By on October 31, 2007

dead-on.jpgBMW’s next big thing is the 1-Series coupe and convertible. Propellerheads are positively dizzy at the prospect of a new, small-ish, rear wheel-drive BMW offering a modicum of practicality, brand-faithful weight distribution and one of the company’s legendary in-line six-cylinder engines. Why it’s the 2002 reborn! Hello? Has the entire enthusiast community been neuralized? They seem to have forgotten the fact that BMW already sells a model answering to this description: the Z4 Coupe. Or, in fact, doesn’t, much. And for good reason: the Z4 is a rolling condemnation of BMW’s evolutionary commitment to ultimate driving, a four-wheeled cautionary tale for anyone blinded by the BMW badge. 

If you think the new BMW 1-Series is a bit awkward looking, behold the Z4 Coupe. What's with that droopy line across the car’s doors? Perhaps the designer fell asleep at the table whilst his pencil trailed off into eternity. The diagonal slashes across the Z4’s flanks and face are positively maniacal. At the back, the coupe’s sloping roofline hits the Banglized trunk lid at the same place the rear haunches finish their… haunching. It's hard to say what happened here, but it's not good. It reminds me of the time I asked my four-year old cousin to get ready for bed and discovered him wearing his PJ pants as a shirt.

side.jpgMssrs. Style and Panache are MIA. The Z4’s front fascia looks as though a regular front end was mercilessly stretched over the frame. The headlights and grille are so far swept back they seem moments away from bursting, with the rest of the car popping out from behind. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s taking the phallic design shtick a little too far.

That said, BMW nailed the layout and proportions: ginormous hood, cabin out back and a rear deck so small it's a fast back. We’re talking classic sports car shape, in the great tradition of the Jaguar E-Type and Mercedes Gullwing. But so much of the Z4’s exterior is so wrong you wonder how in the world BMW managed to snatch hideousness from the jaws of classicism.

int.jpgThings get better indoors. Ish. The Z4 offers a narrow, confining cockpit with all the space of a Manhattan condo. Build upwards! The Z4’s extremely comfortable, bolstered seats are screwed so close to the floorboards you wonder if Bimmer’s ergonomic engineers were anticipating the return of the fedora. This average Joe also found reaching the dash knobs a bit of a stretch. Not that you feel any aesthetic or tactile compulsion to do so…

Contemplating the Z4’s monolithic, any-color-as-long-as-it’s black dashboard is like setting your claustrophobia on broil. The obligatory aluminum or strangely colored wood accents lighten the cabin’s atmosphere about as effectively as a drug store flashlight in a darkened amphitheater. Rear visibility is conspicuous by its absence.

front.jpgNor do the details delight. The Z4’s component radio header is plopped into an abyss of plastic and sheets of metal/lumber, looking a bit like the face of the Jetsons’ robotic maid. Your hands will be thrilled though, for the Z4’s the steering wheel is the appropriate size, shape and diameter for what lies ahead.

The Z4’s inline six delivers exactly the sort of performance you'd expect from an engine with a well-stocked trophy case. The 3.0-liter engine is neither peaky (a la Honda) nor rpm challenged (as in GM's 3.6). In fact, it's as smooth as Marvin Gaye on a glass stage. Spinning the mill with the Z4's six-speed manual provides genuine joy, while the Steptronic auto (sourced from GM, thank you) is snappy and slick enough to tempt purists to try the commuter solution. Either way, you're playing with 255 horsepower– enough oomph to propel the 3108lbs. two-door from rest to 60mph in a hair under six seconds.

rear.jpgThe Z4’s handling dynamics are the car's Achilles' heel, calf and thigh. The car is completely hamstrung by wide, overly stiff run-flat tires and needlessly-aggressive chassis tuning. Like the ill-fated Pontiac Solstice, grip exceeds power to the point of pointlessness. The Bimmer is so completely buttoned down you can practically hear it crying out for catharsis. The Si variant adds welcome feedback and the Z4M adds obscene power, but the standard car lacks any of the low speed or on-the-limit fun enjoyed by Mazda Miata drivers– never mind Boxster bashers.

Considering the Z4’s fundamentals– rear wheel drive, two seats, straight six– this car should be, at the least, a grand grand touring car. The engine and transmission are up to the job, but the car’s tires and suspension are stuck in egg-beater mode. Even worse, the Z4 is even uglier now than it was when the tennis shoe design first tempted sports car lovers. Rather than fix the Z4, BMW has opted to go back to square 1. I have no doubt the new 1-Series will be the better driver’s car, but a moment of silence please for a bold Bimmer that deserved better.

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60 Comments on “BMW Z4 Review...”


  • avatar
    Vega

    While I don’t know anything about the car’s dynamic potential (or lack thereof), I have never disagreed with a TTAC review more. I think the Z4 coupe look absolutely brilliant, especially in white with black wheels. I was sceptical when the car came out in Roadster form years ago, but I think the shape in general has aged well. When I first saw the coupe in person, I had a “Oh, that’s what they meant” moment.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Bangle-isation belongs in Bangladesh.

  • avatar
    Blunozer

    This car is a screaming example of how BMW has fallen.

    How does BMW, I mean B-M-Freakin’ W screw up a small, 2 seat coupe with RWD and an inline 6? This car should have been universially lusted after. Instead, it seems to have only a few fans desperately trying to defend its awkward styling, punishing ride, and lousy steptronic gearbox.

    Imagine if someone had travelled forward through time from 1995. They simply would not recognize this as a BMW.

    The Z3 was pure roadster Zen. The Z7 was an instant classic. The Z4 isn’t just a step back, its a giant leap off a cliff.

  • avatar
    hal

    If you have 20 minutes to kill you can learn something about the Z4s dynamics courtesy of fifth gear.
    Z4 Coupe vs TT
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6T7nR-bPLc
    Z4 Roadster vs 350Z

  • avatar

    Comparing cars on a mirror smooth race track tells you which is the best car on a mirror smooth race track.

    I have driven dozens of cars that kicked-ass on track and fell to pieces in the real world. The big-engined Mustangs are a perfect example.

    In the real world, most sports car buyers want a sexy machine that delivers fun at a lot less than 9/10ths, serves as some sort of daily driver, offers reasonable reliability and provides a bit of practicality.

  • avatar
    Vega

    Z3 pure Roadster Zen? More a please everyone – offen no one generic cutemobile for dentist’s wives. And the Z7 concept that later became the Z8 was pure Retro for Retro’s sake. It may look pleasing at first in a fake-Monet for-your-living room kind of way, but it was a stylistic cul-de-sac for BMW. How do you refresh Retro?
    Many 60s Roadster that are now declared classics weren’t (and still aren’t) conventionally beautiful (Triumph TR3,4,5,6 anyone?).

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    I much prefer the coupe over the convertible – I think the hard top and fast back better suit the overall style. The convertible looks a bit like a shoe. In short, it looks a bit like an Aston Martin – in all the right ways.

    In any event, I have driven one of these and while it wasn’t to my taste, it was a nice car and decent performer. No Porsche, of course, but then…what else is?

  • avatar
    ash78

    I also disagree with the styling comments. This is the only BMW I’d be caught dead in at the moment, stylistically, assuming I could even break it loose and slide into a tree ;)

    Too bad the previous iteration of this thing was so much cooler and less “prententiously M6-ish” (’99-’03). But that’s just my humble opinion.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Like most of the BMW line up, this car has been seriously worked over with the ugly stick. Someone needs to apply an equal amount of violence to Mr. Bangle and his staff.

    That said, styling is subjective, so if you like it, more power to you. And sometimes the driving experience overcomes the styling.

    Doesn’t sound like this one does, though.

  • avatar

    The Z4 line are fantastic cars

    I suggest Justin learn how to drive them

    First, turn off the DSC and traction control
    Second, hit the big button labeled “SPORT” in the center of the dash

    Now, you have to realize that the runflats suck, and the electric power steering sucks

    but by hitting the sport button you increase the effort of the power steering to a level that I find to be perfect, and increase the throttle mapping and response to where the car just wants to Run run run

    Also realize that this car has a 50/50 weight distribution, but wider rear tires

    what does this mean? Initial understeer, but great neutral balance once you get on the throttle

    you have to use the throttle to help steer – this isn’t a Miata or Boxster – the car doesn’t make the driver look good, you have to actually drive the car and listen to what’s going on (and thankfully, BMW maintained the communicativeness of the front wheels to the steering)

    But once you drive it . . . I can think of few cars that deliver as much joy when driven with proper aggression.

    NOW – I haven’t driven a 1-series, but I know its based on the 3-series – a car I DESPISE

    Not only is the 135i supposed to weigh a mere 80 lbs less than a 335i (which is a porking 3600 lbs itself), its based on the 3-series chassis – what this means is absolutely numb steering with no communication with regards to what the front tires are doing. So, with a ginormous curb weight and no feedback, I can’t imagine the 1-series could hold a candle to the Z-series.

    Of course I’ll drive one to confirm.

  • avatar
    rennf

    I haven’t driven a Z4 so I’ll refrain from agreeing or disagreeing on the driving dynamics, but I did want to remind everyone that Justin is reviewing the base model, not the Si, not the M.

    On a side note, I applaud TTAC for reviewing non-top-end models on a regular basis, as this is oftentimes what real-world folks are buying. (at least for models that offer a large variety of engine, etc. options, unlike say Acura — do you want that with navi or without?)

    I think I saw my first Z3 in grad school — immediately fell in love with it. When I saw the Z4 some years later, I had a more complex reaction — but overall, I think it works for me.

    Unfortunately, in this price range / category, I’d pick up a Boxster (even used) so quick it would make the poor Bimmer’s head spin. :)

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I have to agree that the styling of this car is rather awkward (still better than the previous Z3 coupe) but I disagree that the driving characteristics of the car are a negative. I’ve never driven the coupe but I did drive the vert and can imagine that extra stiffness would really suite and already great chassis well. I firmly, pun intended, believe this car should have a stiff punishing ride. Its not a grand tourer, its a sports car. And what is too much grip? Its not a Porsche and I think thats a good thing. Ok, I confess I’d still rather have a Cayman, but I’m glad there is a unique looking hard edged, lightweight sports coupe on the market, nonentheless.

  • avatar

    The styling is so ridiculously awkward, the ride is unrelentingly harsh and not fluid or sorted well. I bought a Boxster instead.

    The 1-series isn’t significantly different enough from the 3 to be worth it. It is a bit cheaper, but not much, a bit lighter, but not much.

    I saw an old E30 the other day, sighed, and thought: automotive perfection…

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    Ah..another chance to state how I like fugly looking cars. I think this car has more personality then most BMWs and I like the look. Can’t comment on the driving dynamics, but I also will chime in that I think all BMW’s current interiors look cheap. I don’t mean the quality of the materials, but specifically the design. It’s minimalism done wrong and it’s one reason that I’d spend my money elsewhere (if I had money.)

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    the coupe certainly has a leg up on the drop-top in looks and performance… but man I miss the Z3 M Coupe. That was a neat car. The Z4M Coupe, not so much.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    This is not an ugly car! The styling works very well on the z4 coupe. It reminds me of a modern 240z more so than a 350z does. Small, light weight, RWD, inline6, what more can you ask for?

    Considering the price of even a base model Boxster this thing (in all tirm levels) is a relative bargin.

    Some of you guys need to listen to yourselves when you make your comments reagrding automobile style. You all claim to hate generic “appliance” styling yet dislike anything “Banglelized”. Now if you remove all of the Bangle style from todays BMWs you bascially end up with a rather generic looking box! I will accept that the curent 6 and 7 series are a mess but the 3,5, and Z class BMWs are stylish in a modern way.

    Call the Z4 ugly all you want today, but mark my word this car will become a classic in the future.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re; “sports car buyers want a sexy machine that delivers fun at a lot less than 9/10ths, serves as some sort of daily driver, offers reasonable reliability and provides a bit of practicality.”

    yeah – they want boxsters and caymans.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    What’s up with the diagonal slash in the flanks? It’s a visual extension of the A-pillar (and nearly the same length). And what’s up with the drooping line at the bottom of the door? Notice that the radius of the curve (toward the front) matches the radius of the curve of the roof. That’s conveying motion a la the BMW propeller on the hood. That is the *only* banglization that makes sense. All other flame surfacing is ego stroking.

    The one that makes me the maddest is the taillight treatment on the 5-series. They pulled a line-extension trick just like on the Z4, but instead of the A-pillar and flank, it’s the rear window and taillight. Instead of conveying motion or having a purpose, it’s design “language” for design language’s sake, and it does nothing but make the 5-series sedan look like it wishes it was a 911.

    And while I’m whining, I’d like to know who the manager is who approved the milk-moustache grille on the 3-series sedan. seriously. WTF? I can only blame Bangle for so much. His bosses should be flame-surfaced too.

  • avatar

    I also like the way it looks, and I also like the fact that not everyone else does. I’m not going to buy a car to please someone else after all. I give them credit for sticking with more controversial designs, and resisting the temptation to turn them into just another commodity.

  • avatar
    mxrz

    cretinx wrote: “Not only is the 135i supposed to weigh a mere 80 lbs less than a 335i (which is a porking 3600 lbs itself)”

    Nonsense, first of all, per BMW’s specs, the 135i should be 200 lbs lighter than the 335i. Second, and more importantly, owners of the 335i, along with Car & Driver, reported that the 335i actually weighs about 3360 lbs, much less than BMW’s spec. So it’s safe to assume the “actual” curb weight of the 135i will be pretty close to the 3000 pound mark, which is, for today’s safety standards, pretty damn light.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Interesting the front grill look like any other grills for the 2008 models cars. A Hannibal Lectar look

    I never like BMW and never will. I rather buy the new Nissan GT-R.

    But I think this car is the sexiest BMW ever made. Shark looking and very fast.

    Baby Boomers should appreciate the new style of cars nowadays. Better than the 80′s and 90′s designs.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    I was begging for TTAC to review the Z4 amid all the hype about the 1-series. Thanks JB.

    But all these comparisons to the Boxster and Cayman are simply unjustified. Of course, I’d agree 100% that the Boxster and Cayman are better automobiles (though I haven’t driven a Cayman). But the Z4 is simply a MUCH MUCH less expensive vehichle.

    I know the price doesn’t matter much to car reviewers who don’t buy the cars, but the price difference here is simply too much to be ignored. 2007 Z4 coupes go for around 35K with the sport package and a few other small options. Even with a generous option package it’s still only going to be around 40K.

    A comparably equipped Boxster would cost at least 15K more.

    Great review, but I noticed the final verdict under the summary was “Boxster Boxster Boxster.” That’s a lot like writing “3-series 3-series 3-seroes” under a review for a 25,000 dollar Mazda6.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    I drove a Z4 this weekend. My concern with this vehicle (and other BMW models) is their Run Flat Tire technology. It just doesn’t work. When I drive any BMW with RFT there’s an obvious sensation that something mechanically is wrong. Anyone else?

  • avatar
    Arkay

    No question, the Z4′s styling is in the love it or hate it category – especially the coupe. One of the many BMWs I’ve owned was an ’99 E36 M Coupe and that car REALLY divided opinions everywhere I went with it. I personally LOVE it, but also realize that I’m in the minority.

    I now have an ’06 Z4 3.0si roadster among my stable and I agree with the assessment that it still has a great engine and transmission combination, but the suspension tuning – specifically the blasted run flat tires – let it down. I’ve read that owners who have swapped the tires with regular performance radials have experienced a much needed boost in ride comfort and handling.

    I also agree that the interior, while not completely horrible to live in, fails to live up to the typically excellent interior designs of BMWs of yore but at least it’s not hobbled by the awful iDrive; they’re the reasons why I now have an E63 AMG instead of an M5 in my garage and why I leased an ’04 A8L instead of the 745Li before that.

    Will I consider another Z4 when its lease ends in May? Probably not – unless it’s the M Roadster. But I suspect I’m headed back to the Porsche camp after this…

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    Never driven one but from the looks perspective its a very handsome car. Not bland nor boring but assertive. The TT6 in this would be a monster. If I could get away with a 2 seater it would be this or the Cayman, of course this is 15k less than a Cayman so……

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I am a bit bothered with the “how do you refresh retro” quips that I keep hearing lately. This is a bit of “common wisdom” that bears not repeating.

    First, the user seems to be indulging in some completely unearned self aggrandizement as in – “I could have told you it was a stupid idea.” Okay, but DID YOU? Were you out there in the blogosphere screaming, “NOoooo, Ford, don’t do it”?

    Second, I will tell you how to refresh retro – Same as any other car. For Pete’s sake, have you never seen a 911? Jeep? Golf/Rabbit? These things have been themselves forever. What you do is to the Mustang is NOT take the idiotic turn you did in the seventies. It was a classic shape that they abandoned.

    So, give it up. Retro is not stupid, nor a dead end, nor a trap. Style is style, and classic is classic. The reviewer got this one EXACTLY right.

    The shape of the Z4 is classic, but the details and execution are wrong. The Z7/Z8 was a winner, this thing just isn’t. Hopefully, the next version keeps the baby and throws out the bath water (if there is a next version, which is unfortunately not likely).

  • avatar

    Run-flat tires are a cure far worse than the disease. How hard is it to change a tire, really? How hard is it to design space for a full-size spare in every car?

    Ferchrissakes if my old Jaguar E-type has room for a full-size spare this car certainly should too!

    Automotive designers please note:
    I’ll never buy a car with run-flats. Ever. Furthermore I specifically look for full-size spares when I shop for cars.

    –chuck
    http://chuck.goolsbee.org

  • avatar
    tankd0g

    The z3 was easily out handled by a base model Miata. You sat on that car, not in it.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Both the Z3 & Z4 were never the best in their class and were always just designed to round out BMWs product offering. Unlike the 3 series, BMW just never put the required effort into these cars to make them class leaders. Based on warmed over 3 series chassis they are the product of the marketing department and not the driving passion of engineers. For less money the Miata is much more fun than the Z4 will ever be.

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    Agree on run flats. $330 per rear tire is simply unacceptable on my 3 series. The benefits do not outweigh the costs. I like the new 3, but my old e46 330′s ride was a little smoother.

  • avatar

    it seems really silly to review this car and spend six paragraphs on the way the inside and outside look, and one paragraph each on the engine and handling. it’s a sports car. are we pistonheads or fashion critics?

    it’s even sillier considering how polarizing we all know current BMW looks are.. I personally think the Z4 looks pretty good (especially in coupe form), while hating some of the other bangleized rides. plus the supposed reason to do this review now was in anticipation of the coming 1-series — so it might have made more sense to spend more time on the dynamics and less on the looks, since the 1-series looks (somewhat) different, and we’ve all seen the pictures anyway.

    is it even possible to get one’s BMWs (other than the Ms) without runflats? if I were getting one, changing the tires would be the first thing I’d do, and I’d hate to have to waste all that money in the first place.

  • avatar

    carguy: Based on warmed over 3 series chassis they are the product of the marketing department and not the driving passion of engineers.

    I have to disagree somewhat. the Z3 coupe was the result, basically, of engineers cobbling it together in the spare time, because they wanted a nice small car with proper rigidity. I love mine on its own merits, but the thought that it was hacked together by some engineers for the pleasure of it (and then somehow given the green light by management? I can’t imagine the BMW of today doing that) enhances it a little too.

  • avatar
    stuki

    I also like the style of the Z4 Coupe. I honestly think Bangle style flame surfacing is a reasonable response to the ever rising beltlines of modern cars. Without some sort of ‘bling’ down there, they’d just look like slab-sided whales. Of course, compared to cars with more proper shoulder height, they all look a bit bloated.

    Driving BMW’s with runflats gives me associations of Mohammad Ali in ski boots. They still do the dance like a butterfly…… thing handling wise; just with footwork a bit off pace. And the M’s still stings like bees.

    The heavy, stiff tires may help a bit in preventing rim damage in this age of shitty roads and oversized wheels with zero sidewall tires. Both by being stiff, and by being so damn heavy that by the time the suspension has any hope of pushing them even an inch into a pothole, the pothole is several car lengths behind. So possibly yet another excusable concession to modern bling bling sensibilities.

    Driven back to back with an S2000, the Z4 feels (at least to me) completely outgunned. Clutch, tranny, ergonomics, and handling are sooo much sweeter in the S. Even though it’s getting old, I still find it the most enjoyable of the modern roadsters. Especially with a (still less than $40k) blower. Talk about dancing and stinging.

    But compared with the Z8, I’d drive a Z4 roadster any day. That Z8’s ‘great’ retro design was obviously executed without any concern for aerodynamics, whatsoever. I am of pretty average height, and at 100mph the turbulence was so out of control that I truly feared for my ear drums. Any ‘vert gets loud at speed, but the Z8 literally slaps you round like riding a half faired motorcycle without a helmet. Since the S2000 has a windshield just as upright, without any such problems, I can only conclude it was done as a nod to ‘retro’.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    http://www.autoblog.com/photos/bmw-concept-1-series-tii-1/453388/

    I saw the pictures of BMW 1 Series it doesn’t really make any difference from the Older 2000′s BMW Design. It still look like the old Beamer.

    The differences are just the headlights and a little curvy on the side.

    The cars that really changed a lot are the Audi, Volvo, Nissan, Honda, Mercedez etc etc but not BMW. I love the new Volvo 2 door sedan. I saw one on 95 South this morning and it’s one of a kind.
    Have you driven a Volvo lately nice and very very fast.

    Not too many look a like the Honda’s, Mazda’s and Nissan’s

    And by the way good luck with those BMW tires than ran flat. I hope they sell those tires at Pep Boys or NTB.

  • avatar
    bjarnetv

    although i havent driven one, i must disagree with you on the looks. i think it looks quite good, and has aged well compared to the competitors. i personally like most of the bangle designs (except the suv’s), and although they are not perfect, i like them better than most car-designs out there today.

  • avatar
    Adonis

    “The styling is so ridiculously awkward, the ride is unrelentingly harsh and not fluid or sorted well. I bought a Boxster instead.

    The 1-series isn’t significantly different enough from the 3 to be worth it. It is a bit cheaper, but not much, a bit lighter, but not much.

    I saw an old E30 the other day, sighed, and thought: automotive perfection… ”

    This demonstrates why many people do not like Bangle styling: It’s different from before.

    I’m coming in with few preconceptions about BMW because of my relative youth, and all I can say is the Z4 is dead sexy. Muscular looking and powerful in a small package.

    People who’ve owned and admired BMW’s from the past will say it deviates from the more understated BMW they know. I like the aggressive styling.

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    Robert Farago said: “In the real world, most sports car buyers want a sexy machine that delivers fun at a lot less than 9/10ths, serves as some sort of daily driver, offers reasonable reliability and provides a bit of practicality.”

    and Philipwitak answered: “yeah – they want boxsters and caymans”

    daily drivers? practicality? porsche does not scream daily driver to me. then again, the Z4 does not have me thinking about practicality. For my money, all 32K-34K of it, i’ll take the 135. A real trunk, a semi-back seat, more tollerable packaging, and what should be a hell of a ride. The 135 took the best of the 3 series (twin blown straight six) and left the crap (rounded edges and 300lbs of dead weight). also, note that the 135 does have staggered tire widths just like the Z4. But with 50 more hp and loads more torque it should be much more fun to fling around.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    # shortthrowsixspeed :
    October 31st, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    “also, note that the 135 does have staggered tire widths just like the Z4. But with 50 more hp and loads more torque it should be much more fun to fling around.”

    yeah, but the problem with that is that by the time you’re “flinging” it, you’re doing 100+. Unless you get to do a LOT of warranty -oiding track days (thank you BMW GPS), it doesn’t seem like a super hot idea to me. The miata will allow itself to be flung at sane speeds that aren’t too stupid on public roads.

    now they need to make a miata coupe

  • avatar
    CeeDragon

    When Chris Bangle first showed his concepts and the Z4, he was more prone to interviews. I remember reading something in a mag (Car, I believe) where he described what he was trying to accomplish with his new design language for BMW.

    It was clear he was not trying to design cars for the end user or consumer. He seemed to be running some sort of mad experiment to challenge all of the old rules. And showing other car designers how much freedom he had at BMW.

    In that regard, he successed. Mercedes and Audi have reacted to BMW’s envelope push and have produced less-timid designs.

    Has BMW successed with the Bangle designs? BMW now says they will have more conservative and “less polarizing” designs.

    In additional to the design problems themselves, it seems BMW has focused too much on (bad) design. Interior ergonomic issues, such as the iDrive and new shift knobs are such oddballs for an engineering-focused company.

    I know, I sound like an wistful old man, but I miss the old BMWs.

  • avatar
    Zed

    I strongly disagree with this review. Six paragraphs decrying the controversial–but not universally disliked–styling. A single paragraph on the driving experience, which complains that the car has too much (?) grip.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @Zed:

    The grip is good, and good for handling. Just sort of fun-defeating in some cases, if you get my meaning.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Maybe I like the Z4 so much since it really was one of the last of the “clean” interior designs that used easy to find buttons and settings and just a simple knob near the stereo to use the nav system functions. This came out just after the Bangle-ruined 7-series and it does surprise me that the Z4 didn’t have the same type of interior. For a while, I was really considering this car (back in 2004) but like many have posted here, I couldn’t stand the run-flats. I guess I’m in the minority in that I liked the styling except for the revised (over the past 2 years) taillights that don’t seem to fit the rest of the design.
    Right now, I have to believe that the 5-series and 3-series are selling just on name recognition alone. It is still a rite of passage for (in the DC area) a junior level lawyer or similar executive to get the 3-series the minute they land the first job! But the word is out that BMW quality has taken a severe nosedive, the styling continues to drive the faithful away, and this so-called “driver’s car company” has continued to play the excessive electronics game with the rest of the German car companies. When does this arms race end? Things like lane departure systems, blind spot systems, laser adaptive cruise control, active steering, iDrive, six steps to complete functions that should only take one or two steps and so on just doesn’t make sense as it isolates us from the car. I’m hoping the 1-series sells well and hopefully brings BMW back to reality and just lets Mercedes fall apart with continued awful quality scores.
    Enough rambling now – I can’t wait to actually take a 1-series out and hope it was like an older 3-series I had years ago.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Trying to recreate the BMW 2002 would be akin to Nissan trying to recreate the Datsun 510 of the early Seventies, both icons with those who revere those marques. There’s a bit of the old “deja vue all over again” aspect to that; since back in the heyday of Brock Racing Enterprises’ John Morton’s domination of the 2.5 liter Trans-Am with what those in the know call the “five and dime’ led to a new paradigm of performance, the little 510 was called a “poor man’s BMW,” since it was a more-than-obvious knock-off in terms of dimensions (including the engine).

    What’s done is done. Surely the debacle which was Ford’s attempt to recreate the basic zeitgest of the original two-seater Thunderbird taught us that.

    Both latter day BMW s should be accepted on their own merits. The front three-quarter view of the Z4, either drop top or coupe, makes it look like a shark; and in a sense it is, fully capable of eating up the road with alacrity.

    To my mind, the 1-series will be its own machine, too. Consider it a smarter Smart car, rather than a latter day vest pocket rocket, which the 2002 was perhaps the best example thereof. In cars, as in art, comparisons are always noxious things.

  • avatar
    Captain Neek

    Vis-a-vis runflats, what is the point, exactly?

    How can saving a few pounds make up for the lack of a spare wheel and the concommitant increase in risk?

    Maybe they make sense in Europe and the UK, but anywhere else, where the nearest tyreshop, let alone dealer, could be a couple hundred miles away?

    And what happens when, like what happened to a colleague of mine, you are driving 350 miles to your parents after dark on Xmas eve and your tyre warning light comes on?

    BMW’s Call Centre told him to ignore the warning light and keep driving. Unfortunately, the tyre and the rim parted company long before he reached his destination, leaving him stranded on the side of the highway in the dark, in the middle of nowhere – on Xmas eve.

    Sorry BMW. As long as your products have runflats, they do not represent sensible purchases. (“Sensible” as in, don’t stop next to the highway after dark unless you really, really have to).

  • avatar

    I’m not wild about the styling on this car, but I think Bangle did a great job on the 3 series, except for the feline eyes.

  • avatar
    pdub

    Bangle did a great job on all of the BMWs, except the 7 series. The 7 is too large for the look. The much maligned Phaeton and A8 look 10000 times better.

    Bangle bashers, go buy a used BMW or switch brands. Enough with your damn petition. How ridiculous. Go sign a petition to do something for the public good.

    The Z3 looks so Mazda Miata – 2 designs I only see 50something men and (sometimes) their wives driving. This car is meant to look young, aggressive, and contemporary. The front does look a bit stretched, but everything else is tons better than what preceded it. Nonetheless, it’s out of the price range of most young people that would enjoy driving it.

    The interior does nothing for me.

  • avatar
    rashettle

    BMW AKA Dr. Frankenstein.

    This not an ugly car. It is beyond ugly. Here’s my theory. You have let’s say 5 “artists” working on the design of the car. Each of them has a completely different design for the shape of the body and the lines of the sheet metal. They decide to take what the feel is the best design for each section. Just like how Dr. Frankenstein picked out the body parts for his monster. And we all know the monster was known for his good looks.

  • avatar
    raxacoricofalla

    I didn’t care for the ‘fussy’ styling at first, but I have to admit
    it’s grown on me the more I look at it.

    And can it possibly be that nobody has noticed the obvious?

    Looking at the Z4 coupe or roadster from the driver’s side,
    the flame surfacing creates a giant letter “Z” from the creases.

    If it was a snake it would have bitten you!

    Regarding the RFTs, I can tell you that the cars BMW uses at
    their Performance Driving School in Spartanburg have all had
    them removed and replaced with conventional tires. That
    should say something.

  • avatar
    wsn

    First, let me make it clear that I am one of the worshipers of CR. Thus, generally, I don’t intend to by any product from a German car manufacture.

    However, the Z4 could be an exception just for the good looks (not a sarcasm). Don’t call Toyota/Lexus boring, when the entire MB/BWM lines are not any better. That is, again, with the exception of the Z4.

  • avatar
    26theone

    BMW is trying to be a company that makes rolling artwork.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Run flat tires are hype. ALL tires are run flats. If a tire suddenly goes flat on you, it is toast. Grinding it to pieces limping the car to a safe spot to change it is no big deal. I keep a functional full size spare in my cars and the tools to change it. More than once I have driven 5 miles or more to a parking lot to change a flat. Ten or 15 minutes later, I am back on the road. As for wheel damage, ask yourelf,whatis worse? A bad rim or your life.?

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    Run-flat tires are a cure far worse than the disease. How hard is it to change a tire, really? How hard is it to design space for a full-size spare in every car?

    Anyone who remembers Ennis Cosby’s murder at 1am on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles appreciates run-flat tires. Cosby got a flat on a busy urban highway. His attacker had no way of knowing his victim would be connected to a celebrity. It was simply a predatory crime of opportunity. Similarly, we read about roadside fatalities caused by increasingly careless, distracted drivers rear-ending disabled vehicles on the shoulder, or sideswiping them in mid-change of tire.

    The Z4 Coupe is functionally and aesthetically more GT than pure sports car — a modern update on the MGB-GT/MGC-GT. As a touring or gentleman’s GT rather than a 10/10ths aggression machine, the run-flat tires are appropriate in both their assignment and the mild penalty they impose to gain their desirable benefits.

    No question run-flats increase unsprung weight, are less forgiving of road imperfections than regular Z-rated performance rubber, generally elevate NVH, reduce grip, and are a little noisier than the quieter treads available. The best, which is to say the most balanced, of the run-flats in my experience is the Pirelli Eufori. For anyone who is fine with a goo-can (which won’t help you in most sidewall breaches) you retain the option of reverting to standard performance rubber anytime you’re ready. Having had to accept Euforis on an XLR-V, I recognize what can be improved about the car by simply changing to conventional meats, but having adapted to the Euforis I am disinclined to do so.

    Phil

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    The first time I auditioned a new BMW 330 rolling on run-flat tires, I assumed that the tire pressures were off, or the wheel studs were backing out.

    After I checked tire pressure and re-torqued the studs (all were ok) I continued to experience the same twitchy and loose handling characteristics that are now considered normal for BMWs. Add BMW’s Active Steering to the party, and you’ve got a combination that would keep Steve McQueen at the legal limit.

    After driving several BMW’s with RFTs (the latest being the new Z4), I can only conclude that BMW has given up. It’s all starting to feel like masturbation without the payoff.

  • avatar
    AuricTech

    As an aside, if BMWs are “the ultimate driving machine,” does that mean that last year’s models were the penultimate driving machines?

  • avatar

    I’m still snoring over this design. The Z3 looked like a small WWII German fighter. The Z4 looks… well, fat. Come on BMW, put some Z8 into that thing.

  • avatar
    honduhdude

    i think this car is awesome

  • avatar
    rdepetro

    I am surprised that a review was written by a kid who drove this sports car in its automatic version. I have no wish to be unkind however, it seems to me that if you were to have a test drive and review of a vehicle, you would use someone that could drive in both versions, manual and automatic. Can this review be given proper credence? How about an accountant that couldn’t add or a doctor that couldn’t operate, a teacher that could only read backwards? did Justine adequately review this car?
    This vehicle is designed to be driven as a manual transmission, a real manual transmission, not a Steptronic transmission (purists LOL) – and in that form, it’s an amazing piece of responsive machinery. If you drive a motorcycle, this is as close as you come to being on your motorcycle but still in a car.
    Boys should stick to their matchbox cars, let the men and woman have their big people toys Justine.
    Happy New Year,
    Robin.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    ALL BMW’s have suffered terribly by the Chris Bangel designs.IMO They were a beautiful expression of German engineering, since Bangle they may still be beautifullly engineered , but god what a awfull mess on the outside. My Lust for Bimmers is gone. Then there’s “I” Drive. BMW knows the styling is polarizing at best , and “I” drive is NOT simple or intuative, yet they refuse to comes to grips with this.Very reminisent of the GM management teams of the 80,s and 90′s It’s a shame, it really is. Bill C.

  • avatar
    Dubbs1

    Any negativity shown to this car can be solved with the mz4 roadster. I love it! The power is fantastic. A tiny car being pulled by 330 hp. The porsche boxster s only has 295. It beats all cars in its class. It’s much better that the mercedes slk class, even the amg. The amg has so much hp and can’t accelerate for s@*#.

    Great car love the manual

  • avatar
    wapd0g

    Drive an M Roadster and you’ll forget about the exterior styling. And the Boxster.


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