- Look-at-me styling.
- Award-winning BMW in-line six engines.
- More luxurious interior.
- Quick tonneau top operation.
- Larger trunk.
- Too heavy to throw around at will.
- Exterior design may induce vomit for some people.
- Now even more expensive.
- Slow steering feel.
- Lots of faster and cheaper competitors.
Press Coverage :
The all-new BMW Z4 roadster marks another highlight in BMW's new design strategy, and sets new standards for premium roadsters. When its predecessor, the BMW Z3 roadster, was introduced in 1995 (as a '96 model), it captured people's attention -- in particular with its public debut as James Bond's new company car in Goldeneye and virtually created the premium roadster segment. Its replacement is so completely revised that it will carry a new designation -- BMW Z4.
The new Z4 is a modern interpretation of all the classic roadster features -- a long and sweeping hood, a long wheelbase, short overhangs and a low seating position in a cockpit that is set back. The design of the car is all new and characterized by the intriguing interplay of convex and concave surfaces, hard edges and curves. This interplay of surfaces creates new transitions of light and shadow from every angle, giving the Z4 an eye-catching visual character.
The new body offers the roadster aficionado not only a spacious cockpit with a design that echoes the sophisticated nature of the exterior, it also boasts a large luggage compartment offering about nine cubic feet of space, which is large enough for two golf bags. The soft roof comes with a heated glass rear window and folds in a Z-shaped configuration. An integrated tonneau cover eliminates the need for an attachable boot. The available fully automatic top can be raised or lowered in about 10 seconds.
Available with a choice of two high-torque in-line sixes, the Z4 roadster 3.0i (225-horsepower) and the Z4 roadster 2.5i (184-horsepower) offer more than enough power to keep things interesting. The Z4 roadster 3.0i will be available with a choice of 6-speed manual or 5-speed STEPTRONIC automatic, while the Z4 roadster 2.5i offers a 5-speed manual or STEPTRONIC automatic. Next spring a Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) will be available in both models. The Z4's handling will establish new benchmarks. The suspension is a modified version of the highly acclaimed suspension from the 3 Series. Dynamic Drive Control (DDC), available as an option, features a "Sport" Button. It provides even more spontaneous acceleration and power at the touch of the gas pedal, quicker steering, as well as an even more aggressive shifting program for the five-speed automatic transmission.
The Z4's wide track, extremely low center of gravity, optimum 50:50 weight distribution and very precise electric power steering help give the new Z4 its outstanding agility. Fade-free high-performance brakes, standard Run-Flat tires and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with an on-demand traction mode contribute to outstanding safety in all driving situations.
Standard features of the new Z4 include a leather sports steering wheel, sport seats, a rollover safety system, and remote entry system. Options available at extra cost include a DVD-based navigation system with 16:9 display which retracts into the instrument panel, a premium sound system with Carver technology for powerful bass reproduction, and an integrated hands-free phone.
The BMW Z4 roadster will be available for sale in the US market fall 2002, then will make its appearance in Europe in spring 2003. As before, the new roadster will be built in Spartanburg, SC.
Not all the Z4's driving pleasure is attributable to the advanced stability control system. The base 2.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine, for instance, is as smooth and torquey as it was in the Z3 (not surprising since it is essentially unchanged in the Z4). At 184 horsepower, it offered more than enough thrust to propel the car during spirited driving; at the test track we recorded a 0-to-60 mph best of 6.7 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 15.0 at 91 mph. These aren't rocket ship numbers, but in a car as light and tossable as the Z4, they felt more than adequate. Best of all, on a typical two-lane twisty road, you can simply leave the Z4 in third gear and treat the throttle pedal as a rheostat. The 2.5-liter's 175 pound-feet peak torque is spread out over a wide rpm range, meaning minimal shifting is required to make quick work of your favorite stretch of tarmac. Add in the progressive brakes that never even hinted at fading during aggressive canyon runs and track testing, and you've got yet another ultimate driving machine. It's under these circumstances that the Z4 seems like a more expensive car than it really is.
If there's a downside to the car's razor-sharp handling, it comes in the form of a somewhat harsh ride. Between the stiff suspension tuning and the 45-series run-flat tires, there's no mistaking a Sport Package-equipped Z4 for a touring car. Every freeway expansion joint makes itself known, and the car can feel a bit hyperactive over broken pavement. The latter issue seemed more related to the run-flat tires than the suspension's settings, making us curious as to how the car would behave by simply swapping the super-stiff sidewalls for traditional tires. Of course, there's no room for a spare in the Z4's trunk, which offers an impressive nine cubic feet of capacity but in a deep well that isn't wide or long enough to contain a full-size spare, or even a compact spare, without eating up most of the car's cargo capacity.
Beyond its harsh ride quality, the Z4 is afflicted with a fair amount of wind and road noise at highway speeds with the top up. On several occasions we were certain a window wasn't all the way up, but they were, leading us to question the seal between the top and the side glass. In contrast, top-down motoring was acceptably placid at freeway speeds, especially with the side windows up.
Built from the get-go as a sports car, the Z4 has the low, wide stance expected in the class. It's superbly balanced, too, with the inline engine set way back in the chassis for a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution. BMW claims a 21Hz body stiffness figure for the Z4, and it feels remarkably stiff for an open car. Suspension is typical BMW front-strut/rear-multilink fare with generous use of aluminum to lower unsprung weight, lots of positive front caster, and visibly negative rear camber for stability.
What the chassis doesn't offer on its own, standard DTC/DSC Dynamic Traction Control/Dynamic Stability Control does electronically. If you're feeling frisky, depress a console button for a few seconds to strip away the DTC; holding it in a bit longer deactivates DSC.
1996-2002 BMW Z3 Roadster 2.5i
2,494 cc / 184 hp / 175 lb-ft / 2899-2987 lbs / 0-60 mph 7.3 sec.