MOD­ERN AND MUS­CU­LAR

The Z4 is a soft-top sculp­ture with one of the world’s best six-cylin­der en­gines AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JOHN CAREY

There’s noth­ing retro about the look of the new Z4 but its Aus­tralian de­signer’s love af­fair with BMW sports cars goes way back. “This one’s ex­tremely emo­tional, be­cause there’s such a per­sonal con­nec­tion,” says Calvin Luk. As a kid grow­ing up in Syd­ney, he dreamt of some­day work­ing as a de­signer for BMW.

The brand’s Z-badged two-seaters were the main at­trac­tion. “I loved the road­sters the most,” he re­calls.

Luk, now in his early 30s, has worked as a BMW de­signer for a decade. The new Z4 is his third ex­te­rior de­sign into pro­duc­tion, join­ing the cur­rent X1 and X3 SUVs.

Pro­duc­tion of the pre­vi­ous Z4 stopped in 2016 and BMW’s bosses wanted a new look for its re­place­ment. “We wanted to push for moder­nity,” says Luk. “There is a sub­tle nod to past Z cars but the over­all push was to look for­ward.”

To kick off the process of shap­ing the new Z4, the de­sign team spent a day driv­ing old Z cars from BMW’s her­itage col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing the drop-doored Z1 from the late 1980s, the mid-’90s Z3 and the rare, retro-look Z8 from 2000.

Luk drove to the mu­seum-car meet in his own first-gen­er­a­tion Z4, which went into pro­duc­tion in 2002.

Luk says the front view of the Z8 in­flu­enced the de­sign of the new Z4. “This one (the Z4) is a much more mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion, still with those same pro­por­tions, the high-up head­lamps and the low kid­ney grilles.”

But the side view of the new Z4 isn’t like any pre­vi­ous Z. “This car is re­ally div­ing to the front, it’s re­ally sort of at­tack­ing the road,” says Luk.

The vis­ual ef­fect is cre­ated by the lines flow­ing from the new Z4’s an­gled air breather slot just be­hind its front whee­larches. This dis­tinc­tive vis­ual fea­ture “drives the whole sculp­ture”, ac­cord­ing to its de­signer.

The new Z4 lives up to its looks — at least in top-of-the-range M40i form, which was the only vari­ant BMW brought to the car’s in­ter­na­tional launch in Por­tu­gal.

As well as the M40i, which has a 3.0-litre in­line turbo six un­der its bon­net, BMW will pro­duce the Z4 in 30i and 20i ver­sions, both with turbo 2.0-litre fours. An eight-speed au­to­matic is stan­dard in all.

The three-model line-up will reach Aus­tralia in about March. BMW Aus­tralia hasn’t yet fi­nalised pric­ing but the M40i is likely to be at least $125,000.

In the M40i, the engine is su­perb, de­liv­er­ing lots of lus­cious lunge ac­com­pa­nied by a pleas­ant bass ex­haust note. This is one of the world’s best sixes, no ques­tion.

Equally smooth is the Z4’s ex­cel­lent auto. It slurs from gear to gear when cruis­ing but be­comes a snappy shifter when the driver ups the pace.

BMW’s new two-seater han­dles as a sports car should. The sus­pen­sion feels firm, though not over-stiff, even when the M40i’s Driv­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence Con­trol switch is set to Com­fort.

The pay­off is that the car cor­ners flat and fast, re­spond­ing pre­cisely to ev­ery tiny move­ment of its thick-rimmed, leather­trimmed steer­ing wheel.

Se­lect­ing Sport or Sport+ stiff­ens the sus­pen­sion in in­cre­ments for even sharper han­dling — it’s best saved for smooth-sur­faced roads. In these modes, engine and trans­mis­sion alike are more sen­si­tive to the ac­cel­er­a­tor pedal, at the same time as let­ting ex­tra va-va-vroom emerge from the tailpipes.

Roof-down on a snaking clifftop road high above the At­lantic Ocean out­side Lis­bon, the Z4 M40i re­ally lived up to the maker’s Pure Driv­ing Plea­sure slo­gan.

De­spite its feel­good fo­cus, the new Z4 PRICE SAFETY ENGINE THIRST 0-100KM/H

The Z4 is one of BMW’s most no­madic mod­els. The first gen­er­a­tion of the sports car was man­u­fac­tured in Spar­tan­burg, US, BMW Z4 M40i doesn’t ig­nore prac­ti­cal con­cerns. Com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor, this one is longer and wider, and has a much larger boot.

The 50 per cent in­crease in cargo space is a re­sult of BMW’s de­ci­sion to give this one a proper soft-top in­stead of the space-hun­gry fold­ing hard­top is used for the pre­vi­ous model. The 281L boot ca­pac­ity is the same roof down or roof up.

With the fab­ric roof up, rear­ward vi­sion is lim­ited but the in­te­rior is a qui­eter and cosier en­vi­ron­ment. This is a speedy roof, too, tak­ing only 10 sec­onds to op­er­ate at up to 50km/h.

The cock­pit pro­vides sup­port­ive seat­ing for two in a classy am­bi­ence in looks and feel alike.

There’s a high level of stan­dard safety tech, too. Pedes­trian warn­ing with city brak­ing func­tion, col­li­sion and lane-de­par­ture warn­ing are among the stan­dard driver-as­sist sys­tems.

The op­tions list will in­clude pretty well ev­ery­thing in BMW’s driver-as­sis­tance arse­nal. It’s a sim­i­lar story with the in­fo­tain­ment.

Mod­ern and mus­cu­lar to look at — and fine fun to drive on an empty wind­ing road — BMW’s new sports car doesn’t ne­glect ev­ery­day driv­ing needs. It’s the kind of sports car to make Sun­day morn­ings truly mem­o­rable and Mon­day to Fri­day eas­ily en­durable.

the se­cond in Re­gens­burg, Ger­many, while the new one will roll off an as­sem­bly line in Graz, Aus­tria.

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