BMW Z4 (2009-2016) review - Engines, performance and drive

The Z4 was fun - if lacking the handling finesse of a Porsche Boxster – and M Sport suspension was too firm

The rear-wheel-drive Z4 wasn’t as engaging as a Porsche Boxster or Audi TT, but it was a surprisingly good cruiser, thanks to its supple ride and high level of refinement – the latter due in part to that complex and relatively weighty metal folding roof.

Still, the naturally weighted steering, fine balance and decent grip meant the BMW still felt agile and composed through a series of corners so it was a lot of fun to drive. M Sport versions featured a stiffer suspension set-up that harmed ride comfort, while the range-topping 35is got adaptive dampers, which were very stiff in their sportiest setting.


Unlike the Mercedes SLK and Audi TT Roadster, the Z4’s engine line-up was exclusively petrol. The range kicked off with the sDrive18i, which used a detuned version of the four-cylinder 2.0-litre turbo engine from the 20i and 28i. According to BMW, it could complete the 0-62mph sprint in 8.1 seconds and hit a top speed of 137mph, but it needed to be worked hard to keep up with traffic. The sDrive20i was a much better bet in terms of performance, despite its modest 181bhp power output.

It still accelerated strongly even from low revs and responded quickly to the throttle, particularly when the standard Performance Drive Control was in Sport mode - you could also choose from efficient ECO PRO and relaxing Comfort settings. At the top of the range, were the six-cylinder sDrive35i and sDrive35iS – the latter went head-to-head with the Boxster S and SLK 55 AMG, with a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds.

It came with a seven-speed twin clutch M DCT transmission, which delivered smooth and quick shifts using the paddles on the steering wheel. Every other model came with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while an eight-speed auto gearbox was available as an option, and the 35i could be had with the DCT transmission, too. 

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