BMW Z4 Concept showcases new roadster’s looks

Officially a “design study”, the new BMW Z4 Concept is thought to closely resemble the 2018 BMW Z4

This isn’t the new BMW Z4 – but it nearly is. This BMW Z4 Concept, unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the US, precedes the replacement to BMW’s popular two-seat roadster by a matter of months. The company says it offers a “look ahead” to the production Z4, expected to hit BMW showrooms in 2018.

The 2018 BMW Z4 is being developed in conjunction with the forthcoming Toyota Supra, but while the latter is expected to be a fixed-roof grand touring coupe – and may also feature a petrol-electric setup – the new Z4 should offer a more traditional take on the two-seater sports car.

Finished in eye-catching Energetic Orange paint, the Z4 Concept sports BMW’s ubiquitous twin ‘kidney’ grilles, although these play second fiddle to the vast air vents around them, which in turn are dwarfed by 20-inch alloy wheels and engorged wheelarches.

And while the outgoing Z4 – which has been on sale since 2009 and only recently left BMW’s pricelists – sports a folding metal hardtop, the next-generation Z4 is expected to be fitted with a fabric roof, just as the original Z4 had when it arrived in 2002. This will help minimise the new Z4’s weight, while simultaneously boosting storage space.

2018 BMW Z4 engines

BMW has been downsizing some of its engines recently – just witness the three-cylinder 1.5-litre in the 318i – but that trend isn’t expected to rear its head under the new Z4’s bonnet. Instead, BMW should fit it with powerful four and six-cylinder engines, together with rear-wheel drive – maintaining the Z4’s sports-car pedigree. Helping this sense of dynamism are the shorter overhangs of bodywork ahead of the front and behind the rear wheels, which allow the driver to sit closer to the centre of the car than has been possible in previous Z4s.

The new Z4 is also understood to come with the sophisticated ‘Active M Differential’ axle from the M3 supersaloon, which should maximise fun during spirited driving.

BMW Z4 Concept design

Aside from the vast vents, grille, wheels and wheelarches, the most striking aspect of the new Z4 Concept is its rear deck, which features two ‘domes’. These add protection in the event of a rollover collision and also give an aesthetic nod to open-topped race cars from years gone by, which featured buttresses behind the driver’s head – again, for rollover protection, but also to help aerodynamics.

Elsewhere, the modern trend for increasingly complex light designs shows no signs of abating: the Z4 Concept’s headlights have moved higher up the car’s body compared to the outgoing Z4. These, BMW says, are intended to “spark deliberate associations” with the BMW Z8 – a niche model from the 1990s that now enjoys cult classic status.

The rear of the Z4 comprises narrow, angular and tapering LED lights, echoed lower down by the trapezoidal number-plate plinth and geometric exhaust pipes. The carbon-fibre air diffuser that rests at the bottom of the back, meanwhile, offers a parallel to the large central carbon air intake at the front of the Z4 Concept.

Interior

The Z4 Concept’s dashboard appears to herald a new design direction for BMW. How much of this is down to a deliberately new approach, and how much is due to its relation to the Toyota Supra, remains to be seen – but the design of the gearlever, steering wheel and engine starter appear unrelated to current production BMWs, while the fresh fonts on the digital dashboard display also appear new. Caution is advised due to this car’s concept status, but if the design seen here is anything to go by, expect a bold new look when the 2018 Z4 is officially revealed.

A digital display on the bottom spoke of the steering wheel, a head-up display, laser-cut motifs in the seats, carbon-fibre door sill finishers and a sharply angled infotainment screen are among the tech and material highlights, while BMW says the doors and dashboard give provide the sense of being cocooned, thanks to their wraparound nature.

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