New BMW Z4 M40i 2023 facelift review
Has BMW perfected the modern roadster with the Z4?
We’re a little disappointed with the Z4’s 2023 facelift, because we would’ve liked to see BMW extract some more sportiness from this G29 generation car. The Z4 has no huge flaws and in many ways it’s perfected the modern roadster formula - but ageing technology, an increased price tag and a lack of dynamism are let downs.
The struggles the roadster market has faced in recent years have been well documented and are evident in the Mercedes SLK/SLC ceasing to exist and the Audi TT due to be shuffled out the back door this year. BMW’s Z4 has just received a facelift, however, perhaps looking to gain some customers from its vanquished foes.
Our first taste of the revised Z4 comes in range-topping, straight-six form. When we first drove the third-generation Z4 back in 2019 we thought the lower-spec models with the smaller four-cylinder engine were the pick of the range. Both engines have been retained with the facelift, but the trim level range has been simplified to to comprise only the entry-level M Sport and the M40i.
In terms of a redesign, the Z4’s mid-life refresh has been minimal to say the least. There’s a new hexagonal pattern within the grille, the fog lights have been reshaped and the side air intakes at the front are also new. The sides remain unchanged and besides some new gloss black accents to the rear it’s the same back there, too. The Z4 still has presence on the road, however, with its long bonnet combined with a stubby rear end and wide stance for a classic roadster profile.
Inside it’s all the same as you’d find with the pre-facelift model. Disappointingly, BMW’s new iDrive 8 infotainment tech doesn’t feature but you do at least get a election of physical buttons on the dash and the older infotainment system on the 10.25-inch screen is a doddle to use – just not as impressive as the one in BMW’s other recent arrivals. It might be a little two-seater, but the overall finish is up there with BMW’s bigger and more expensive offerings, with a quality feel to pretty much everything. The 281-litre boot might not sound like much but compared to the combined 275-litre storage space of a Porsche Boxster S, the new Mercedes SL’s 213-litre boot and even the Lexus LC's197-litre boot, it’s not at all bad.
Start up the M40i and you’re met with a little roar from the engine and a single pop from the exhaust. It’s more of a gentle reminder of the car’s sportiness rather than a shout for attention. As before, there are several driving modes to choose from on the centre console, which you can tailor further within the infotainment system.
Starting off in Eco Pro mode, it’s obviously designed to maximise the Z4’s efficiency and when we took the car on a long motorway cruise it returned an impressive 40.1mpg against BMW’s claimed 34.9mpg on a combined cycle. Once you get a bit more familiar with the throttle on your favourite roads you’ll see that figure drop into the low 30s.
In Comfort mode the adaptive suspension with electronically controlled dampers (now standard on every Z4) goes to its softest setting. This is where the Z4 driving experience surprises the most because it's wonderful on long journeys. The M Sport seats (again, standard on every Z4) are bespoke to BMW’s roadster and are superb – offering just the right amount of support when needed.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to have the roof down on long stretches of dual carriageway and motorway without feeling like your head is going to be blown off. There’s very little buffeting and anyone that’s driven a convertible in the changeable British summertime will appreciate the 10-second closing time that can be done at low speeds. Despite reverting back to a fabric top with the third iteration of Z4, there’s not much exterior noise filtering through to the cabin with the roof up.
Switch the Z4 to its most dynamic configuration and you’ll find ‘Sport’ for the damping and ‘Sport Plus’ for the engine and transmission. This will also change the driver’s display to red, featuring the counter-clockwise tachometer – it’s a slightly odd at first but as with other BMWs you get used to it quickly.
No arguments can be made about the amount of power the twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six delivers. Even though US buyers get 382bhp from their M40is, we don’t feel short-changed by the 335bhp on offer here. 500Nm of torque certainly helps give it a more muscular feel and that power can be accessed right across the rev range.
The transmission in its sportiest setting also feels plenty quick enough in its changes, whether that be in automatic mode or using the slightly plasticky paddles behind the steering wheel.
Unless BMW suddenly has a sudden change of heart and decides to give us one more Z4 M model, the M40i will be the most potent offering (although it’s actually 3bhp down on the mid-2000s Z4 M). This is a bit of a shame because the Z4 has an intriguing chassis that could’ve played host to an outright M car.
The steering on the M40i is quick and feels connected to a responsive front end, but it’s a little vague when you’re pushing on – something the brightest minds at BMW’s M division probably could’ve fixed. Another issue is the exhaust and engine note. Even with the roof down it’s all a bit muted with the turbocharging providing a few background whines and flutters but little real drama to the soundtrack.
Despite the relative heft of the Z4 – a smidge over 1,600kg, body roll is kept at bay and there’s a terrific 50:50 balance. The Z4 never feels like it’ll snap out of control either, the traction control allows for the back to slither slightly before getting the rather wide tyres back into shape.
If you’re looking for the sportiest roadster on the market, the Z4 isn’t the answer – the Porsche Boxster S - while £7,325 more expensive – does a better job of exciting its driver. For a well-built, powerful roadster for long distance cruising, the Z4 is much more adept – maybe even enough to make it a genuine consideration against more expensive offerings like the Lexus LC and Mercedes SL.
|Model:||BMW Z4 M40i|
|Engine:||Twin-turbo 3.0-litre, straight-six|