BMW Z4 roadster
Price £27,740 - £45,950
- Great build quality
- Comfortable to drive
- Powerful engine range
- Expensive to buy
- Limited practicality
- No diesel option
At a glance
"With its responsive engine range and good looks, the BMW Z4 is an upmarket and desirable sports car that’s very comfortable to drive."
The BMW Z4 is the German brand's answer to the Porsche Boxster. It has sporty looks thanks to its long-bonnet, short-boot, two-seater interior and electric hard-top roof. The latter is a new feature of the latest Z4, and means that less noise gets into the car's interior, as well as being more secure from thieves than the older fabric-style roof.
The Z4 comes with a decent range of engines. There's no diesel option but the petrol engines can return decent mpg figures or impressive performance, depending on what you're after.
While the BMW might not be quite as fun to drive as the Porsche Boxster, it probably makes a better day-to-day proposition. That means it is quiet and refined most of the time, but also fun when you find yourself on a twisty road.
The Z4 comes with good levels of equipment, but dipping into the options list can bring your Z4 up to luxury-car levels of equipment, and prices...
MPG, running costs & CO2
Plenty of economical petrol engines but no diesel option
BMW’s decision not to offer a diesel version of the BMW Z4 means there are no super-frugal models, but fuel economy is good when you consider the performance on offer and the fact that the Z4 is quite a heavy car.
Even the basic BMW Z4 18i’s 2.0-litre petrol engine makes it pretty quick, while returning up to 41.5mpg and emissions of 159g/km for annual road tax of £175. The next model up – the 20i – actually matches these figures, while giving noticeable extra performance. The 28i is faster still, yet returns the same economy figures and emits the same amount of CO2.
The 35i is much faster than any of them; however it'll also prove more expensive to run – with economy dropping to 30.1mpg and emissions jumping to 219g/km. The top-of-the-range BMW Z4 35iS, is (strangely) faster than the 35i, but more economical. That’s thanks to it being fitted with BMW’s seven-speed automatic gearbox as standard, whose extra gear aids economy.
Engines, drive & performance
Plenty of powerful engines, but the Z4 still isn't very sporty
The BMW Z4 is not as engaging to drive as the Porsche Boxster, but it does feel fun in the corners thanks to minimal body lean, decent grip, and weighty steering.
Despite its name, the basic Z4 BMW 18i is actually powered by a 2.0-litre engine – with the same motor also fitted to the 20i and 28i. Its 154bhp can take the 18i from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and tops out at 131mph, but it needs to be worked hard to do it. The 20i feels a lot quicker, despite the modest increase in power (up to 181bhp), and gets from 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds on the way to 146mph flat out. Moving up to the BMW Z4 28i means power swells to 242bhp, while 0-62mph takes 5.7 seconds and top speed increases to 155mph.
The Z4 BMW 35i delivers an even more discernable leap in performance, thanks to its big 3.0-litre engine, which produces 302bhp and gets the car from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, while its top speed is also limited to 155mph. The Z4 35iS is fastest of all. It gets from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds and could easily sail past its top speed of 155mph were it not also limited.
Interior & comfort
Easy to live with, the Z4 is a comfortable motorway cruiser
The BMW X4 is a more comfortable everyday car than the Porsche Boxster – so long as you don’t opt for the more expensive M Sport models, which have stiff suspension that is not best suited to the UK’s poor road surfaces.
Bearing in mind that the BMW Z4 is a two-seater sports car, it is actually quite practical. BMW opting for a folding metal roof means that the interior is as quiet as a normal car’s but can transform into an open-top roadster.
Elbow room is decent, and there’s plenty of adjustment for the driver’s seat, so getting comfy should be easy. The BMW’s 310-litre boot is also pretty reasonable, although it's worth noting that it shrinks to 180 litres with the roof down.
Practicality & boot space
The clever roof eats into bootspace when folded down
Practicality is never going to be the prime criteria for anyone even thinking about buying a Z4. Having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom, with it offering 310 litres of maximum boot space, which is very similar to what you’ll find in the boot of a Ford Fiesta or other superminis. However, if the sun comes out and you decide to drop the top to catch some of the lovely British sunshine, then the metal roof folds down into the boot, cutting the capacity down to 130 litres, which isn’t going to carry much food shopping, let alone any luggage beyond a medium-sized squashy bag. You can get a ski hatch fitted as an optional extra if you need to carry longer items, but whatever it is will intrude on the cabin and cause irritation on longer journeys.
The two-seat interior is large enough to comfortably fit two adults – even those of the tall persuasion – with plenty of shoulder room and lots of adjustment in the seats. There are also lots of handy luggage nets dotted around the interior.
Overall, the Z4 is pretty impractical compared to many of its rivals, with the roof taking 21 seconds to fold away and another 20 seconds to put back up, which is nearly twice the time it takes the Audi TT.
Reliability & safety
Strong reliability and lots of safety features mean the Z4 should be dependable
The latest BMW Z4 didn’t feature in our 2013 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, but BMW does have a good reputation for reliability. Despite this, the company finished 15th out of 32 manufacturers – a result that doesn’t quite tally with the marque’s premium image.
The BMW Z4 hasn’t been tested for safety by Euro NCAP, although the old model scored a reasonable four stars in its pre-2009 test. The car comes with plenty of safety equipment, including Stability Control (to stop the car spinning) and traction control (to stop the wheels spinning). The brakes, meanwhile, have ABS and Electronic Brake Force distribution, for safer stopping power. The car also has driver, passenger, and side airbags, rollover hoops (to protect passengers if the car flips over), as well as run-flat tyres that mean you can drive to a garage without changing a punctured tyre.
Price, value for money & options
Basic model gets alloy wheels but no leather seats
The BMW Z4 is not a cheap car to buy, but it does undercut rivals such as the Mercedes SLK and the Porsche Boxster - and while two-seater sports cars such as the Mazda MX5 might be cheaper, they don’t offer the same luxury feel as the BMW. We would also expect the BMW to have strong residual values on the used car market.
Even basic BMW Z4s get 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a Bluetooth phone connection, DAB radio, xenon headlights and automatic wipers. The BMW Z4 35i adds restyled alloy wheels, twin exhaust pipes, and electric seats, while M Sport models get 18-inch alloys, stiffer suspension, a sports steering wheel, and body-hugging seats. The top-of-the-range Z4 BMW 35iS gets unique 18-inch alloys, adaptive suspension – which can be adjusted to be stiffer or more comfortable – as well as a louder sports exhaust.
All models can be specced with a host of extras, including sat-nav and steering-wheel heating.