The new BMW Z4 has broadened its appeal with added comfort and luxury. We take it for a test-drive...
BMW's Z4 strategy couldn't have been better timed. Reduce complexity, broaden appeal. Thus the Z4 coupe and roadster have been replaced with a single car featuring a folding hard-top roof. A single car with added comfort and luxury - and a touch more sporting derring-do - to appeal to a wider range of buyers.
That the looks are a touch less radical is no bad thing. The outgoing Bangle-designed lines looked fantastic when the car was moving, but the 'flame surfaces' were just too try-hard the rest of the time. Its replacement gets muscular, sharply incised and characterful lines that look as good at rest as underway, and as handsome roof up or down.
That roof is quick, quiet and efficient and disrupts boot space less than expected.
Inside the handsome cabin is more driver-focussed, with opulent materials and a modern feel with classic references, like the row of circular dash-mounted dials. Nice.
NZ gets a choice of three engines when the car arrives in late June, with only the 190kW/310Nm 3.0 and 225kW/400Nm twin-turbo 3.0 available for our Great Ocean Road launch drive. All the variants feature Dynamic Drive Control as standard, which lets you opt for 'Normal' - a tad more comfy than the outgoing car's standard suspension setting - 'Sport' or 'Sport Plus'. Given the latter also cuts back stability control, and we were driving on rain and salt-slick roads, we stuck to Sport. In either car we tried it supplied an impressively compliant ride - yes, it's sporting but not harsh with it.
Our 300-or-so kilometers were spent in the 3.0, which delivered a beautiful balance of comfort, power and handling with a pleasing if subdued sound track to suit. There's a whiff of movement from the rear when you're pushing on - just enough to enhance driver appeal without getting silly.
But the twin-turbo is better. The extra power delivers an urgency to the acceleration which suits the car's persona, while the chassis is well able to cope. There's a tad more movement from the rear, a touch more liveliness from the handling, and a joi de vivre that flavoured the more demanding stretches of our second 300km, without compromising the car's refined comfort (particularly from the supportive optional sports seats) which eased the pain of an extended motorway leg.
The only flies in my ointment were a slightly too buffered soundtrack and the wind buffet - it's acceptable provided you like that ruffled look (if you don't, the optional $670 wind deflector should make a difference).
Oh yes - and there's the price. The Z4 may be more comfortable and refined than before, but it's still a toy, and it's a pricey one. The 2.5-litre manual opens the range at $86,900; the 3.5 with its efficient seven-speed double clutch auto tops it at $124,900.
Still, though this Z4 isn't as talented a sports car as the Porsche Boxster, given the straightened times its arguably broader focus could see it win admirers over more focused equivalents.