Tonio Darmanin drives the new BMW Z4
Let’s get straight to the point – the BMW Z4 certainly means business: This is exactly what a BMW roadster must look like, this is exactly how it must drive. The Z4 is a breathtaking experience on the road appealing to all senses as a purist automobile for the connoisseur. It not only represents one side of BMW’s new design language, but also sets new roadster standards in many areas: self-confident, powerful, sporting and aesthetic, the Z4 offers extremely precise and safe handling ensuring driving pleasure of the most supreme calibre.
Through its proportions alone, the Z4 is a truly remarkable car, with a long, sleek and stretched-out engine compartment, snug cockpit wrapped around the driver and passenger, and short, muscular rear end resulting in a genuine athlete resting firmly on the road with short overhangs front and rear.
The Z4 is the first open-air BMW to feature a folding roof with a special folding mechanism. This folding mechanism takes up very little space and allows the front part of the roof to extend like a cover over the soft top, merging flush with the body of the car. As a result, the Z4 requires neither a tonneau cover nor a roof lid.
Getting into the Z4, you realise right away that this two-seater is a truly modern roadster. The two doors extending far to the back, as well as the low entry cut-outs, do not require the driver or passenger to undergo any kind of sporting exercise in reaching their seats. And once you are in your seat, you will enjoy your ideal roadster position, sitting down very low and far to the rear, behind the car’s centre of gravity and point of rotation. This ensures direct perception of all vehicle movements and, particularly in tight bends, makes for a very special experience on the road.
The seats themselves are both comfortable and ergonomic in design. Offering very good side support, they can be set to many different positions, the extremely wide range of adjustments together with significant headroom allowing even very tall and short drivers to find their ideal seating position. Particular attention has been given to minimising lift forces on the front and rear axle in order to provide perfect balance and sporting behaviour on the road.
Working carefully on aerodynamic conditions in BMW’s wind tunnel, the designers have succeeded in ensuring excellent open-air driving comfort even at high speeds, with the passenger compartment remaining relatively quiet and free of draughts.
The Z4 offers its passengers lots of convenient space: a glove compartment, two built-in pockets in the doors, and a box with a capacity of approximately ten litres in the rear bulkhead between the seats. The cover on top is locked together with the central locking, the opening mechanism is hydraulically dampened. To the right and left of this box there are two additional shelves each with a capacity of 3.7 litres, although on cars fitted with the optional HiFi system these open spaces are filled by the subwoofers.
To ensure optimum use of the luggage compartment with the roof closed, the Z4 comes with a variable roof storage compartment. Like on the 3 Series convertible, the roof compartment made of a special synthetic material can be disconnected and folded up like a box – again, a unique feature in this class increasing luggage compartment capacity in this case from 240 to 260 litres. To prevent damage to the roof or the luggage, a safety switch on the electrohydraulic roof stops the roof cover from being opened when the roof box is folded up. An aluminium railing, finally, sitting on top of the rear lid, is available for transporting large and bulky objects, for example sports equipment.
“The Z4 comes with a very special button for the particularly dedicated driver, giving the engine even more kick”
The Z4 is entering the market with prize-winning power units, BMW’s straight-six once again winning the highest awards this year in international engine contests. Appropriately, this two-seater comes with the two top-of-the-range engines, the 2.5-litre developing maximum output of 192bhp at 6,000rpm and the 3.0-litre offering maximum output of 231bhp at 5,900rpm. On the road this means performance justifying the term sports car in every respect: Acceleration from 0–100km/h comes in seven seconds and, respectively, 5.9 seconds, top speed is 235km/h and, respectively, 250km/h
The Z4 comes with a very special button for the particularly dedicated driver, giving the engine even more kick. Available as an optional extra, Dynamic Drive Control calls up maximum engine power even earlier than usual in the sports mode, engine management following an even more dynamic and sporting gas pedal control line. To reflect this enhanced response of the engine, the steering also becomes even more direct and sporting, speed-related servo assistance offered by the Electric Power Steering following an even more sporting and dynamic control map. And if the car is fitted with SMG or automatic transmission as an option, DDC revs up the gears even higher and makes the gearshift even faster.
The superior dynamics, agility and sportiness of the Z4 are also the result of the very stiff bodyshell and the supreme suspension. While the latter has been carried over in its basic configuration from the 3 Series, the suspension has been modified in its set-up, focusing on even more dynamic handling than, say, the suspension of the 3 Series coupé. As the starting point, the perfect balance of weight on the two axles provides all the ingredients for harmonious behaviour on the road. A further factor is rear-wheel drive offering decisive benefits particularly in a sports car – for example by keeping the steering absolutely free of drive forces, ensuring superb steering precision and providing absolutely clear feedback.
For the development of the Z4, BMW collaborated with Toyota who simultaneously reintroduced the much revered Supra model which will strictly come in coupe styling. The cars have a lot in common with the underpinnings coming primarily from BMW. The Z4 offers a lot of what a typical customer expects from BMW so it will be interesting to see whether Toyota has managed to create a car that will appeal to a predominantly Japanese sports car oriented audience. I should drive the Supra shortly, and I will definitely let you know.