by Karl Furlong
The BMW Z4 delivers everything you'd expect of that famous roundel on its nose. As a luxury brand with a sporting bent, the Z4 admirably adheres to the BMW brief. It's posh enough inside to match rivals like the Audi TT Roadster and defunct Mercedes-Benz SLC, yet is sufficiently dynamically gifted so that a potential Porsche 718 Boxster customer might give it a second look. This doesn't make it a Jack of all trades and master of none, though - not when the range is topped by that exceptional 382-horsepower 3.0-liter turbo inline-six that can slingshot the M40i model to 60 mph in below four seconds. On the downside, it looks a bit polarizing, which is more of an issue in this corner of the market than most, and the Z4's steering feel falls far short of its Boxster rival. Still, the Z4 is a quick, lively, and upscale roadster that BMW fans will love, even if it hasn't revolutionized the segment.
The 2022 BMW Z4 Roadster is mostly a carryover model from last year but it has lost a few features. Strangely, wireless charging is no longer available as an option and ambient lighting is no longer standard either. In other news, the Driving Assistance package can now be ordered separately and is no longer part of the Convenience or Premium packages.
The base model BMW Z4 has seen a small $200 price increase in the US for 2022, while the six-cylinder variant retains the same starting MSRP. That means that the BMW Z4 will cost $49,900 for the sDrive30i and $63,700 for the M40i. These prices exclude a destination charge of $995 and plenty of optional extras that can add thousands to the final price of the BMW Z4.
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The previous-gen Z4 had gone a bit soft, but the latest version has far superior handling and body control. Quick steering endows the Z4 with sprightly reactions when changing direction, and there is loads of lateral grip. It helps that the Z4 has an ideal 50:50 weight distribution. Switch over to Sport Mode, and it is an absorbing roadster to drive quickly. It never quite approaches the delicacy of the Porsche Boxster, though, and not much is communicated through the steering wheel, which is more disappointing here than in a 5 Series. Despite that lighter soft-top roof, it feels a bit heavier than is ideal for a truly agile experience, but a less demanding test drive is unlikely to disappoint.
On the highway, the Z4 impresses with its reassuring straight-line stability. While the ride is taut, the suspension deals with road scars pretty well. It's surprisingly refined in the cabin, too, and that applies to whether the roof is up or down, which is saying a lot for a convertible. Braking power is top-notch even if smoothly bringing the Z4 to a stop at low speeds isn't always easy, with the system prone to grabbiness. Overall, the Z4 is easy to live with about town and enjoyable when the speeds rise and the road clears.
The current Z4 is a worthy drop-top to carry on the proud legacy of BMW's Z roadsters. As is often the case with a BMW, the powertrains and driving experience stand out as particularly good; the Z4 is entertaining to drive fast but has a broad spread of talents that make it quite comfortable, too. The well-designed cabin means that even larger-framed individuals can enjoy the thrill of open-top motoring, and although BMW could be more generous with standard driver aids, the Z4 is reasonably specified in base form. If you require the security of an all-wheel-drive system or prefer to shift gears yourself, the Z4 won't cater to your needs as well as some of the competition, but there's nothing wrong with that slick auto 'box. Although the Porsche Boxster has an even sweeter chassis, the more affordable BMW is far from outclassed and is well worth a look as a fun and brilliantly engineered roadster.
Even though there is a price difference of over $13,000 between the two Z4s on offer, it's possible to bridge this gap with a fully loaded sDrive30i. So, would we rather have an sDrive30i with all the bells and whistles or an sDrive M40i with fewer gizmos but that glorious six-cylinder engine? It's a fairly easy decision - the M40i wins every time. That six-pot is so good that it elevates the driving experience to another level that's hard to resist. Of course, if you can't stretch to the M40i, the base model with a few extras that keep the price to under $55,000 is an attractive alternative. We'd spec ours with the Driving Assistance Package and the heated seats, making this a thoroughly enjoyable roadster, too.
Despite the objections from both BMW and Toyota fans that these two cars share their powertrains and platform, the end result is substantially different. The Supra is more of an all-out sports car, whereas the BMW has a premium veneer that caters to a more fashion-conscious crowd that won't necessarily be driving on the limit all the time. Of course, the Supra is a coupe, whereas the BMW can drop its roof at the touch of a button. The Toyota is much more affordable, with the base 3.0-liter inline-six barely costing more than the four-cylinder Z4, so it's easily the bang for buck victor between these two. A lighter weight contributes to the Supra being a more exciting car to fling through the corners. However, the BMW has the classier interior of the two and features a larger infotainment display. For the sheer joy of driving, we'd take the Supra, but the BMW has undeniable brand cachet, and, for many, this will be enough to side with the Z4.
The mid-engined Porsche 718 Boxster has been the dynamic benchmark for such a long time, it's hard to remember when anything ran it close in this aspect, and the Z4 can't change that. As good as the BMW is, the Boxster is lighter on its feet, more communicative, and feels more agile, plus it is available with a lovely manual gearbox. But it's the BMW that provides nicer engines for less money. The base Boxster has more power than the Z4 sDrive30i, though, with 300 hp to 255. When you aren't wringing these cars' necks, the BMW also offers the advantage of a quieter, plusher, and better-built cabin. It's better specified, too, as Porsche offers very few safety features as standard, and they're all seriously pricey options. This one is a tough call as the BMW comes across as the better all-rounder, but the Boxster is just so talented on the road that we'd happily forgive its few flaws.
The most popular competitors of 2022 BMW Z4 Roadster: