BMW’s Roadster has come a long way since its GoldenEye debut
If you decide to purchase BMW’s tragically named Z4 sDrive35i Roadster with the Hyper Orange package as you see here on our tester, no one is going to question your commitment to this joltingly vivid hue. It bathes the car’s exterior and pervades itself on the seats and dashboard inside too. On paper it sounds garish and over the top, but the Z4 can pull this off much better than say, a Nissan Sentra.
For 2013, the familiar two-seater gets styling updates that manifest themselves most clearly in the head and taillight clusters. While it is nice to see that the design department isn’t resting on its laurels, the Z4 really didn’t need anything to underscore what is already a visually riveting piece. Keeping true to its Roadster proportions, the long hood and terrifically short deck still presses all the right buttons. That lends itself to a driving position that truly feels like you’re a part of the car itself, your butt planted just ahead of the rear axle and differential.
It won’t surprise anyone that the Z4 posses the styling chops to draw admiring glances, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of attention this thing gets. You can sense people checking it out when sitting in traffic. While parked in front of my house, the neighborhood kids flocked to it, noses pressed up against the window glass in unanimous approval, hoping to get a better peak.
You might think that all this makes the Z4 to appear to be a bit one-dimensional. Sure, it’s beautiful and is a blast to drive, especially on sunny days when you can drop the folding metal roof to your hearts content, something that can be accomplished in about 20 seconds and at speeds up to 40km/h. In situations where you use it as you would a typical car it becomes a less rosy picture. The two seats, while nicely trimmed and brimming with lateral support leave just enough space for a little self that can hold a wallet and other assorted small items behind them. There is a trunk, but as is the case with every retractable hardtop, volume is at an ultra premium. Golfers take note; your clubs will more than likely be joining you in the cockpit.
Where the interior lacks in space it makes up for in style. The aforementioned Hyper Orange splashes do wonders to liven things up, and the weaved metal trim that bisects the dashboard is incredibly rendered. Buttons and switchgear are within reach and reasonably easy to operate, and iDrive continues to impress as it evolves. The seats, as they are in many other Bimmer products serve up equal parts of all day comfort and the ability to hold you snugly in place when you want to play.
And play you will, because the turbocharged inline six and 7 speed DCT dual clutch tranny encourage you to explore the limits of the Z4.
The drivetrain exhibits the kind of cohesion that comes from being honed and polished over the course of many years and by many hours spent by BMW’s tireless engineering staff. If you can find a smoother example of an inline six that what’s installed under the hood of the Z4, please let me know what it is. Until that moment happens, I’ll confidently go out on a limb and proclaim this to be the finest example of this engine architecture available. Actually, the N55 finds itself amongst increasingly less company as automakers become more and more fixated on developing cars with turbocharged four cylinder motors. The gearbox is less sorted than the engine, but it’s still one of the best examples of a dual clutch unit and will happily toggle from relaxed automatic shifting to lighting fast gearchanges called upon via the paddles behind the steering wheel.
We’ve wished for the N55 to uncork its voice in past applications, and although it isn’t as rip snorty as its four cylinder powered counterpart, it makes some heady noises as revs rise and turbo boost builds. The engine response is nudged up in urgency when you select BMW’s chassis adjustment to Sport, the setting we preferred the most while driving it. Comfort is too relaxed and Sport Plus exacerbated some of the skittish nature of a stiffly sprung and short wheelbase combination of the roadster.
Every major German manufacturer offers some sort of Roadster based model to compete with the Z4; Audi has the TT, Mercedes Benz has the SLK and Porsche offers the Boxter. The effort from BMW would be the best in class if it weren’t for the delicious perfection of the Boxter, which isn’t just the most proficient roadster but one of the best cars around period. The Porsche guys have never been shy about charging exorbitant sums for their products, and that’s the Boxter’s most glaring flaw. As accomplished as the Boxter is, however, it doesn’t have the visceral, in-your-face feeling as driving the Z4. The Boxter you finesse, the Z4 you grab by the scruff of the neck and throw it around. As modern cars become increasingly neutered and bland, it’s incredibly fun to pilot the Z4.
2014 BMW Z4 sDrive35i Roadster- Specifications
Price as tested: $74,150
Body Type: 2-door, 2 passenger roadster
Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
Engine: 3.0-litre inline 6 turbo, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower: 300 @ 5800 rpm
Torque (lbs-ft): 300 @ 1200-5000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
Curb weight: 1,600 kg (3,527 lbs)
- City: 12.4L/100 km (19 mpg)
- Highway: 8.5L/100 km (28 mpg)