American-spec Z4s will have the eight-speed automatic only.
We should be thrilled the new BMW Z4 even exists. After all, the premium roadster segment is not exactly the most profitable for automakers. But as we learned when speaking with BMW at Paris not long ago, the Z4 was a justifiable model in part due to the Porsche 718 Boxster and its winning formula. Sure, there's plenty of BMW roadster heritage going back decades, but Porsche proved a modern small roadster can be done right.
As we already knew, the new Z4 will be offered in the US with an eight-speed automatic transmission only. That may not please some potential buyers, but that alone shouldn't prevent them from shunning the Z4 outright.
But if they really, really want a manual-equipped Z4, they'll have to move to Europe. According to Car and Driver, a six-speed manual will be offered for the entry-level Z4 20i, a model which won't even come to the US in the first place. However, BMW claims it has not entirely ruled out a manual-equipped Z4, but it's not on the agenda right now. Also don't think that the Z4 20i is some lighter weight "purist" version because it's not.
Despite having the manual, it's powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 197 hp. To compare, the refreshed 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata now offers 181 hp and weighs just over 2,300 pounds.
Just because America isn't getting a stick shift Z4 at the moment, there's no reason to get depressed. Think about it. The new Z4 was at least engineered to handle a manual, so it's okay to keep dreaming. The Z4 options America will have are more than good enough. The base Z4 sDrive30i will come powered by that same turbo four only in a higher state of tune (255 hp). The M40i will have a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Ideally, that's the engine for the manual.