BMW Z4 roadster (2009-2016)
“The BMW Z4 is stylish and good to drive, but it’s starting to feel dated and the lack of a diesel option limits its appeal.”
- Powerful engine range
- Comfortable to drive
- Great build quality
- Expensive to buy
- No diesel option
- Limited practicality
Two seater convertibles have always been desirable, and the BMW Z4 is a stylish example of this kind of car. Like the Mercedes SLC the Z4 features a folding metal roof, which adds a welcome dose of practicality and security - particularly if you have to park your car on the street at night. If you’re happy having a convertible with a fabric roof, the Audi TT Roadster is the Z4’s closest competitor, while the Mazda MX-5 is a great car if your budget is slightly smaller. Equally, the Porsche 718 Boxster has big appeal if you’ve got a little more to spend.
While the Audi and the Mercedes are available with a diesel engine, the BMW Z4 is petrol only. The Z4’s engines are smooth and provide good performance, but the lack of a more economical diesel model will mean the Z4 isn’t for everyone. It’s also worth pointing out that this version of the Z4 has been made since 2009, and production is due to end soon. This does mean that nearly-new examples should soon be attractively priced at BMW dealers.
The Z4 range kicks off with the 154bhp 2.0-litre sDrive18i, which returns 41.5mpg, costs £185 a year to tax and gets from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. The sDrive20i and sDrive28i feature the same 2.0-litre petrol engine, but produce 181 and 251bhp respectively; each shaves around a second off the 0-62mph time, though economy and emissions are identical for all three of these engines.
At the top of the engine range are the 302bhp sDrive35i and 335bhp sDrive35is. Unlike the other cars in the Z4 lineup, these feature one of BMW’s silky smooth six cylinder engines, which are powerful enough to get the car from 0-62mph in just 5.2 or 4.8 seconds. These models are significantly more expensive than the cheapest Z4, though, and are also expensive to run, costing £295 a year in road tax and returning around 30mpg.
On the road, the Z4 is good to drive, even if it isn’t as involving to drive as the peerless Porsche 718 Boxster. Body lean is negligible, the steering responds quickly and accurately to you inputs, and the manual gearbox (standard in all but the top-spec sDrive35is) is a joy to use.
Inside, the dashboard is built using high quality materials and everything works with reassuring solidity. The overall design betrays the Z4’s age, though: it’s not as sleek or modern inside as newer BMWs, and feels decidedly dated compared to the Audi TT roadster. There’s a decent amount of room for two adults and the 310-litre boot bestows the Z4 with reasonable practicality, although lowering the roof shrinks its size to 130 litres.
All Z4s come with leather seats, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, automatic wipers and lights and Bluetooth connectivity. The sDrive35i has power-adjustable seats, upgraded interior trim and metallic paint, while the top-spec sDrive35is has 18-inch alloy wheels and an automatic gearbox as standard. M Sport trim is costly at almost £4,000, though this gets you a plusher interior, upgraded suspension, a sporty bodykit and sports seats. The Z4 was put through Euro NCAP’s safety assessment programme last year, scoring a somewhat disappointing three out of five stars.