The BMW Z4 is more than a car, it's the ultimate driving experience.
- 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive23i; 2.5-litre, six-cylinder, petrol; six-speed manual; roadster - $86,200*
Options (As Fitted):
- Metallic Paint $1,840; Sports Seats $1,330; Anti-dazzle Interior and Exterior Mirrors $700
If the MX-5 represents "Jinba Ittai" (horse and rider as one), then the engineers at Mazda must be riding side-saddle, for when it comes to offering driving dynamics and a sense of oneness with the car, the new BMW Z4 is as close to perfection as any road-going car can be.
Now sure, that comparison is a little unfair given the obvious, and rather vast, difference in price, and for the money the MX-5 does a bloody good job, but the picture I'm trying to paint here is that for the driver, a real driver, feeling that communication with the car, and the car with the road, is a long-lost art most modern vehicles have ignored in a blur of over zealous electronic aids, frugal fuel economy figures, weighty safety features and unnecessary cabin gadgetry.
Yet somehow, BMW have managed to combine the pleasure of driving with all the aforementioned mod-cons in to this exceptional little package, and should you be lucky enough to afford the asking price (which I actually consider very reasonable for what's on offer), you will find the Z4 really steps the driving experience up a notch - or ten.
In the specification tested this week, the BMW Z4 sDrive23i, we find a 2.5-litre in-line six-cylinder engine that, although naturally aspirated, produces an impressive 150kW at a sonorous 6,500rpm, as well as 250Nm of torque from a low 2,750rpm.
The engine is a free-revving caterwaul of German precision, nearly orchestral above 4,000rpm, and coupled to a throaty exhaust note reminiscent of European GT cars of the 1960s, is pure bliss through winding country roads, an aural orgasm that even those passengers not in touch with their motoring-side seemed to openly appreciate over the course of my week with the car.
Mated to a fluid, short-shifting six-speed gearbox the Z4 sDrive 23i provides a purposeful feeling of acceleration managing the 0-100km/h sprint in just 6.6 seconds - and this from the lowest capacity engine available in the Z4 range. Fuel economy is impressive with this week's combined figure of 8.7L/100km a true surprise given the car's low kilometres and my enthusiastic driving.
Underfoot the Z4 feels beautifully balanced in terms of its front-to-rear weight distribution with a strut (front) / multi-link (rear) suspension arrangement that, although slightly firm over rough surfaces, compliments the car's orientation hand-in-glove with tenacious grip and perfect poise. The Z4 also offers BMW's Dynamic Driving Control electronic suspension setting selector as standard that allows the driver three levels of adjustment (Normal, Sport and Sport Plus) at the flick of a switch.
The electric power steering feel is sportingly firm and pin-point accurate with a near-perfect level of feedback offered when cornering. That said, and I'm being very picky here, it is a little light when it comes to on-centre feel.
Braking is strong, with a progressive pedal offering precise control over the large four-wheel discs. Electronic assistance over the stoppers includes ABS with Cornering Brake Control, Electronic Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution.
The cockpit can be a little awkward on entry and egress, but it's just a matter of adjusting your style. The large doors help the cause but will take some getting used to when selecting a parking space: bigger is better.
Once you're in though, Z4 fits like an Italian shoe. The stylish black leather seating, which in this instance was of the optional 'Sport' variety, is perfectly supportive and suitably comfortable. The steering column is adjustable for tilt and reach while the gearshift and pedal box are perfectly placed for spirited driving.
While the interior may appear minimalist, there's more than enough toys to satisfy the techno buff within. Features include cruise control, bi-xenon headlamps, rear foglamps, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, auxiliary audio input, steering wheel mounted audio and vehicle setting controls, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, heated seats, front and rear park assist, full-function trip computer, power windows, remote central locking (that also retracts the power roof on command) and power folding mirrors.
Space is rather accomodating, even for lanky passengers, with 1,354mm of shoulderroom, 1,439mm of elbow space and 992mm of headroom on offer. Cargo space is restricted to 180-litres with the roof down but can be extended to a surprisingly spacious 310-litres should you decide to drive in Coupe mode. A through-load feature also means there's room for the skiis.
A number of small but handy concealed cubby holes are located around the cabin, ideal for storing all those odds and ends.
Safety features include front and side airbags, ESC with Traction Control, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, the aforementioned electronic braking aids, roll-over bars, anti-whiplash head restraints and three-point inertia reel seatbelts with pyrotechnic pretensioners.
In a job like mine I find the true test of any car's worth is my reluctance to return the keys at the end of the week, and in this instance, that task was very nearly heartbreaking.
The Z4 is a triumph for the driver in all of us and a joy to the eye - and ears - as well. If you love getting behind the wheel for the sheer enjoyment of the open road, and love that quality feel of a well-built piece of German machinery, then the BMW Z4 is more than a car, it's an experience truly worthy of your consideration.
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer and does not include dealer delivery, on-road and statutory charges.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: