The BMW Z4 is the two-seat, front-engined, rear drive continuation of the roadster introduced in 2011 as a 2012 model. Birthed from the loins of the Z1 of 25 years ago, the Z4 is one of the latest vehicles in the long line from Munich that lets you be the car. Buckling into the low-slung creation places driver and passenger just ahead of the rear axle for an exhilarating feel of all the G-forces at play .
The four-pot engine is not the only one on offer. The Z4 can also be outfitted with a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that features twin turbochargers (unlike the twin-scroll single model in the 2.0-liter). So equipped, it supplies 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, or if specified as the range-topping Z4 sDrive35is, 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, with the seven-speed DCT transmission and a top speed of 155 mph.
Two of the Z4’s natural competitors also happen to come from Germany. Mercedes-Benz’s SLK and Porsche’s Boxster are a couple of roadsters that match up head to head for their prospective buyers hearts and wallets.
Driving fast, though, is not at all relaxing. BMW has a sorry history with the way its Z cars handle and this one is no different. Drive Dynamic Control and Adaptive M Sport suspension come as standard in the 35is. You get three settings for the dampers – Normal, Sport and Sport +. Worryingly, the Z4 doesn't feel right in any of them.
The direct-injection, variable valve 2.0-liter TwinPower turbo offered great pickup in a torquey package that still managed to pull while in fifth and sixth gear.
The electric-assisted power rack and pinion system offered some of the best direct steering feel from any of the so-called artificial (electric) systems. Face it folks, electrification is here to stay. They say a new invention called the light bulb is just being perfected. The result is a beautifully handling roadster, which almost begs you to whip wheel through the turns. We found the 2.0-liter plenty engaging, but for those who can never get enough, we say tick the box for the 35is and its additional 95 ponies.
Overall the ride is exceptional with no chassis flex. It tends to handle brilliantly thanks to the intuitive nature of the Drive Dynamics Control toggle switch just west of the shifter, which allows for some fine-tuning of the suspension and throttle mapping from Comfort to Sport and Sport+. The immediate feel from C to S causes the sensation of a more rapid acceleration, while Sport+ manages to disengage the dynamic traction control for additional tail-wagging fun – the kind of driving sports cars were made to do.