2016 BMW Z4 Roadster

2017 BMW Z4 Review

by CarBuzz

Everything You Need To Know

It's a good car, but the BMW Z4 isn't a very up-to-date one.

BMW is no slouch when it comes to making cars that go quickly and are somehow still luxurious in nature. The new BMW Z4 is no exception, as it's packed with engine options, cutting-edge technology and brilliant features. However, where the BMW falls short against its rivals could be enough to steer prospective sports-car enthusiasts away and towards other, more advanced contenders like the Porsche 718 Boxster. That said, the BMW is a classic, but there's only so far that aspect will take it.

2016 BMW Z4 Roadster Models

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
sDrive28i Roadster
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
6-Speed Manual
Rear-Wheel Drive
sDrive35i Roadster
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
sDrive35is Roadster
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo Inline-6 Gas
7-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive

See all Trims and Specs

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Classic BMW… not necessarily an attractive thing

The interior is big for a roadster, with plenty of elbow room and a big steering wheel.

BMW's Z4 as a two-seater sports car sides with luxury. The interior is big for a roadster, with plenty of elbow room and a big steering wheel. It's covered in leather almost no matter what trim is picked. One thing that seems to be dragging the BMW Z4 down is that it looks reminiscent of older BMWs, that is to say the Z4 seems out dated. Just because it might seem outdated isn't a bad thing, though. BMW interior, for at least the first 100,000 miles feels solid and impervious, and that doesn't go away with the Z4. There's also lots of cool optional features that come with the Z4, like satellite navigation on a big touch screen mounted in the dashboard and standard features like 10-way adjustable memory seats, a glove box and a neat, intuitive climate control system. Like most other BMWs, the Z4 has a lot of crazy little gadgets like sun-reflective technology, to make the car a little cooler during hot summer days. Of course we can't mention a new BMW without bringing up the iDrive, but it's come a long way since the early 2000s, and is a lot less clumsy and confusing than it used to be.

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Practicality wise, the BMW is not bad at all.

Again, some things about the BMW's Z4's interior seems outdated, when compared to other cars that it's up against. The Z4's gigantic screen propped up out of the dashboard seems primitive while considering what Audi have come up with. In the new Audi TT convertible, there is a screen for navigation and finding what songs to listen to (among other things), but it's mounted in front of the driver behind the steering wheel where gauges and other instruments like the rev counter would be, but it's all neatly organized on the screen thus freeing the dashboard. Practicality wise, the BMW is not bad at all. There are lots of little storage cubbies, including the aforementioned glove box, and in the 8 cubic feet trunk has enough space to accomodate couple medium sized duffle bags. Of course, don't count on that being sustainable space as the convertible hard top roof when retracted takes up more than half of the trunk.

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It’s not entirely sporty but it is comfortable

Visibility in the Z4 is better than most roadsters.

BMW boasts the Z4 as a sports car with near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, which makes it a decent car to drive. Thanks to this design, along with suspension that is on the softer side, the Z4 doesn't offer a lot of body roll and with its steering makes the driver more connected to the car. This adds up to a nice, comfortable smooth ride quality. Thanks to little things like skinnier rear pillars and smaller triangle-shaped windows that sit behind the driver and passenger's windows, visibility in the Z4 is better than most roadsters. All of this, does not a sporty car make. BMWs do offer quick sharp steering, but even the sports cars can't get away from the feeling of luxury and refinement, and that executive business man attitude. If the comfort of the Z4 is what's desired, what makes it possible for the Z4 to provide a such may come down to its adaptive suspension, an option for the Z4. This is a dynamic suspension system that changes various aspects of the suspension according to the environment, to preserve comfort while driving. The Z4 can come with stiffer suspension as well, as part of its M Sport package.

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The Z4 comes with what BMW is calling Cornering Brake Control.

There's something unshakable about how the BMW behaves though, and for this modern era of sports cars, with the technology and knowledge readily available, it's not impossible to design a car to do exactly what is expected. The Porsche 718 is thought to be much sportier than the Z4, for things that seem simple and expected for most of today's sports cars. It's got a mid-mounted engine which creates more balance while driving, and all the while it keeps a comfortable ride with its suspension that is sporty yet able to soak up bumps in the road with relative ease. It seems that BMW has just simply missed the mark by a hair. That isn't to say the BMW is without standard German engineering. The Z4 comes with what BMW is calling Cornering Brake Control, a system designed to eliminate oversteer while in a turn, by modulating the brake pressure going to each wheel.

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Engine options run rampant

There are three trim levels for the Z4, the sDrive28i, 35i and 35is, each with a different engine.

The BMW might be lacking in modern style, but what it certainly is not lacking are engine options. There are three trim levels for the Z4, the sDrive28i, 35i and 35is, each with a different engine and quite considerable advantages in horsepower output, each one turbocharged. The 28i comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, producing 240-hp. Not bad for a car that weighs more than 3,000 pounds. The 35i comes with a 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine, and that gives the driver a whopping 300-hp while the 35is, a 3.0-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine, produces more than 330-hp (for comparison, the Porsche 718 starts with 300-hp in its base model, where the entry-level Audi TT has a far more modest 220-hp on tap). So, power makes the BMW Z4 good competition for the Porsche and Audi. The BMW Z4 equipped with 240-hp is no slouch, even though it has the smaller number. It produces 260-lb ft of torque, and according to BMW right at 1250 rpm. That gives it a lot of thrust almost from the get-go, and it doesn't stop pushing the BMW until 4800 rpm. Better still, this particular engine is claimed to be 20% more efficient than the BMW Z4s with the six-cylinder engines, which will be of worth to buyers who plan on using their car as a daily driver.

A six-speed manual transmission is only available in the base trim.

BMW decided to go lean on transmission flexibility. A six-speed manual transmission is only available in the base trim, the 28i, where as in the other two trim levels the driver is forced to deal with a seven-speed automatic transmission. This is a huge downside to BMW's Z4 lineup, as with the Porsche 718 no matter which trim, the Boxster or Boxster S, there is an option for a manual transmission. It's not as bad of a downside as what Audi has to offer, as the TT Roadster only comes with one engine option and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

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What dos the BMW have to offer?

It's a stylishly outdated sports car, yes, but the car also comes packed with technology that doesn't cease to impress.

The Z4 is a BMW, and therefore is going to be expensive. The Z4 starts at a staggering $49,700 for the base 28i trim level. It jumps about $8-9,000 per trim level, so the 35i starts at $57,000 and the 35is at $66,350. It's at this point that the driver must decide what they are paying for when considering the Z4. It's a stylishly outdated sports car, yes, but the car also comes packed with technology that doesn't cease to impress. Euro NCAP released safety ratings for the BMW, which came out to a disconcerting 3/5 stars, much lower than the Mazda MX-5's accomplished five-star rating. Not enough BMW Z4 models are made for the NHTSA to demand a crash test, but the Z4 is loaded with lots of safety features, including airbags in nearly every crevice, anti-lock brakes and traction control. All of these are legally standard but are welcome additions to any modern sports car with 300 horsepower. The cornering brake control counts as a safety feature as well. The Porsche 718 Boxster does come with its own fire extinguisher though.

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Reliability in the BMW Z4 is likely to be better.

Reliability-wise, the BMW Z4 should stand up to at least 100,000 virtually care-free miles, pending any surprise issues that may crop up. J.D. Power and Associates puts the Z4 between "average" and "better than most" under its reliability rating. It doesn't have some of the new technology that the Audi TT or the Porsche 718 Boxster have, so reliability in the BMW Z4 is likely to be better.

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As a sports car, it’s OK…

We'll say first off that the Z4 is a luxurious car, and while it is technically a sports car the interior is not cramped or small, there's a lot of horsepower at the ready and some of the technology is truly impressive. However, is it a sporty sports car? Not really. In a sports car, there's some connection with the driver and the road, and the BMW Z4 accomplishes this with its steering and acceleration, and grip. But other cars do it a lot better, and for a lot less money. If a driver is after the purest example of a sports car, the Z4 might not meet their expectations. However, if the driver is after a comfortable, two-seater that is plenty quick then the Z4 might be the car to choose. With that in mind, in the interest of keeping the sportiness as intact as possible, we recommend going with the base model, the 28i. It's got plenty of power, has an impressive power curve, is the lightest model and while it doesn't have other features like adaptive suspension, it does have a manual transmission.

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BMW Z4 Roadster Popular Comparisons

BMW Z4 Roadster