Z 4 the collector
BRIAN BASSETT discovers why the Z4 is bound to be a classic
IT has been over a year since we reviewed a sports car in this column and were delighted when Anthony Ellis, dealer principal of SMG Pietermaritzburg, offered us an opportunity to spend a few days with the Z4 sDrive 2.0i.
This is the second generation of the original Z4, designed by the Danish industrial designer Anders Warming in 1998 and launched in 2002. The remarkable car designer Juliane Blasi from the BMW Design Studio sorted all its design kinks to launch the facelifted car we drove in 2009. Going forward, new Z4 models are likely to be the result of a cooperative effort by BMW and Toyota so, as a colleague of mine said recently; the new car is likely to be fast and conservative.
The Z4 is one of the best-looking cars on the market. No wonder retiring executives buy them as retirement presents to themselves. After all, a heart attack or two and years of stress must be worth something.
Blasi has gone for classic roadster proportions: two-thirds bonnet, half cabin and a small rump, which attracts attention nonetheless. The second generation adds 147 mm bumper to bumper, which adds presence. The car is strikingly styled, with discerning touches everywhere, the whole underlined by appropriate alloys shod in 19-inch rubber.
The Z4 looks good even with the hood up. The 120 kg hood is made of lightweight materials and opens in 22 seconds and closes in 19 seconds. It can be used at speeds up to 40 km/h.
The cabin architecture is finished in black leather and is a familiar BMW blend of superb ergonomics and focus on the driver.
The centrally-placed ventilation controls and door trim invigorate and distinguish the cabin, while the road and engine speed dials are from the 3-Series, but mounted in bezels and back lit with an impressively accomplished look. The idrive system is intuitive and the fully-adjustable sports seats offer considerable comfort. The multi-function, leathercovered, fully-adjustable steering wheel is a pleasure to handle.
My only problem relates to the sun visors, which are not fully adjustable and make driving somewhat difficult if you are driving at an angle to the sun. The boot offers a measly 180 litres of space with the roof down and a more useful 310 litres with the roof closed.
Safety and security
The Z4 has a host of safety features too long to include here and most of which the owner will come to take for granted.
These include ABS with EBD, Dynamic Stability Control, a Rollover Protection System, Side Impact Protection, Rear Park Assist, Adaptive Headlights, Adaptive Suspension and an impact absorption system in both front and rear bumpers. There are also four airbags supported and seatbelts. The car has central locking and is alarmed and the key can be used to open and close windows, as well as to open the roof.
Performance and handling
The twin-power, 4-cylinder, petrol engine with double Vanos twinscroll turbocharger delivers 135 kW/270 Nm expressed on road via a smooth, six-speed manual gearbox. 0-100 km/h takes about 6,9 seconds and top speed is around 235 km/ h. It is difficult to quote fuel consumption for a sports car, but you can expect around 8,5 litres per 100 km with sensible driving.
The Z4 has monumental grip because of its low centre of gravity and generous rubber on each wheel.
The 2,0-litre engine, which is one of the best in the world, produces a mechanical symmetry unmatched for smoothness and acoustic appeal.
The ride quality is hard because of the run-flat tyres and, if you get carried away with the car’s effortless speed a failsafe under steer is built into the package.
The rear-wheel drive takes care of power delivery, leaving the front wheels to manage direction, which leads to instant steering feedback and allows absolute control by the driver. In all the car goes way beyond what most owners will need with the roof down.
Costs and the competition
The Z4 sDrive 2.0i comes in at around R600 000 and the auto at about R630 000.
There are seven models in the range, with the six-cylinder, sDrive 35is costing about R950 000.
The car comes with the iconic and extendable BMW 100 000 km, fiveyear motor plan. Also look at Porsche Boxster, Jaguar F-type Convertible and Mercedes SLC.
BMW and Toyota are in talks to build sportcars together, which will make the sleek Z4 a last-of-the-breed rarity for classic car collectors.