Reborn 2019 BMW Z4 Delivers Top-Down Thrills
This roadster has more verve than before, but it suffers from a stiff ride
The BMW Z4 returns after a brief hiatus, backed by the automaker’s pledge that the reborn roadster has improved performance. The previous model that retired in 2016 was quick, efficient, and well-finished, but it lacked an enthusiast-satisfying edge.
The new Z4 is 3.3 inches longer, 2.9 inches wider, and a half-inch taller. On top of that, it gave up the retractable hardtop for a traditional soft top to save weight and speed the opening and closing process.
BMW has also updated the infotainment and safety technologies. We were eager to see whether the new Z4 brings the thrills BMW has promised, so we bought a Z4 sDrive30i just in time for spring.
Here are our initial impressions, before our Z4 enters the formal testing process.
What we bought: 2019 BMW Z4
Powertrain: 255-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; eight-speed automatic transmission; rear-wheel drive
Options: $8,500 (M Sport package, Premium package, Executive package, remote engine start, 19-inch wheels)
Destination fee: $995
Total cost: $59,195
What We Like . . . so Far
The Z4 is engaging to drive, right from the first press of the accelerator. Drivers should cast aside doubts that the increased size or the four-cylinder engine would temper performance. The Z4 accelerates quickly and delivers steady power, no matter where the engine is in the rpm range. And the mischievous Sport mode creates a sonorous soundtrack that’s certain to widen any driver’s smile.
In Comfort mode, the Z4 becomes a bit more sedate and tailored to casual cruising. The shifts are very smooth in this mode, compared with the snappy gear changes in Sport mode, underscoring the benefit of fine-tuning the car’s personality at the touch of a button.
The steering wheel is thick, making it easy to hold with a solid grip. This is well-matched to the heft of the wheel, which requires a bit more muscle to rotate than those on some other cars. We like that meaty feel and quick response.
What We Don't Like
There’s no denying it: The Z4 has a stiff and choppy ride. That’s not too surprising on a sports car, but the Z4’s suspension is so tightly wound that it might become tiresome. This reaffirms that the Z4 favors fair-weather driving on smooth, preferably curvy, roads.
Also true to form, this sports car is low-slung. Getting in—or out—requires a bit of athleticism. Passengers will be challenged to stretch over the wide door sills, particularly when exiting.
The accommodations are intimate, with a narrow cockpit for each occupant. This underscores that the Z4 is a fun, weekend-ready plaything more than a long-distance cruiser.
The chrome climate buttons have limited contrast in some lighting conditions, so it’s tough to make a selection based on just a glance.
With the top up, visibility is quite restricted to the sides and especially out the back. The cloth roof lets more wind noise in than the previous retractable hardtop did, to the point that some drivers were compelled to repeatedly confirm that the windows were all the way up. Putting the top down opens up a much better view, but even then, rear visibility is hampered by the mesh wind blocker.
Some of our drivers commented that the roadster begs to have a manual transmission, but one isn’t available.
What We'll Keep Our Eyes On
We can’t wait for the warmer weather, so we can further explore the top-down motoring aspects of the Z4.
This is a BMW, through and through. But will it deliver the goods during our track tests to run with the high-scoring Porsche 718 Boxster and its sublime handling? We’ll soon find out—testing is now underway. But suffice to say, the new Z4 delivers more driving thrills than its predecessor. We are keen to see how the acceleration and fuel economy measure up because those were strong points for the last generation.