BMW Z4 sDrive23i

22 May, 2009 3:48pm Jack Rix

Our verdict as new folding hard-top hits British roads


The Z4 has come of age! A softer ride, beautiful folding roof and top-notch interior all help to create an air of sophistication that’s certain to broaden its appeal. It may lose a little ground through corners, but the trade-off is even better usability. And let’s not forget those cracking engines and prices that undercut key rivals from Audi and Mercedes – all of which make it a highly desirable package.

We were blown away by the Z4 in our first drive on European roads (here) – but can BMW’s all-new roadster live up to expectations here?

This UK-spec model provides the answer. It’s fitted with the entry-level 201bhp 2.5-litre straight-six engine, which revs sweetly all the way to 7,000rpm and produces a tuneful exhaust note.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the BMW Z4

Our example was also equipped with the optional M Sport adaptive suspension. This gives a choice of Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings, selected through the Drive Dynamic Control (DDC) function. DDC applies the same modes to the throttle response and steering weight.

The standard ride setting on the previous Z4 compares to Sport+ here. And in Normal and Sport, refinement is vastly improved – during our run, the springs soaked up the worst the UK’s roads could muster, instantly making the BMW feel like a more grown-up car.

However, what the new roadster gains in long-distance comfort it sacrifices through fast corners, with the body feeling loose at times. In reality, though, it’s become a more comfortable and usable car for more people, more of the time.

The front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout means the trademark long bonnet and squat rear-end proportions remain. But the old Z4’s harsh edges have been replaced with flowing lines and subtle creases, making this a stunning machine to look at with the two-piece folding roof up or down.

Inside, there are top-quality materials wherever you look. However, the absence of an iDrive controller or even sat-nav in our model highlights the fact that, despite having a more supple chassis, this is still very much a sports car focused on driver pleasure, not creature comforts.

Rival: Porsche Boxster
From the distinctive bark of the flat-six powerplant to the accurate steering, Porsche’s soft-top Boxster remains one of the sharpest sports cars available.

Key specs

* Price: £28,645
* Engine: 2.5-litre 6cyl
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
* Power/torque: 201bhp/250Nm
* 0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
* Top speed: 151mph
* Econ/CO2: 33.2mpg/199g/km
* Equipment: Run-flat tyres, dual-zone air-con, 17-inch alloys, remote-controlled retractable hard-top, MP3 input
* On sale: Now