BMW's new one is a charmer, with generous horsepower, prodigious – for its displacement – torque, and a visceral voice that needs to be heard to be appreciated. We're big fans of smallish turbos, and only hope this is the first (on a BMW showroom) of many.

2012 BMW Z4 Details
Interior

The 2012 BMW Z4 interior provides a driver-centric cockpit. A comfortable touring environment, however, is provided both driver and passenger. An ergonomic 3-spoke wheel greets the driver, while ventilation and audio controls – and BMW's now-iconic iDrive – are easily accessible by the passenger. In most instances 2-place roadsters provide almost cocoon-like passenger cells, but the Z4's seems more open and accessible, providing an easy intimacy that can be enjoyed during a run for coffee – or a run for the border. We wish, however, BMW hadn't seen the need to reinvent the control for the automatic transmission. While we're sure there exists a perfectly logical reason to dispense with P-R-N-D-L, we (personally) haven't grasped it.

Exterior

The Z4's shape is a softened, more mature treatment of what went before. And both Z4 shapes are dramatic departures from the overtly retro theme of the Z3. The 2012 Z4 shape is one BMW describes as the modern look of a classic roadster. And in most instances, a classic roadster covered the car's mechanicals with a minimum of metal and flourish. We like what BMW's design team has done with it, and while preferring cloth to folding hardtops (they just seem so much more "convertible") we're taken with BMW's execution. Up, the roof looks like a well-integrated coupe, while retracted there is virtually no stylistic evidence (no humps, no bumps) of its trunk-mounted hiding place.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Any 2012 BMW Z4, from the entry-level sDrive28i to the most-expressive (and potent) sDrive35is, is well equipped. And all come with a standard spec that from many other carmakers would be deemed "optional." From the functional (6-speed manual transmission, folding hardtop) to the safe (Driving Dynamics Control, a rollover-protection system) to the entertaining (AM/FM/CD with MP3 capabilities), a base Z4 won't bore you or kill you, and may actually thrill you. Most notable item in the standard spec, we think, is the move to the turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant. May its force be with you.

Optional Equipment

Given that the 2012 BMW Z4 resides on a BMW showroom, you can safely assume that BMW options are in greater supply than BMW service writers, and in most metro areas you'll have no trouble finding a service writer. (BMW stores compensate service personnel very well.) Given its sport orientation, one of two Sport Packages – Sport or M Sport – would be a worthwhile consideration, as either choice amps up your Z4's "sportiness.". In keeping with the theme, so does the DCT gearbox available on the sDrive35i (and standard on its performance sibling, the sDrive35is). With the paddle shifters – ordered concurrently with the DCT – you'll feel like an older, less affluent version of Lewis Hamilton, only happier. Of course, any number of premium and convenience packages promise to make you more comfortable, but if you wanted to be comfortable you should have ordered the 5 Series. This, after all, is a sports car!

Under the Hood

For those of you "classically trained," the loss of a naturally aspirated six (sDrive30i) will come as a disappointment. We'd skip the therapist and go straight to your BMW showroom, where a drive in the new Z4 sDrive28i will both enlighten and inspire. Of course, if like many successful Americans too much is never enough. For you, the pure adrenaline BMW dubs sDrive35is (the top of the line) is the engine to have, if only to tell your friends of a 0-60 in under five seconds. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard on both the turbo 4-cylinder and base 6-cylinder versions. The sDrive35is receives a DCT automatic transmission as standard.

2.0-liter twin-turbocharged in-line-4 (Z4 sDrive28i)
240 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm
260 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/34 (manual), 24/33 (automatic)

3.0-liter twin-turbocharged in-line-6 (Z4 sDrive35i)
300 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 1,400-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 (manual), 17/24 (DCT automatic)

3.0-liter turbocharged in-line-6 (Z4 sDrive35is)
335 horsepower @ 5,900 rpm
332 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (DCT automatic)

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2012 BMW Z4 Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.9
Out of 10

Based on 31 Ratings for the 2009 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    9.0/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    9.4/10
  • Comfort
    9.0/10
    Styling
    9.8/10

Fnastatic, beautiful , fun to drive

By on Thursday, April 30, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Cons: "None. Limited trunk space but it's to be expected"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Most fun I've had with any car I've owned including a number of Porsches and BMW M3's. Hard top gives you great security unlike a soft-top convertible. The ability to adjust the driving dynamics means the car is a great highway cruiser and instantly switch to a very competent, fast sports car that will easily keep up with other high end sports cars. There are very few of these on the road so it gets a lot of looks. Lot of people give it a thumbs up or say that it's a great ride. Expensive when bought new but a great deal when purchased on a used basis. Life doesn't get any better than cruising thru Napa or Sonoma County on a warm day with the top down."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

Beautiful design and fun to drive

By on Saturday, April 18, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Beautiful design"

Cons: "none"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Bought this new in 2009, have 42K miles and after six years there has been no problem. There was no issue with the fuel pump but had to be replaced because of the recall, as well as the battery cable. This is a conv so there will always be noisy in the cabin with the top up. Drive 95% of the time with the top down. Replace the run flat with Michelin PSS, this really changed how the car runs and handles for so much better. Highly recommended."

3 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Great Car, but BMW will not stand behind it

By on Sunday, February 22, 2015

I owned and sold this car
Reason: Poor Quality

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
3/10
Quality
5/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Great driving experience on good roads"

Cons: "Terrible build quality and BMW support"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"I bought this car a few years back and put about 45,000 miles on it. This is a sports car. You feel every inch of the road and when the road is good, this is a great thing. When the roads are rough, this is a bad, very bad thing. The interior of the car is well laid out and comfortable, but I would not say it is luxurious. The seats are great for long drives and overall feel of the car is high end. The real issue with the car is that because it is a sports car, it gets banged around a great deal over rough roads. In the last year, one strut cracked, a wheel cracked, the top stopped working, the muffler started to rattle and the climate control began to buzz. This is all with less than 50k miles. It was monumental struggle to get BMW to cover the wheel (which had already been recalled in the UK)and strut under warranty and they flat out refused to cover the top, muffler and climate control saying they were all normal wear products. The convertible top? Anyway, sold it this week and bought a Mercedes SL550."

11 people out of 26 found this review helpful

The 2010 Z4 Sdrive35i is one to keep

By on Sunday, February 01, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Design, handling, it is a hard top convertible"

Cons: "Not very good on gas when driven aggressively"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I purchased my '10 Z4 with 5K miles on in 2010; it has the sports package, leather, navigation, and 7speeds. I have it as a second vehicle. I love the way this car handles, its design is timeless, and after 5 years it turns heads. Not to mention that it is not a high volume seller, and so it is also rather exclusive. I have had a couple of minor issues with it: one of the headlights had to be replaced and the roof leaked once during a heavy storm. Both problems were quickly and successfully resolved by the dealer. I love convertibles, but hate the vulnerability and rather short life of the soft tops. Hard top mechanisms have proved to be reliable so far."

11 people out of 24 found this review helpful

This Z4 is a Home Run

By on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,200

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

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!"

15 people out of 25 found this review helpful

Serious mechanical problems . . .

By on Tuesday, July 08, 2014

I owned and sold this car
Reason: Mechanical Problems

10 1.0
overall rating 1 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
1/10
Value
4/10
Reliability
1/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
6/10

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."

17 people out of 30 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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