£29,695 - £47,915 Price range
30 - 41 MPG
Overall, BMW’s distinctive Z4 gets pretty good reviews from the experts. Unlike the previous model, which was offered as either a soft top or a coupe, the latest model is a convertible with a folding hardtop roof. Effectively then, you get the best of both worlds: the security of a coupe combined with the open-top fun of a cabriolet.
It’s sharply styled and a pleasant enough to drive, but not as involving as rivals like the Porsche Boxster so not quite the enthusiasts’ car the motoring press was hoping for. It does however, have it’s charms, so it’s well worth reading on to see what the testers think.
BMW is reportedly working with Toyota to develop a shared platform that will underpin the Z4’s replacement. Take a look at how this new BMW Z5 could look in our full price, specs and release date article.
Testers are positive about the Z4’s innards, now a much more refined and upmarket interior than the previous Z4. It’s attractive and well laid-out, with a comfortable, low, driving position. One or two testers suggest that the wheel rim is perhaps a little too thick, which is a issue raised with many BMW models. It divides opinion, so it is best to try it for yourself.
Also unlike the previous Z4, this model is a drop-top only, but with a folding metal roof to mix the best of both worlds. It disappears behind you in 20 seconds, though does reduce the boot space from 310 to 180 litres. With the roof down, testers say there is both too much wind buffeting and scuttle shake.
Unfortunately for BMW, despite being a far more involving car to drive than the previous model, the Z4 isn’t quite up to challenging the Porsche Boxster’s handling and balance. However, it’s still a decent drive, and it’s certainly a comfortable cruiser. On rare occasions, when equipped with larger diameter wheels the Z4 can be caught off-guard by bumps, but in general, ride quality is praised.
Overall, testers find it fun to drive, but lacking that element of interaction and excitement you’d hope for from a sports car, especially one with the BMW badge up front.
All Z4s are available with either a six speed manual gearbox, or one of two automatic ‘boxes, depending on the model. The top 35is model can be supplied with a dual clutch auto, which offers lightning fast shifts via paddles mounted behing the steering wheel. Lesser models in the range, meanwhile, are equipped with a smooth shifting eight speed automatic, which suits the character of the car well.
There is a choice of three engines in the Z4, from the “entry level” 20i sDrive with 184hp, to a twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight six which offers 340bhp. When equipped with the optional dual clutch transmission, the more powerful (and confusingly titled) 35is sDrive gets to 60mph in 4.8 seconds and hits the limiter at 155mph. The 35is is very quick, sounds great and has a fast-shifting dual-clutch gearbox.
Sitting between these two models is the 28is sDrive, which thanks to a twin-turbo 2.0-litre engine will take only a few tenths longer to hit 60mph than the 35is, yet is nearly 10mpg more economical. Even the basic Z4 is a decent drive according to testers, but the engine needs to be worked hard, and lacks a little character. On the plus side, it does achieve over 41mpg.
We aggregate and summarise the most helpful BMW Z4 20i reviews from the best publications.
BMW has a tradition of equipping its sportier models with a revvy and musical straight-six engine, but recent times and concerns over improving fuel economy now means a turbocharged four-cylinder is the order of the day.
That’s what you’ll find under the bonnet in the Z4 20i sDrive, and though it offers good performance (under 7 seconds to 60mph) and very impressive economy (41.5mpg on the combined cycle), it doesn’t quite offer what the keen driver needs…
Testers are a little disappointed by the sound, which simply isn’t as interesting as a straight-six would be. It also isn’t as keen to rev. It’s not all bad though - it’s refined, and thanks to that turbocharger there’s good torque available low-down, so it pulls keenly. Of course, keen pricing will make this an attractive option for those looking to get into BMW’s sports car.This is the cheapest engine in the Z4 but the reviews are still fairly good. The experts say it's fast but you do need to work the manual box to get it go quick. The reviews say it sounds reasonably sporty, but has a slightly artificial noise.
Compared to the pricier engines it's not as much fun, but it's still worth going for the sDrive20i if you don't want to spend so much. It's also a lot more efficient, so running costs will be a lot lower.
We aggregate and summarise the most helpful BMW Z4 28i reviews from the best publications.
Just as 20i has replaced 23i, 28i replaces 30i in the BMW Z4 line-up. And just as with the less powerful engine, the new 28i uses a turbocharged four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine to produce its power. It actually matches the 20i on fuel economy at 41.5mpg, so if you can spare the extra four grand or so to get the 28i, it could be worth it for the 155mph performance on offer.
So far there's only three reviews for the 28i, but they all say it's a great engine that's powerful and relatively economical.
Critics are very positive about the 28i. They describe a smooth, powerful engine, with no noticeable turbo lag, and keen responses, which makes it fun to drive quickly. It’s not even bad to drive slowly either - one tester commenting that he drove it like a diesel, changing gear early for a while, and it was more than happy to oblige. Testers say it even sounds okay, even if some of that sound is artificially created.
With 306bhp, a 0-60mph time of a little over 5 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mpg, you already know that the 35i has a decent turn of pace. You may also have seen, looking at the circa-30mpg economy, that for a car with such performance it’s relatively inexpensive to run.
What you might not know, is that despite its six-cylinder layout as found in all great BMWs, that testers aren’t overly enamoured with the noise it makes - perhaps silenced by the twin turbochargers - or that it seems a bit happier when cruising, rather than flat out.
On the plus side, that means it’s very refined - again, the silencing effect of two turbochargers probably helps, or that the dual-clutch gearbox is fast and smooth, even if some reviewers found the steering wheel-mounted paddles a little fiddly.
“is” is a good combination of letters for a BMW, and has been seen on the back of some fun vehicles in the past. As the most powerful Z4 (and remaining so, in the absence of a Z4 M), and with 335bhp on offer, the engine certainly goes down well with testers, even if the car itself isn’t always class-leading.
Drivers say it sounds great (finally getting that BMW rasp of old), there’s plenty of torque (more so than the old Z4 M), and thanks to the twin turbochargers, zero turbo lag. That gives it the sort of responses you’d hope for in a sports car, but without sacrificing much in the way of refinement when you’re driving at a more sedate pace. It’s also decently economical, at 31.4mpg on average.
Whether it’s worth buying or not is a different matter - at least one tester says the excellent engine is a bit too much for the chassis.
The 23i has actually been replaced by the less-powerful 20i now as the entry-level model in the Z4 range. While the 20i has moved to an efficient, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine, the 23i is more old-school BMW: A 2.5-litre, six-cylinder, without the benefits of forced induction.
That means that unlike the model that replaced it, the 23i has a great exhaust note, and is more than happy to spin all the way to the redline. It also produced more power, at 201bhp, and was a couple of tenths quicker over the 0-60mph sprint. However, the main reason it was replaced was efficiency. At 33.2mpg it’s a good 8mpg less economical than the 20i, and you’ll pay £80 a year more for road tax, too, at £245.
Reviewers were actually very positive about this engine though, so it could be worth seeking out a used Z4 23i and using the money you saved to pay for road tax and petrol…
This engine is no longer on sale, it has been replaced by the 28i which is more powerful and more economical.
When crash-tested by Euro NCAP in 2015, the Z4 scored three out of five stars. The reason it lags behind the rest of the five-star BMW range is that it doesn’t have the latest active and passive safety systems such as automatic city braking, blind-spot alert or lane assist.
Nonetheless, the actual scores for passenger and driver protection were on par with other BMW models, so it should still be plenty safe in the event of a crash. It just won’t help you avoid it.
The range kicks off at under £30k for the 20i sDrive, which is an important psychological barrier and will make the basic model seem good value. That price puts it on par with the Audi TT 2.0 TFSI roadster, and cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes-Benz SLK.
Regardless of which engine you choose, fuel economy and emissions are very respectable, which means low running costs and road tax. Equipment levels are high, and the optional fixed price service plan that BMW offers can further sweeten the deal. Residuals are strong, too.
However, the further you creep up the Z4 price range, more involving rivals like the Porsche Boxster become a consideration. The lure of added driving involvement and the Porsche badge seem like pretty good reasons to overlook the BMW.
It’s fair to say that some testers are a little disappointed with the Z4’s softer side and most would pick the Porsche Boxster over it, but at the same time, it’s still a good car. It’s plenty quick enough, refined, and well-built, and the strong economy means that it can even be justified as a moderately sensible purchase.
If all you’re after is a stylish cruiser with a premium badge, rather than something that behaves like an out-and-out performance machine, the BMW is certainly well worth considering.