BMW Z4 Roadster M40i (2019) review

BMW Z4 Roadster M40i (2019) review

All-new roadster is back with a more efficient packaging, now made better with M40i performance.

Reports have recently emerged that BMW is considering axing replacements of some less-profitable models including the standard-wheelbase 7 Series, 2 Series Cabriolet and 2 Series Gran Tourer.

Coincidentally, none of these are sold in Thailand anymore which isn’t surprising due to local consumer preferences. But an unfortunate model rumoured to join the list is the just-launched Z4 Roadster.

From a business point of view, killing off the next-gen Z4 makes sense because it’s a sports car with small volumes. After all, BMW had to ink a deal with Toyota to jointly develop the latest Z4 and Supra.

But if you look at what has all gone into the engineering, it’s a pity that the Z4 (and Supra) faces a bleak future. When we first drove the Z4 in Europe last year, there were two notable improvements in the two-seat open-top sports car.

The first one is the Z4’s body rigidity which is probably among the best around in the world of drop-top cars. Additional thanks must probably be given to Toyota’s requirement of a fixed-top coupe body.

Then there’s the Z4’s canvas-top which can neatly tuck away without compromising on boot usability. Golf bags won’t fit in the preceding model which featured a complex, space-eating retractable metal-top. This shows how well the new soft-top has been developed. 

And these improvements can immediately be felt when driving on Thai roads. Of course, you can still hear what motorcyclists are talking about when caught up in traffic jams with the roof up. But as soon as the road clears ahead, the Z4 is virtually as refined as in a coupe.

It becomes even more of an achievement when you consider what’s powering our Z4 test car: 340hp 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six for the so-badged M40i model.

The engine is married with a chassis so nicely that you probably won’t crave for a full-cream Z4 M, which is non-existent for the moment (and maybe forever, given the news). There’s never a shortage of power at any kinds of speeds with loads of tractability within the legal limit.

Unlike in the M2 we tested recently, the Z4 comes with an eight-speed torque-converter auto. OK, this gearbox may not offer fast gear-shifts as in the dual-clutcher, but it still does a good job overall in car that’s been designed with warmed-up performance and open-air thrills in mind.

The best mode in the Z4 for driving enthusiasts is no other than Sport Plus, which makes the exhaust’s sound louder and more intoxicating during throttle lift-off. Other merits of this particular mode are meatier steering feel, more responsive drivetrain and less intervention of the chassis electronics.

The Z4’s ride also works remarkably well by being mostly comfortable and quiet on even secondary road surfaces. It’s a well-balanced chassis set-up that only the Porsche 718 Boxster comes close in matching.

Forget about the wild and bouncy ride in the stock-clearing Mercedes-AMG SLC43, whose production in Europe has already stopped this year.

On the move, there’s very much to like about the Z4 for how it delivers strong performance via rewarding and assuring driving characteristics. But there are some flaws in the Z4.

While purely subjective, the Z4 didn’t draw much attention probably due to its matt grey exterior colour. But it’s also the way the Z4 has been designed that might have drew some controversy among people who wanted to share an opinion.

The old Z4 had a nice wavy profile which is something that can’t be said in the new one. Even when you’re behind the wheel, the bonnet just looks like one big slab of metal with no emotional surfaces. 

But some others liked the Z4 for the sharp creases especially at the rear end. And, thankfully, the Z4 has been spared the “big nose” treatment that has afflicted some of BMW’s latest cars. Yes, the kidney grille should grow (if it needs to) sideways for a sleek feel and not vertically.

As said earlier, the Z4 is now a more practical roadster than ever thanks to a usable boot, which can take long items via an opening in the rear partition.

But the cabin has limited storage for small items. The door bins are too narrow to fit a bottle and the cupholders are placed hopelessly in the covered centre console. At least, there’s a tray to place your smartphone (for wireless charging, too).

The design of the dashboard works well with the latest in electronic displays being deployed into the Z4. The robust build quality is now a match for the 718 Boxster.

If there had to be another area of visual criticism, the Z4’s driving cockpit looks too familiar with BMW’s other recipients of such tech.

Despite being a roadster for driving fun, the Z4 is quite generously equipped in relation to its pricier competition with similar performance. There are seats with adjustable side contours and some driving aids like collision warning, active cruise control and parking assist.

True, many poseurs might be more interested in the less powerful and cheaper 30i, which we have yet to sample. But this 4.99 million baht M40i, costing a million more than the 30i, truly stands out as a roadster with sporty performance.

Through all these years, Porsche always had the definite answer when it comes to a two-seat roadster. Of course, the 718 Boxster never had enough boot space because the trade-off of the mid-engined layout was impeccable handling.

But the Z4 virtually closes the gap now when it comes to the driving bit, yet it manages to be more practical and offers more bang for less money. Which is why we’d suggest that the Z4 is the one to go for at the moment when it comes to a fun roadster.


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