The engines are efficient and willing, the looks are still stunning and the feeling you get behind the wheel still makes you feel twenty years younger. Maturing extremely well, this, it seems, is a Z that remains very hard to catch.
Back at its original launch in 2009, the Munich maker set itself quite a challenge with this car. After all, the company’s marketing stance as builder of ‘the ultimate driving machine’ seemed unlikely to be underlined by equipping its affordable roadster for the first time with a heavy folding metal roof.
That metal-folding roof tells you a lot about BMW’s target market for this model. If it had been gunning primarily for Boxster buyers, then the Bavarians might have been able to resist the fashionable demand for automotive metal tops that flip down like Swiss army knives. As it was, they felt that the Z4 simply had to have one to properly compete. And as usual, their design team did the best possible job with the tools available. By early 2013 though, newer rivals were stealing the limelight in the roadster sector, hence the introduction of this updated model.
This may be a fashionable roadster but it isn’t a car for ladies who lunch. Slip into the low-slung seat and drop the roof and your eyes are virtually on a level with the long, vented bonnet. It certainly feels like the real deal, especially if you’ve a growly six cylinder engine plumbed in up-front.
There's virtually no body roll and in the dry at least, you rarely run out of grip. The brakes are great too. On the downside, the manual gearshift action could be a little smoother and it’s a pity that the steering doesn’t have a bit more feel though, at least it’s accurate and always enables you to place the car precisely. This car has to satisfy coupe and roadster buyers so roof up, refinement has to be peerless: it is. Roof-down of course, it’s very different but many will see the blustery feel as part of the fun of owning a car of this kind. Four wheels, two seats and a big engine. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Like any classic roadster, more than half the length is given over to the engine, which is one reason why there’s only space enough for a couple of passengers.
BMW has been building roadsters for over 80 years – and it shows with the improved second generation Z4, a model that’s matured extremely well, slowly and methodically developing into an all-rounder that's tough to beat. As for the most recent changes made to the line-up, well, slotting in this affordable model at the entry-level point has certainly kept the Z4 relevant to customers with tighter budgets and while 156bhp might not instantly bring to mind an 'Ultimate Driving Machine', even that model has enough about it to entertain. Further up the range of course, power is plentiful and if you like your aural fireworks, the in-line six cylinder variants sound glorious.
What it all means is that though the Z4 might not be the first car you look at when choosing a sports roadster, look at it you must. It's now just too good not to.