Road test: BMW Z4 is the ultimate attention seeker
ENVY envelops the convertible roadster.
Bystanders tend to gaze and linger in your direction. Perhaps it's the carefree wind-in-your-hair attitude which resonates? Maybe it's the European badge? Or it could just be jealously that your lifestyle can cope with a two-seater and a small boot.
These are the ultimate attention seekers, and they don't come much better than the BMW Z4.
The long bonnet and stubby rear end define what a roadster should be. Being able to fold the hard-top roof just adds another element of fun.
BMW recently updated the Z4 range, and while the styling cues are not massive, the German car maker has thrown more kit at its little pleasure machine.
Low-slung and sleek, the Z4 takes some practice for graceful entries and exits. Ladies with skirts would be best suited to the side-saddle approach.
There is good head and leg room although the driver needs to remain high enough to keep a close eye on that long front end for parking.
The driver has clear and concise instruments and all the vital dials and buttons are within close reach.
Folding the roof can be done in about 20 seconds (and while you are on the move at low speeds) as long as the boot shelf is in the right spot.
Run-flat tyres cause some road rumble on coarse bitumen although cabin noise is not bad even with the roof down. Once the lid is off the occupants remain well protected from the wind and they can still carry a conversation without having to yell.
On the road
Balance and poise deliver a rewarding drive.
This up-rated version of the turbocharged four-cylinder is the best combination of power and cornering prowess. While the six-potter has more urgent grunt, the sDrive28i is all-round composure.
Plant your right foot and the 0-100kmh sprint of 5.7 seconds is sprightly enough and has a nice athletic exhaust tune once you get high into the rev range. It pulls nicely too from low speed and the eight-speed box never put a foot wrong during our test - even changing down to perfection when descending on cruise control.
With the benefit of rear-wheel drive you can really fling the Z4 around with the knowledge it will respond and once you have the hang of getting that big bonnet pointed in the right spot you can hammer into a bend and unleash the power.
The suspension has a sporting focus (accentuated in our case with the M Sport set-up) which means it is firm over bumps, but only sharp ruts like railway lines upsets things with nasty thuds.
Parking can be a challenge if you sit too low and getting your bearings over crests can also be challenging.
What do you get?
Improved specification includes better sat nav on the 22.3cm colour screen and an 11-speaker sound system with in-dash CD. Other standard gear includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/MP3 integration and internet functionality (accessed via your smartphone), brushed aluminium trim, heated leather sports seats and 17-inch alloys.
Our test machine had the $2900 M Sport pack which included larger M alloys, carbon interior trim, M steering wheel and the aerodynamics package.
The competition is varied, from the Jaguar F-Type V6 ($138,645), Mercedes-Benz SLK250 ($92,450), Lotus Elise S ($79,990), Audi TT Roadster ($102,800) and the Porsche Boxster ($101,500).
Sensible transport isn't ticking the boxes for buyers in this realm.
The cup holders are hidden in the centre console which just means to you have to flip its lid to gain access.
Surprisingly, boot space is okay given the tight rear end. With several soft bags you can easily handle baggage for two although it can be challenging keeping everything underneath the pull-across shelf that enables you to drop the roof.
Fuel consumption is impressively cheap with an average less than seven litres for every 100km.
Insurance and servicing isn't such a bargain, so and newcomers to the premium brand might want to crunch some numbers before buying or getting a shock when annual maintenance rolls around.
Daytime running lights, metal arches over the lights, more chrome around the indicators and some re-shaping of the side gills…the changes are relatively minor but the Z4 remains an arresting looking offering.
It's an attention grabber, and one which appeals to both men and women.
Given its sprinting ability and greater cornering prowess, we'd find it hard to stump up the extra coin for the six-cylinder Z4.
This four-potter has enough power for the small frame which means less weight up front that makes it more dynamic in the bends.
This is a fun and exciting little package which will continue to appeal to a market niche.
What matters most
What we liked: Manly good looks for a two-seat roadster, dexterity and power combination.
What we'd like to see: Better boot space with the roof folded, less tyre rumble.
Warranty and servicing: Three years/unlimited kilometre warranty. Roadside assist runs for three years. All BMWs have "Condition Based Service", but usually it's every 25,000km or annually.
Model: BMW Z4 sDrive 28i.
Details: Two-door rear-wheel drive luxury convertible roadster.
Engine: 2.0-litre twinscroll turbocharged four-cylinder generating maximum power of 180kW @ 5000-6500rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1250-4800rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.7 seconds; top speed 250kmh.
Bottom line: $89,900 (plus on-roads).