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Up until recently, BMW Z4 customers could have chosen between the soft-topped, Roadster and the Coupe version - but not anymore. The new BMW Z4 is the first BMW Roadster to have a retractable hard-top and, with the combined option of a 'drop-top' and the security and looks of a coupe, it serves to replace both.

Recent television advertisements have portrayed BMW as the 'maker of joy', which some might think is typically pretentious of the marque. Furthermore, the information pack is full of hyperbole but, even more irritating, is the fact that in the case of the BMW Z4, at least, it is true. The words superb, superior and supreme really do apply to many aspects of this new car.

The BMW Z4 is built in classic Roadster style and proportions and that generally means a lengthy bonnet. In some modern Roadsters the driver sits amidships as part of the balancing act that affects the feel and dynamics of the car. However, in the new BMW Z4 the driver sits very much closer to the rear axle of this long wheelbase car - that is about 2/3 of the way towards the rear. The seating position makes the bonnet seem extremely long, even if you can't see most of it. In fact, it is very long, slightly domed and low-slung; in short, it is imposing both from the outside and behind the steering wheel.

The strong swage lines flow between the individual components in a fluid manner. A good example is the crease line that starts either side of the famous kidney grille and moves outwards forming the inner edge of the headlight clusters before emphasising the broadness of the bonnet on its way to the angled door handles. It is the various design lines that create the bold, wide, impression at the rear and an overall sense of movement.

The new, two-piece roof is so well integrated into the body design that, as mentioned, it does away with the need for a separate BMW Z4 Coupe. Not only does the aluminium hard-top offer extra security but also the inevitable insulation from the elements and road noise. Furthermore, it takes just 20 seconds to go from cosy coupe to as much air conditioning as you can handle, with just a press of a button at the base of the centre console.

With the BMW Z4's new roof comes better all-round visibility through slightly larger windows including the heated, glass, rear windscreen. There is a separate, folding wind deflector, which is kept in the boot. It slots in between the roll-over protection hoops and does a good job of diminishing the blustery conditions within the cabin. A plus point is that it doesn't impinge on the roof if left in place but it does affect rearward visibility.

The BMW Z4's roof has a peculiar opening choreography in that the rear window panel moves first and rises above the main, overhead section before the rest of the electro-hydraulic dance completes and the roof sinks sedately into the boot space. Here it is separated from the main luggage space by a stiff but moveable cover. When the roof is open the boot capacity is 180-litres and this increases to 310-litres when it is raised. For golfers, there is the option of a ski-flap load-through panel between the seats, which is said to accommodate a golfbag or two, depending on the roof position.

Aside from the 10-litre glovebox, there are some alternative storage solutions within the BMW Z4's cabin; the fold-out door bins for instance, and the oddments trays and compartments on the central tunnel. There is also a useable shelf that runs the full width of the car, behind the seats and, the optional Storage Package allows objects stored there to be held in place by a net. The package also includes a similar restraining net in the passenger's footwell, fastening belts in the boot, a storage bin in the bulkhead and two cup-holders under the central armrest.

The latest BMW Z4 is larger than the previous models, which allows for fractionally more interior space, aided by a certain amount of clever packaging. It is not exactly spacious inside but neither is it cramped. Besides any minor annoyances (should you find any) you can be easily overwhelmed by the smart leather interior, which is standard on the top, two trim and engine combinations. There is a choice of three colours and whichever colour is used on the seating, is carried over to the lower part of the dashboard, the door and the central armrest. There is also the option of having the upper part of the fascia in black leather, too.

The interior of the test car was finished in an exclusive BMW Z4 design line - Pure White. The sports seats are covered in Ivory White, fine, Nappa leather with Alcantara suede panels, which are echoed in the door panels. All complimented by Fineline Anthracite wood trim to the doors and central consoles.
With the new model comes some changes to the interior, making it even more driver-oriented. The three-spoke, steering wheel is exclusive to the BMW Z4, as are the circular instrument dials and air-conditioning controls.

Another 'first' for the BMW Z4 is the inclusion of the BMW iDrive control system. For the uninitiated, the iDrive is something of a 'universal controller' for audio, navigation and car functions amongst others. Simply put, it is a dial that sits on the tunnel console that allows changes to be made to the various functions, simply by a rotating and nudging through the menus and pressing to okay. Along with this comes a full-colour screen that rises majestically out of the upper dashboard, when the key is inserted into the slot and the start button is pressed.

The BMW Z4 trim levels are somewhat dependent on the engine size, of which there is a choice of three and all of them have a straight six configuration, driving the rear wheels.

The starting point is the £28,650 BMW Z4 sDrive23i. It houses a 2.5-litre engine with VALVETRONIC and double-vanos, which I'll come back to. The list of core features is lengthy and includes: dual-zone air-conditioning with a micro-filter, a rake-and reach-adjustable steering column, cloth upholstery, AUX port together with BMW Professional radio and single CD player, an on-board computer, soft-close boot lid, twin tail-pipes and fog lights amongst other things.

The BMW Z4 isn't lacking in electronic wizardry and safety systems, either. The Dynamic Stability Control, for instance comprises ABS with EBD, Automatic Stability Control, Brake Assist, Cornering Brake Control, Dynamic Brake Control, Dynamic Traction Control and Hill Start Assist. The list doesn't end there; the passenger seat has ISOFIX anchors, there is a Tyre Pressure Monitoring system for the run-flat, low rolling resistance, tyres.

There is so much that you can end up wondering just who is in the driving seat. Alternatively, you can embrace the technology, adapt it to suit yourself and enjoy the ride.

With such a comprehensive list, it is little wonder that the £32,665, BMW Z4 sDrive30i adds just leather upholstery, automatic wipers and lights and auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The sDrive30i is powered by a 3.0-litre version of the double-vanos engine, which might sound like another name for a turbo but it isn't.

Both of these units are normally aspirated with VALVETRONIC, variable valve management and two vanos units, whose job it is to control the intake and exhaust valve angles for flexibility while simultaneously doing away with the need for a throttle 'butterfly'.

The extra capacity is the difference between 204- and 258PS and 250- and 310Nm of torque. Both come with a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard but a 6-speed automatic 'box with sequential-change is available as a £1,765 option.

BMW Z4 Roadtest
The BMW Z4 sDrive35i is the top of the range, priced at £37,065 and worth every penny. In fact in a game of guess the price, I got it very wrong, thinking it was around £20,000 more expensive. The extra £4,400 over the 30i buys some special, 17-inch alloys, brushed aluminium interior trimmings, chrome garnishing to the front grille and matt aluminium air-intake slats together with electronic seat adjustment with memory functions for the driver.

It also has a 3.0-litre engine but this unit does have a turbo - two, in fact, along with High Precision Injection. The gearbox option in this case is a 7-speed Double Clutch Transmission (DCT) with steering-wheel-mounted paddles and launch control for just £1,810.

The DCT system was in the BMW Z4 test car and, as expected, the gear changes were very smooth, both in fully automatic and the mix and match paddle and sequential shift. Not only that, but the 7-speed transmission makes the car slightly faster than the standard version.

The 0-62mph sprint is just 5.1 seconds instead of 5.2 seconds; however, the top speed in both cases is electronically limited to 155mph. The engine outputs 306PS (225kW) at 5,800rpm and no less than 400Nm of torque between 1,300 and 5,000rpm. It starts way down in diesel territory because one of the turbos adds boost at lower speeds and the other comes in at a later stage. So good is this engine that it has been voted Engine of the Year, twice.

Despite appearances, the EfficientDynamics ethos applies to the BMW Z4, too; the highlights of which are tailored to suit each engine. The result is seen in the fuel consumption figures, which are better than they have a right to be. Those for the test car are posted as; 22mpg for the urban cycle, 41mpg for the extra-urban and 31mpg for the combined with a CO2 emission rate of 210g/km.

There are three settings to the Dynamic Drive Control, all available at the push of a button. Normal is just that and likely to return somewhere near the official fuel economy figures. Sport offers more direct steering and quicker responses to the accelerator pedal suspension while Sport+ activates the Dynamic Traction Control system allowing for a bit of controlled drift on bends.

All in all, the balance and suspension is superb. The steering might be quite as focussed as some others of this ilk but it is by a minor degree. The agility and dynamics will have you grinning, in accordance with the 'maker of joy' slogan and, if you go and take a test drive, within seconds you'll be saying to yourself, "it really shouldn't be this easy"

source: carpages

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