Sports cars and roadsters are usually rich kids’ toys and not really purchased for any practical use, more so in a developing economy like India. And therefore out of all the super luxury vehicles in the sub continent, the number of buyers in this category is most limited. BMW probably knew this when it first brought the Z4 sDrive35i roadster here in 2009 but the car continues to be a part of its line-up and the facelift version was also launched in October 2013.
The 2979 cc 6 cylinder petrol engine mated to 7-speed automatic transmission churns out 302 bhp of peak power and 40.8 kgm of torque. An upgraded version in form of sDrive35is with 335 bhp and 45.88 kgm torque was also launched with the facelift but the model did not come to India. So while the specs of that 3 litre engine remain the same for Z4 sDrive35i, there are mild updates in its looks and cabin features to make it more tempting.
With a starting price of Rs 70.90 lakhs (ex showroom, Delhi) and a small cabin just for two, the Z4 still has very few takers but it’s the performance on account of a powerful engine that adds to its appeal. The ones who have an undying passion for sporty roadsters, the wisdom to drive safe, and money to spend on high-end luxuries will be interested in the forte of Z4. It will also be good to know how strongly does it compete with close rivals Porsche Boxster and Mercedes SLK Class.
The Updated Exteriors
This is a mild facelift and so there are no striking differences in the external design of the car. You will see an updated front bumper that appears more edgy now. The sharp and curvy shape of the new headlamps adds an aggressive look to the Z4’s front. The LED corona rings and daytime running lights in the headlamp units give them superior luminosity. With stretched kidney grille, the swage lines on the hood and that long snout, this BMW roadster has potential to draw attention even as it stands in a parking lot.
The new side blinkers have flashy chrome surrounds and the detailing on the doors augments the sporty appeal of this Bimmer. See it with or without the roof top – thanks to that powerful yet slender profile, it looks like a powerful speedster, ready to munch miles on the roads. The hardtop roof opens and closes in 20 seconds and this is operated electro-hydraulically at speeds less than 40 km/hour. BMW Z4 runs on 18 inch alloy wheels with run flat tyre size 225/40 R18 for front and 255/35 R18 for rear.
A typical feature of BMW Z cars is small rear end and the Z4 also shows that attribute. There trunk is just adequate to fit in the roof when it is pushed down. The signature tail lamps do not have a changed design and there are reflectors on lower part of the sleek, curvy bumper. Stop lamp on the boot lid and the chrome tipped twin exhaust pipes round-off the rear look.
After the facelift BMW offers a new Valencia Orange colour for the Z4. Other body options include Glacier Silver, Black Sapphire, Mineral White, Crimson Red and Mineral Grey.
The Two Seater Cabin
Subtle updates have refreshed the interior trim. While the quality, finish and refinement of Z4’s cabin is comparable to that of Porsche Boxster its design feels better. The soft plastic of the dashboard and weaved metal finish create a very sporty look for the fascia. The instrument console with large rev counter also enhances the athletic feel. Highlighted by silver touch on its three spokes, the multi functional steering wheel is chunky to hold.
The black seats of the new Z4 are upholstered in Alcantara leather and have contrast stitching for a neat and aesthetically appealing look. The basic features of the cabin have not got many updates but the international M Sports package model does have more of standard and optional attributes as a part of the latest facelift.
While the seats are low slung as in a typical sports car, the bolstering and back support of these seats make them very comfortable and it is easy to select an ergonomic driving stance with the electric height and lumbar support adjustment. Memory package optimisation is also provided for both the seats. There is adequate legroom and shoulder room but the headroom in this compact cockpit is rather limited and at times it feels claustrophobic with the roof on top. There is dual zone climate control to keep the space little more comfortable for the two occupants.
BMW Z4 sDrive35i has an array of tech-rich equipment in its little cabin. So you get Park Distance Control with acoustic signal to warn the driver of potential dangers and minimise the chances of any damage while parking or driving in stop and go traffic. The system working in sync with navigation set-up also shows the information on Control Display. There are green, yellow and amber indicators to check how much space you have. While the uncontrollable traffic conditions in Indian cities may make this entire set up pretty useless or superfluous, BMW’s engineers have made a good use of technology to plan and execute all these details.
To ensure a high level of safety on this speedy roadster, there are 6 airbags for driver and co-driver and 3 point seat belts are optimised with pretensioners and force limiters. The standard safety elements take in anti lock braking with brake assist, dynamic stability control, dynamic traction control and cornering brake control. The electronic parking brake comes with auto-hold function and other usual features include tyre pressure monitoring, run flat tyre indicator, warning triangle, Attentiveness Assistant and electronic immobiliser.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
As there are no mechanical changes with the facelift of Z4 sDrive35i, it is powered by the same three litre, twin turbo direct injection engine. This engine feels pretty smooth and by the spec sheet we know there is a plenty of power on tap. As you push the button to spark off the engine and get into the drive mode, you will find that the throttle response is pretty sharp and you must keep a very light foot on the right pedal especially while driving through the city. Be prepared to get glances from onlookers and it’s wise to keep that roof down to prevent horrors of pollution and other typically Indian problems related to travelling in an open top sports car.
There is ample low end torque to enjoy effortless drive and the seven speed twin clutch automatic gearbox is also smart to shift smoothly as per your throttle inputs. It keeps the straight-six engine in the thick of powerband in the Sports mode and the Z4 shows rapid progress. Shifts are always quick, slick and feel even better than those by the 8 speed unit used in some other BMW cars. The mid range is very strong is driving in stop and go traffic is also not an issue. With the punchy engine at work, there is no lag at all. To overtake, it just calls for a light dab on the accelerator. Peak torque of 40.8 kgm comes at 1300-5000 rpm zone.
Get onto smooth, long highways to make the most of this Bimmer’s performance and it will entertain you a lot. For 0-100 km/hour dash it only takes 6.1 seconds. And if keep the pedal floored it will take you past 145 km/our sooner than you know. The top electronically limited speed is 250 km/hour.
Another aspect that makes it more entertaining for super car enthusiasts is all that rumble from the 2976 cc petrol motor. There is a mild growl when the Z4 starts off and as the revs begin to build up, the throaty nature of the engine begins to show off. After the peak power that is churned out at 5800 rpm it begins to virtually scream if you press it harder past the redline.
Dynamic Traits – Ride and Handling
Like any other sports car the Z4 sits low and so while driving over bumpy roads (including the ones with minor undulations) you need to be prepared for sharp vertical movements. And it will crash through the bigger bumps and potholes. The Indian version of this car does not even come with adaptive suspension. So just remember, low speed or high, poor tarmac is not the right track to drive a BMW Z4.
Get it to the well paved, flawless roads and it will begin to glide gracefully. There is lot of grip and very little body roll. Indeed it is nice to throw it around corners. The steering is also sharp and there is no slack so it’s easier to change direction and take U turns. While the feedback from the chassis is also good, the nose of this roadster is so far off from the driving position that at times you find the front end not reacting as quickly as you expect it to. Furthermore, the light steering does not weigh up with speed and is devoid of feel. The front wheel tend to skip over bumpy surfaces and this can be little intimidating if going at speed. Being a convertible, the Z4 lacks the torsional rigidity of a saloon or a proper coupe and this is why it does not have the crucial accuracy that is expected from a Bimmer.
That said, it must be remembered that the Z4 sDrive35i belongs to a special category of cars and it is meant to be driven on specific roads in a particular style. You cannot judge the ride and handling abilities of this car fairly if it is not being driven on custom made tracks.
This mile munching missile does need to guzzle a lot of fuel for all that energy. So while the ARAI rated fuel economy is 10.37 km/litre, you can expect barely 5 km/litre in the city and 7.5 km/litre on the highways.
BMW Z4 is a stylish roadster and there is adequate visibility of the road ahead despite the low slung seats. But it is a two seater and with the tight roof top, you do feel a little squeezed in because of the restricted headroom. Design and build of the car is pleasing and the quality of equipment and materials used inside the cabin is top-notch. The speedy sports car impresses with its performance too and the 7 speed gearbox is slick. But the operating mechanism of the paddle shifters – pull for upshift, push for downshift – gets a little bewildering especially when you have to change gears in jiffy or go around an uprising winding road.
With classic sports car appeal, the Z4 is a thrill to drive and is also little more affordable than Porsche Boxster and Mercedes SLK Class. The prices (ex showroom Delhi) for the two Z4 variants in India are:
sDrive35i Prestige Rs. 70.90 lakhs
sDrive35i Prestige Rs. 71.90 lakhs
Value for Money: 3.5/5