Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Road Test: 2010 BMW Z4

2010 BMW Z4.

2010 BMW Z4

Even though we were waist high in acid wash denim and the world was dancing to the sounds of Madonna and Michael Jackson, there was little to groove about in the car business. Mazda changed all of that with the introduction of the Miata, late in 1989. After its success, the 90s saw the floodgates open with a whole raft of roadsters like the Mercedes Benz SLK, to the Porsche Boxster and the BMW Z3. The Z3 made way for the Z4 and now we have the latest second generation Z4. Many of the 90s cars were very basic and almost crude by today's standards. This new Z4 is light years ahead of the original Z3, with more power, better control and a slick new retractable hardtop.

2010 BMW Z4.

2010 BMW Z4.

The Skin

I've been hard on BMW for their styling over the last several years. I feel that BMW lost its way with awkwardly styled cars like the previous BMW 7 Series, the current 5 Series and the last Z4. Former BMW head designer Chris Bangle was pushing the envelope with fashion-forward designs. The fact that the latest designs have returned to the sophisticated and athletic cars I have always loved from BMW is proof that they went too far. This latest Z4 is stunning. The very long nose, improved taillights and clean side profile is sculpted to resemble the impressive BMW Z8. Gone are the side creases and other attempts to make the Z4 edgy. It didn't need any of that; the basic shape exudes sex appeal and speed. The Z4 is sold with 17-inch wheels but larger 18 or 19-inch wheels are offered.

The Cockpit

Before focusing on the interior, the new retractable hardtop must be mentioned. This slick unit is automatically operated and stores neatly into the trunk. One would expect that there would be absolutely no storage when the roof is down but, remarkably, there is a useful space. Because run-flat tires have been used, there is no spare tire, so more space can be dedicated to the trunk. The cabin is simple and refreshing and a major improvement from the last Z4. Once again influences from the Z8 show up with rotary dials for the heat, fan and ventilation controls, plus a retro styled steering wheel. The stark and unattractive dash in the older model has been improved, with plenty of aluminum trim and soft touch materials. The seats are very supportive but they sit very low in the car so getting in and out requires that the driver and passenger slide in and out.

The Ride

What sets this latest Z4 apart from BMW roadsters of old is the inclusion of the same 3.0L turbo 6-cylinder, which has won several engineering awards (International engine of the year for 2007 and 2008) and is used extensively in other BMW products. This 300hp engine, along with the new 7-speed double clutch automatic turns a nice touring car into a bullet on wheels; BMW claims a run to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds. When the transmission is shifted manually, with the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, there is no perceivable delay in shifts up or down. The only sensation is a beautiful exhaust gurgle, the same kind of sound heard on a racing car. This along with the ability to select driving settings for the suspension, engine, steering and suspension can transform the Z4 from a rocket to relaxing with the touch of a button. For buyers who don't require all-out performance the base Z4 is fitted with a very lively 3.0L 6-cylinder with 255hp.

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