Check it out dancing on a frozen lake.
It's pretty safe to say that the current BMW Z4 won't exactly be remembered as one of the all-time great BMW sports cars. A combination of a shift to target the Mercedes-Benz SLK instead of the Porsche Boxster and the current car being the follow-up to what was a pretty well-rounded and raw driver's car meant that the odds were stacked against the E89 Beemer almost from the off. Obviously, then, BMW needed to go back to the drawing board with its next sports car offering, and we now have our clearest look yet at what this new model will be.
Spied in heavy camouflage during winter testing in Sweden, the upcoming sports car is expected to bring the more affordable BMW performance model back to its pre-E89 roots. It's highly expected to be given a new name; in the same way the Mk I Z4 replaced the Z3, the new Beemer is tipped to be christened the Z5. As you can clearly see from the photos, the presumed-to-be BMW Z5 will ditch the current Z4's folding metal hardtop in favor of a more conventional fabric setup that will not only save more weight and keep the center of gravity lower, but also be far more visually cohesive than the awkward-looking hardtop system on the current Z4. Put simply, reverting to a fabric top is a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Word is that BMW's also got plenty of tricks up its sleeve to put the Z5 at the top of the sports car pecking order. The platform underpinning it, for instance, is derived from the same aluminum/carbon-fiber chassis that first appeared in the current 7 Series, so we can expect the Z5 to weigh substantially less than the almost-3,300lb E89 Z4. A range of four-cylinder and six-cylinder petrol engines are also in the pipelines, and it's also highly expected that an M3/M4-sourced 3-liter straight-six will be used in the Z5 variants that take the fight to higher-end rivals like the Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911 Carrera S. If that wasn't enough to whet your appetite for a new BMW sports car, BMW Blog even reports that there's going to be a hybrid model.
Being smothered in camo paint and extra bodywork cladding, it's quite hard to say exactly what the BMW Z5 will look like with certainty. However, the cues we can point out suggest the finished product should be a cross between the current Z4 and recent BMW concept cars like the CSL Hommage, with some other details sourced from other models sprinkled about for good measure. We'll find out for certain sometime closer to the Z5's initial reveal in roadster guise in 2017 (a hardtop spin-off will be unveiled a year or so later) and, as this is one of a range of sports cars being co-developed with Toyota (word is the next GT86 will also have input from BMW), the upcoming spiritual Supra successor shouldn't be far off either.