Ba­sic driv­ing de­light for wild at heart

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

Re­cently the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Author­ity (ASA) in the UK banned a trio of au­to­mo­tive ads. One was for the lat­est Ford Mus­tang in which the poet Dy­lan Thomas was quoted with the im­mor­tal lines, “Do not go gen­tle into that good night” and “Rage, rage against the dy­ing of the light.”

The idea was that you jump into a Mus­tang and shake off the bore­dom with a bit of a charge down the open road. All good, clas­sic mo­tor­ing stuff. The ASA didn’t think so, or rather the 12 com­plainants didn’t, who stated that the ads en­cour­aged un­safe driv­ing be­cause they de­picted driv­ing as a way of re­liev­ing anger. They are prob­a­bly all Toy­ota Prius driv­ers, they don’t get an­gry, they hug it out.

While there are nan­nies out there who don’t be­lieve the ma­jor­ity of us are grown-up enough to know right from wrong and who want to tell ev­ery­one they can’t have a bit of fun, some car­mak­ers are still pro­duc­ing cars for those who want to blast down an open road with the wind in their hair as the ex­haust rum­bles be­hind them.

BMW is one such car­maker. Hon­estly, I was not a mas­sive fan of the Z3 or the Z4. The Z8 yes, the Z1 per­haps and you can read about our drive in both of these icons else­where in this is­sue but the 3 and 4, nah. Some loved them, clearly not the per­son who aban­doned a Z4 coupé at the Gau­train sta­tion in Sand­ton, but per­haps they just couldn’t han­dle it.

Then there’s the new Z4, the one you see here and which I drove in M40i guise in Por­tu­gal re­cently. Now this one I like, and that’s be­cause while it is stacked with tech, the new Z4 goes back to ba­sics in many re­spects.

The most ob­vi­ous thing from the out­side is the re­turn to a cloth roof, some­thing that re­duces the weight of the car by 40kg. When it ar­rives in SA in 2019, it will be 85mm longer than the last gen­er­a­tion, al­though the wheel­base will be slightly shorter. It also has a wider rear track but per­fect 50:50 axle load dis­tri­bu­tion.

BMW’s An­dreas Ederer says the axle ge­om­e­try is sim­i­lar to that on the M3 and it has an MS­port dif­fer­en­tial as stan­dard equip­ment. Un­der that bonnet sits a six-cylin­der de­vel­op­ing 500Nm. BMW is claim­ing a 0100km/h time of 4.6 sec­onds and a top end lim­ited as usual to 250km/h. And it’s all through an eight-speed Step­tronic gear­box, no man­ual.

The lack of a man­ual is a pity, be­cause what BMW has man­aged to do in all the new pack­ag­ing is create that near-per­fect setup which makes you feel as though the car piv­ots around the gear­stick. It’s a won­der­ful feel­ing in a man­ual car but you lose that in an auto.

It looks the part even if the styling is a lit­tle con­tro­ver­sial for some. It looks more, well, road­ster re­ally. There are el­e­ments that are a bit Mercedes, even more that are a bit over­done, but it all works well in my opin­ion.

The in­te­rior too is good. The dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter prob­a­bly works bet­ter in the Z4 than in the new 8 Se­ries and there’ sa good flow to the over­all dash de­sign. The driv­ing po­si­tion is also spot on.

On the road it still cruises well but it is even bet­ter at the grin-in­duc­ing stuff. On twisty back roads in Por­tu­gal it hit cor­ner af­ter cor­ner af­ter cor­ner spot on, de­liv­er­ing a full dose of fun fac­tor com­bined with a good level of com­po­sure.

You have to turn the Dy­namic Trac­tion Con­trol (DTC) down a notch to en­joy it prop­erly, though, as the nanny sys­tems can re­strict you slightly.

Talk­ing of nanny sys­tems, the lane de­par­ture sys­tem is a night­mare. It fights with you

The cloth roof is 40kg lighter than the pre­vi­ous alu­minium one. The smart in­te­rior, left, has a dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter.

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