By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/14/2011
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 It 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.
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.