BMW Z4 sDrive 35i
12 out of 20
Driven March 2009
BMW has well and truly jumped on the bandwagon with the latest Z4. The SLK might have had a folding hard-top since its launch in 1996, but BMW was late joining the party. The 3-Series Convertible only got one in the latest generation and now the Z has finally gained it as well.
The bare figures are this: the roof lowers and raises in 20 seconds, prices start at £28,645 for the 23i and get to £37,060 for the 35i that we've just driven. Oh, and it'll do 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds with the dual clutch gearbox fitted.
So it's not what you'd call slow. The twin-turbo straight six is the highlight of the whole car - it sounds absolutely brilliant. Low and deep to start off with before getting to a wail over 6,000rpm. It's far more enthusiastic than an SLK.
For those worried that this hard-top has made it handle worse than the old Z4, panic not - even though this latest Z4 weighs 100kg more than the last one, there's a sharpness to the steering and chassis that was lacking before. But it's still not the last word in dynamics that you know BMW would dearly love it to be.
That's BMW's whole raison d'etre, and so far no recent BMW Roadster has managed to hit it spot-on. Each generation improves things from the woeful Z3, but this one is still a bit disappointing when you think of something like the Porsche Boxster. There's now electronically controlled damping on the Z4 as an option, but even this can't quite tighten everything up enough. Roof up, you can certainly feel the extra weight up there as it pitches and rolls a bit more through corners. Roof down works better.
As such, the Z4 moves closer to the driving nirvana of the Boxster and pulls further away from the SLK. But it's still not the roadster version of an M3 that BMW so desperately wants.