Road­ster ro­mance at a cost

It’s hard not to be se­duced by the Z4 with its beau­ti­fully sculpted lines and clas­sic feel, but it’s not per­fect, writes Geral­dine Her­bert

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Motoring -

NOTH­ING comes closer to in­stant glam­our than driv­ing an open­topped car, so is it any won­der car-mak­ers tempt us with lit­tle sporty num­bers? BMW’s clas­sic two-seater, the Z4, is one of the best-look­ing road­sters. But stun­ning as it looks, the Z4 has never had the same ap­peal be­hind the wheel as some ri­vals, par­tic­u­larly Porsche’s two-seat coupe, the Boxster.

BMW re­cently un­veiled its third-gen­er­a­tion Z4. The car has been de­vel­oped with Toy­ota, but while shar­ing the same en­gi­neer­ing as Toy­ota’s Supra, BMW’s Z4 brings fresh styling and a BMW driv­ing feel. For this new ver­sion, the re­tractable hard­top op­tion has been aban­doned in favour of an elec­tri­cally op­er­ated soft-top. Sim­ple to op­er­ate, it opens and closes in 10 sec­onds and, cru­cially for those sud­den down­pours, at speeds of up to 50kmh.

The new car is im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able as a BMW but is longer, wider and heav­ier than be­fore and has new de­sign fea­tures in­clud­ing a new-look mesh-de­sign BMW kid­ney grille and ver­ti­cal LED light units. In­side, the Z4 is driver-fo­cused, but, as with most road­sters, it is snug in the cabin and you will struggle to find places to stow smart­phones and drinks. The good news is that there is plenty of space in the boot; a gen­er­ous 281 litres, re­gard­less of whether the soft-top is open or closed and is an in­crease of more than 50pc com­pared with the out­go­ing model.

The new road­ster will launch in Ire­land next March with three petrol en­gines. The top-of-the-range Z4 M40i fea­tures a straight-six unit with 340bhp. Other en­gines are the 30i and 20i with four-cylin­ders and all are mated to an eight-speed step­tronic auto trans­mis­sion.

The M40i model, the car we drove, can sprint from zero to 100kmh in 4.6 sec­onds and has a com­bined fuel 100km con­sump­tion and CO2 emis­sions of 7.29l per of 165g/km. Press the start but­ton and the engine sounds po­tent. On the road it is grippy with sharp han­dling, but it doesn’t quite carve through bends with the clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion you want. De­spite the growth spurt, BMW claims sub­stan­tial weight sav­ings from opt­ing for a fab­ric top only ver­sion, but the M40i is heav­ier than its pre­de­ces­sor and feels it on the road. Also, with the roof com­pro­mised. up vis­i­bil­ity is badly Prices for the new Z4 sDrive20i start from €50,420, while the top-of-the-range Z4 M40i will set you back €73,230. There will be two trim lev­els; Sport and M Sport, in ad­di­tion to the M Per­for­mance model. The Sport model fea­tures de­sign el­e­ments in high-gloss black on the front cross­bar and the rear apron’s in­sert, along with 18-inch light-al­loy wheels. The M-Sport in­cludes a three-sec­tion air in­take for the front apron, prom­i­nent side skirt con­tour­ing, a rear apron with highly dis­tinc­tive side sur­rounds, and 18-inch M light-al­loy wheels. BMW’s Z4 is a de­sir­able car, stun­ning to look at and fun to drive, but un­for­tu­nately two-seat road­sters aren’t prac­ti­cal and tend to be pricey — and it’s still not as sharp to drive as some ri­vals.

Next week in a spe­cial sup­ple­ment Geral­dine Her­bert gives our an­nual A-Z guide to all the new and re­vised cars com­ing your way in 2019 and the best 191 deals on new cars. We take a look at the stand-out cars of 2018 and as VW ends 80 years of pro­duc­tion of its iconic Bee­tle, we talk to past and present own­ers.

IM­POS­ING: It is 85mm longer than its pre­de­ces­sor, 74mm wider and 13mm taller

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