Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i - First Drive Review

As the brand’s only two-seater, the Z4 carries the torch for BMW’s sports-car line, which traces back to the Z8, 507 TS, and 328 (the one from the ’30s, not the modern sedan). The Z’s new folding-hardtop roadster/coupe configuration allows for more freedom in design, and it is one of the harbingers of the BMW look for the next few years. Thankfully, the questionable styling cues of the previous Z4 have been refined into a more sophisticated and elegant form. With the me-too product strategies employed by the German luxury brands, BMW needs a strong competitor in this segment to demonstrate its ability to build a high-performance car that can match the best that Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche have to offer.

We drove the 300-hp, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, which sees duty across the BMW lineup; thus equipped, this car carries the ridiculous sDrive35i badge. The sDrive part denotes rear-wheel drive, and the absurd naming convention—a similar xDrive badge is also applied to all-wheel-drive versions of the 3-series and BMW’s SUVs—is reportedly used to better protect the brand’s trademarks. The base engine for North America is the naturally aspirated 255-hp, 3.0-liter inline-six also found in many other Bimmers, here badged sDrive30i. Since the previous Z4—as well as the Z3 that preceded that car—came in an M version, it would be natural to assume a new M Roadster is on the way. There’s certainly plenty of room under the hood for the 4.0-liter V-8 from the M3, but the BMW M division says it’s not working on such a project. Both current models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The base car can also be optioned with a six-speed automatic. Turbo models without a clutch pedal are equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox called “7-speed Sports Automatic with Double Clutch.”

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