Unfortunately, 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.
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.
It's surprisingly soft and comfortable, but is that what you want from a sports car?
The Z4 drives nicely and is a comfortable cruiser on long journeys. 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.