Driven - April 2019

Here’s why we’re disappointed by the new BMW Z4.

All-new BMW Z4 Driven Review

“Zukunft”. If like myself you don’t speak fluent German, then a quick Google translate will reveal that the strange word “Zukunft” actually means future when translated into English”. Funnily enough, It also happens to be the naming inspiration behind BMW’s range of Z vehicles, one of those being the all-new BMW Z4. Unfortunately, BMW’s latest roadster must have got lost In translation because for me, the new Z4 has only gone one way, and it isn’t forward.

Allow me to explain.

The new Z4 has undergone much refinement inside and out. You’ll find some of BMW’s latest tech inside the vehicle including digital displays and BMW’s personal assistant. All packaged in a cabin pretty much identical to that of the new 3 series – albeit a little smaller.  From the outside, a host of nips and tucks bring the Z4 in line with BMW’s latest design language, narrower lights, sharper lines, you get the vibe.

Now while my opinion on the design of the Z4 is somewhat positive, I can’t help but feel the overall appeal has shifted. What was once a sporty roadster suited for dawn and dusk Sunday runs now feels rather superficial. Its similar to the whole craze of dressing up in sporting gear fit to set personal record’s, however instead of going to the gym you’re actually just dropping the kids off at school. The Z4 doesn’t appeal to the driver at heart.

I say this for two reasons.

The first being that as we drove the new Z4 through the bustling city centre of Cape Town with the roof down and the sun just dipping behind the mountains, many pedestrians passed comments. The comments were all positive, albeit all from the wrong target market…

On the road things didn’t improve either. The 20i variant lacked the punch a sporty roadster needs, the steering felt limp and lifeless and while the Z4 showed at times that it has plenty of grip to offer, dialing that grip in, gauging what the front wheels are doing and trying to find a rhythm proved extremely difficult.  After being impressed by the handling characteristics of the new 3 Series and M850i, I left the driver’s seat of the Z4 feeling frustrated and disappointed. I didn’t, however, get the chance to sample the M40i variant, which produces 250 kW and 500 Nm. It will be interesting to experience the performance characteristics of the more powerful model and see if things improve.

Frankly, I feel the new BMW Z4 has lost its personality. If you’re looking for a two-seater convertible with a sporty nature, but plan to doddle around, enjoy BMW’s finer luxuries and technologies all while looking very pretty, though, the new Z4 is a very good vehicle.

However, as a vehicle marketed for an exhilarating driving experience on said Sunday morning, it really doesn’t make the cut. There’s too much. Too much fluff, too much leather and too much tech. Who really needs “ Hello BMW” when you’re thundering down your favorite stretch of tarmac? I wish BMW had really dialed this vehicle back and simplified the approach, the interior and the tech. Less leather, fewer buttons, more Alcantara and a greater focus on what was supposed to be truly important – the driving experience.  But sadly, that doesn’t sell to the masses.

BMW Z4 Pricing in South Africa

BMW Z4 xDrive 20i Sport Line: R755,900. 

BMW Z4 xDrive 20i M Sport: R779,100. 

BMW Z4 xDrive 20i M Performance: R1,030,500.