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First drive video: 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i

Consumer Reports News: February 06, 2012 09:23 AM

The refined-and-luxurious Z4 roadster range now sports the first four-cylinder engine BMW has deployed in the United States since 1999. We recently spent some time with a Z4 borrowed from BMW to sample this fresh powertrain and share our impressions.

Beyond the Z4, the new 2.0-liter turbo four will be the base engine in the redesigned 3 Series that goes on sale any day now and already serves the 5 Series in the 528i. In the Z4, the engine churns out 240 horses, with decent overall power and a healthy mid-range punch. Just don’t expect it to duplicate one of BMW’s super-smooth straight sixes in either sound or fury, never mind official acceleration numbers. It’s here for fuel economy.

Since BMW makes some cars that are traditionally entertaining to drive, you’d expect the $50,000-plus Z4 to deliver the goods regardless of what winds up under the hood. Sadly not. Yes, there’s plenty of capability and cornering grip, but the steering is disappointing, being devoid of feel and feedback. And if you turn up the powertrain volume a bit—well OK, more than a bit—understeer sets in and its not always easy to correct. At least the ride is not punishing as it is in other sports cars.

2012-BMW-Z4-sDrive28i-side.jpgThe cabin is extremely tight. Getting in and out of the low-slung cabin can require a rather taxing pirouette. And if you have a passenger, as well as a briefcase, one of them has to go in the trunk. Unlike the handling, the interior stays true to BMW’s tradition of impeccable finish.

On the fun-to-drive scale, the Z4 doesn’t come close to, say, the Porsche Boxster. Even the Mercedes-Benz SLK would give the Z4 a run for its money these days. But if you just want to tool around in a great-looking two-seater, the Z4 may be your cup of Schnapps.

Gabe Shenhar

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