Z 4 the col­lec­tor

BRIAN BAS­SETT dis­cov­ers why the Z4 is bound to be a clas­sic

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

Styling

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.

In­te­rior

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.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

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.

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