BMW Z4 Convertible

Price range:

$76,900 – $120,500


Good: Classic front engine roadster design; Luxurious interior; Smooth six cylinder twin turbo power in sDrive35i and 35is grades.

Not so Good : Weight gains over previous model; Steering feel doesn’t match the class leader, and poor roof down boot capacity.

Design and Engineering

Good : The second generation Z4 arrived in Australia in May 2009, and instead of making do with a soft top as the previous model convertible did, this high tech two piece aluminium roof opens or closes in twenty seconds. The range received a boost when the BMW Z4 sDrive35is joined the line-up in August 2010 and in September 2011 a new TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine joined the range.

Coming in at 14cm longer and 1cm wider than its predecessor, the Z4 roadster is 4 meters and 24cm long, and a meter and 79cms wide. Kerb weight is well distributed 50/50 front/rear. The car looks brilliant from front to back, with a muscular yet still handsome exterior, menacing front end styling, an extra long bonnet and a pert rear end. The shark-like nose design also gets the thumbs up, and the rear lights look great at night.

Not so good : The car is heavier than the first generation Z4 and a number of current competitors, the hard-top adds 30kg to the overall weight gains. Kerb weights range between 1395kg and 1525kg, an increase of up to 195kg. Unlike the old Z4 however, weight is distributed evenly. Lower grades feature 17-inch alloys that appear slightly undersized and struggle to fill the Z4’s wheel arches.

Interior and Styling

Good : We think this could be the best interior from BMW in a number of years. BMW has managed to blend luxury with a slightly minimalist feel using high quality soft touch materials and well shaped steering wheel and seats. Over the previous Z4 this one offers 2cm more shoulder and 4cm more elbow room and the folding metal roof improves visibility, thanks to a 50 per cent bigger rear window and larger side glass areas. This car’s i-Drive is intuitive, and the sat-navigation system is one of the best.

Not so good : At highway speeds with the roof up, wind-noise is a little higher than optimum, but this can be expect from convertibles. The steering wheel shift buttons look like they’ve come off a mountain bike and feel overly chunky. Storage levels are acceptable but not impressive, the boot is a generous 310-litres with the roof up, which is 50-litres more than previously, but it drops to a minimal 180-litres with the roof down.


Good : As mentioned earlier the engine line-up received a shake up in September 2011 when BMW released a new TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine. This sounded the demise of the sDrive30i and a new sDrive20i variant was born.

Kicking things off the sDrive20i features a 2.0-litre in-line turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that musters 135kW of power and 270Nm of torque when matched to a six-speed manual or eight-speed sports automatic (optional).

The sDrive28i features the same 2.0-litre in-line turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine found in the sDrive20i, but this time outputs have been increased to 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque when matched to a six-speed manual or eight-speed sports automatic (optional).

Next up is the sDrive35i featuring a 3.0-litre straight six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol engine that pumps out 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque while the sDrive35is produces 250kW of power and a massive 450Nm of torque. Both variants get are equipped with a seven-speed Sports Automatic transmission with double clutch operation.

The sDrive35is features an extremely flexible engine, with big amounts of torque readily on offer (and remember it’s a twin turbo!). It’s a brilliant overtaking machine at highway speeds. The superb engine is smooth and powerful – it’s a ripper that just loves to whip through its rev range. The power upgrade in the 35is over the already quick 35i is partly thanks to the free flowing exhaust which sounds deliciously tough, emitting an addictive ‘blurt- blurt’ as you change down gears on the excellent seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (the same gearbox available on the M3).

Not so good : An entry level 20i grade’s engine has to be pushed hard for it to feel quick. If you don’t wish to change gears yourself, the 20i and 23i grades are available with a smooth shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox – however for driving fun, we prefer the faster shifting, high tech seven-speed dual clutch transmissions on the 35i and 35is grades. The range topping sDrive35is grade is quick, however 0-100km/h freaks may find themselves struggling to match the official 0-100km/h time that BMW quotes as being 4.8secs. Why? It pauses for a fraction too long when asked to boogie from a standing start.

Ride and Handling

Good : This generation Z4’s ride and handling should appeal to a wider audience than the outgoing model which felt positioned towards a more focused, and niche, driving enthusiast owner profile. Open sweeping corners and high speed country roads suit the Z4’s capabilities well. It is now good in the old fashioned muscle car kind of way – slow into a corner and power out. The 35i and 35is grades are fun handling sports cars.

Not so good : When pushing hard through a twisty back road, it feels less poised than the class leading Porsche Boxster. Unfortunately the rear end handling feels less responsive than the almost super alert front-end in normal mode (one of the three suspension settings on the sDrive35is). Sport+ setting is far better, but the ride suffers on anything but smooth surfaces and is a touch firm if you opt for the big 19-inch alloys. We think 18″s are a smarter choice. Steering can feel overly quick at times and on narrow, twisty corners it lacks the pure communication and delicacy of our favourite steering sports cars (i.e. Lotus Evora, Porsche Boxster).

Buying and Owning

Good : This generation Z4 has moved away from the previous generations’ more niche enthusiast appeal, so a greater spectrum of buyers should now be happy to own BMW’s Roadster. It looks expensive with a hardtop roof that adds security and refinement, and to ensure safety, all new Z4s come with twin front and side/thorax airbags, an electronic stability (DSC) and traction (DTC) control system with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and cornering brake control (CBC). Fuel economy is pleasingly low considering all grades feature six cylinder petrol engines.

Not so good : Unlike the previous generation Z4, BMW no longer offer a range topping M grade, although the sDrive 35is comes very close.

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