In Depth

BMW Z4 2014 reviews: a serious rival to the Porsche Boxster?

Sporty, aggressive styling and straight-six engine feature in the next generation two-seater

BMW lifted the lid on its all-new Z4 Roadster at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance motor show a few months ago in California.

The convertible is on course to become one of the most powerful Z4s to date, with BMW giving the drop-top a sportier edge than Porsche’s dominant 718 Cayman and Boxster sports cars.

The German carmaker is gearing up to launch the Z4 next month, when buyers will be able to choose between a pair of four-cylinder engine cars and a 340bhp M Performance model.

In the meantime, here’s what else you need to know:

When exactly does it come out?

Orders for the new Z4 are open now, with deliveries kicking off in March 2019. 

The company is expected to announce the Z4’s price list closer to the release date, but Auto Express is predicting that entry-level sDrive20i models will start at around £30,000. Range-topping M40i cars are expected to cost in the region of £48,000.

The Z4 will make its first public appearance at the Paris Motor Show, running from 4 to 14 October.  

Reviews

The new Z4 may appear to be a laidback grand tourer at first glance but the sportier M40i range-topper offers to serious competition to Porsche’s acclaimed 718 Boxster. 

According to Autocar, drivers of the Z4 M40i will “need to keep a wary eye on that speedo”, with the roadster’s straight six-cylinder engine offering plenty of power through the rev range. 

Once again, BMW has included a synthesised engine note to emphasise the motor’s sound. This may be a “bugbear” for some drivers, the magazine notes, but the amplified sound sends a more “genuine” exhaust note into the cabin than the company’s previous attempts. 

However, while the engine note is better than expected, Evo claims the driving experience is “one of disappointment”.

The roadster’s variable steering “has a really artificial feel” and seems “wide” and “heavy” when pushed on twisty sections of road, the motoring magazine says. The overall experience behind the wheel is “far from” bad, but the car is missing the level of driver engagement offered by the Porsche 718 Boxster, Evo concludes.

The cabin is pretty impressive, though, says The Daily Telegraph. BMW’s iDrive infotainment system offers “first-rate graphics” and is arguably “one of the standard-setters for driver/machine interfaces”.

On the negative side, there’s not much space for occupants, and the 281-litre boot is “shallow”, the newspaper reports. 

Ultimately, the Z4 feels “too heavy to feel as fun as a Porsche 718 Boxster” and “lacks the excitement or emotion that’s really crucial in this segment”, according to Auto Express

How has the design changed?

As the 2019 Z4 has been redesigned from the ground up, the new drop-top looks completely different to its predecessor.

BMW appears to have transferred a number of design cues from its 8 Series coupe onto the sports car. These include the car’s taillight design, aggressive front-bumper styling and sculpted rear end.

The company’s signature kidney-style grille is back but it’s slightly larger on the Z4 than in previous models. This makes the front end look wider, as does the car’s new taller headlight cluster.

Underpinning the Z4’s sleek exterior design is a new chassis with a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, says Evo. This means the car should handle better both on the road and on a racing circuit.  

The Z4’s wheelbase is marginally shorter and the bodywork is slightly wider compared to its predecessor, the magazine says. In a bid to save weight, the original car’s folding metal roof has been replaced with a fabric version. 

What about performance?

A 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 197bhp badged sDrive20i will kick off the range, says Autocar. Above that is a 258bhp version of the same engine that will be offered in the mid-spec sDrive30i trim. Both can be specced with either an eight-speed automatic or six-manual gearbox. 

At the top of the range sits a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engined M40i M Performance model, the magazine says. The power output comes in at 340bhp - 5bhp more than originally rumoured - which is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

This helps the Z4 M40i do 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds - the same time as its key rival, the Porsche 718 Boxster. 

What’s it like inside?

The Z4’s cabin is a blend of “new and familiar” features, says Evo

BMW fans will recognise the drop-top’s i-Drive infotainment system, which appears in most of the company’s latest models, the magazine says. The system is accessed through a pair of touchscreen panels - one in front of the driver and the other above the centre console. 

Buyers who opt for the limited First Edition model get a host of other hi-tech features as standard, including “electrically adjustable memory seats” and a Harman Kardon surround sound system, as well as a head-up display and ambient cabin lighting, WhatCar? reports. 

The Z4 is well set up for sunny weather, too, with the fabric roof folding down in just ten seconds at speeds of up to 31mph, says motoring reviews site Parkers. The roof system is compact, so none of the 265-litre boot space is lost when the roof is lowered.

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