By on January 14, 2012

BMW Z4, front quarter. All photos in set courtesy Michael Karesh.

Now that winter weather has (finally) come to Michigan, it’s time to look forward to spring, when roadsters will emerge from their long hibernation to frolic along twisty two-lanes. Don’t have one, and feeling the urge? More than with a midsize sedan or a compact crossover, a roadster is a very personal choice, as the contenders—Audi TT, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda Miata, Mercedes SL and SLK, Nissan 370Z, Porsche Boxster—vary in configuration and character much more than those in high-volume segments. If you know what you want in a roadster, the choice should just about make itself. So, what might lead someone to opt for the BMW?

The Z4 is an oddball within the BMW line. While other BMWs are styled very similarly, often to a fault, the roadster is distinctly not like the others. No “same sausage, different lengths” here. Yes, there is more of a similarity than with the full-on retro Z3 that originated the model. But while secondary cues now resemble those of other BMWs, the Z4’s bulldog proportions remain those of a classic roadster. Though stopping well short of SLR excess, the hood might yet induce envy from John Holmes. In comparison, the hindquarters continue to appear disproportionately small. When up, the roof also appears undersized, even barely there, though the need to have it fit inside the compact trunk might have been as much of a factor as aesthetics.

Inside, the car is more typically BMW, including an inscrutable audio system, though some hints of the Z3 remain. From the low-mounted driver’s seat the long hood actually seems to rise up ahead of you, strongly affecting the driving experience. SUVs and even normal cars tower over you. You know you’re driving a sports car even when standing still. You don’t remotely get this in a 3-Series, or even in an otherwise similar SLK. Unlike in some roadsters, the header is not too low, and so does not uncomfortably impinge on the view forward.

There’s plenty of headroom. The seats provide good lateral support, but like the insufficiently cosseting standard seats in other BMWs are otherwise only marginally comfortable despite four-way power lumbar adjustments. Even with the top stowed there’s enough room in the boot for a Costco run (including a value pack of paper towels) or for a couple of weekender-sized duffel bags.

The Z4’s livability continues once underway. Noise levels are moderate, and the ride is quite livable (though it can get choppy across tar strips and expansion joints). This roadster is far from raw. If you want your BMW raw, find a Z3, preferably in M Roadster form.

But is it fun? After all, unless a roadster is fun to drive, then what’s the point? (Okay, some people buy these things just for styling and image, but I’d rather pretend otherwise.) The reviewed 2012 BMW Z4 is the sDrive28i. In case you don’t speak BMWese, this means it’s rear-wheel-drive (the Z4 isn’t available with all-wheel-drive, at least not yet) and powered by the equivalent of a 2.8-liter fuel-injected engine. Why the italicized bits? Like CPU manufacturers, BMW departed from a literal representation of key specs when this threatened to harm sales by making two engines seem either too close together or too far apart in performance potential. For 2012, the 2.8 is actually a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in place of last year’s 3.0-liter inline six. At its 5,000 rpm peak—a full 2,000 rpm short of the redline—the four puts out 240 horsepower. Like many current turbocharged engines, torque is electronically managed to yield a non-curve as flat as Kansas, with 260 pound-feet all the way from 1,250 to 4,800. Judging from the low power peak, there’s a lot of headroom remaining in this engine. BMW has tuned it to fill in for the workhorse six that previously powered its models’ lower trim levels, not to provide high rpm thrills. Aftermarket tuners will no doubt do what BMW hasn’t, and crank this engine past, perhaps well past, 280 horsepower.

And the driveability that was clearly a priority? I’ve often felt that even a decent six sounds and feels better than a very good four. But while the voice of BMW’s new four will never be mistaken for that of one of its trademark inline sixes, it doesn’t sound like the typical four-banger, either. Instead, perhaps because of the exhaust design for the twin-scroll turbocharger (with two cylinders feeding each “scroll”), it sounds surprisingly like a boxer up to about 4,000 rpm. Not as sophisticated as a six, but sporting and decidedly less pedestrian than a conventional four. I enjoyed listening to it. At higher rpm the engine actually does begin to sound something like a six. The conservative tuning, modest amount of boost, and twin-scroll design conspire to minimize boost lag, such that aside from the occasional whine the engine isn’t obviously boosted. In casual driving it performs very well, and should even be up to the task of motivating the quarter-ton-heavier 528i (whose 3,800 pounds I haven’t sampled yet).

Still, don’t let the early peak and broad plateau of the torque curve fool you. All of the engine torque might (or might not, given the loose connection BMW’s official specs can have with reality) be present at 1,250 rpm, but there’s still not much grunt down there. After all, power remains torque multiplied by engine speed, and just above idle there isn’t much of the last. To get real power out of the engine, wind it to 4,000 rpm, beyond which point it pulls satisfyingly hard. Just not for long. By 6,000 rpm the engine is running out of breath, and you might as well shift even though the engine remains smooth for another grand.

Actually, you’ll want to shift the six-speed manual transmission. The shifter’s moderate throws terminate in each gear with a mechanical yet suitably refined snick. My only complaint: it can be difficult to rush a downshift into second, as reverse is to the left of first. Slam the lever all the way to the left and there’s no gear to pull back into. With a little finesse this problem is avoided. First gear is very short, so that 4,000 rpm kickoff is readily attained from a dead stop.

Okay, I have a second complaint. The four-mit-stick powertrain is accompanied by an automatic stop/start system. Shift into neutral and release the clutch, and the engine automatically cuts off. Depress the clutch and it automatically restarts. Saves fuel, so what’s not to love? Well, this particular implementation isn’t nearly as seamless as that in the typical hybrid, perhaps because there’s no big electric motor to smooth the transitions. You’re very aware when the engine cuts off and when it restarts, with the former feeling like you’ve somehow stalled the engine.

And fuel economy? Last year’s sDrive30i managed EPA ratings of 18 city, 28 highway. The new four easily bests these numbers, with 22 in the city and 34 on the highway (24/33 with the eight-speed automatic). During my week with the car the trip computer reported mid-20s in casual suburban driving and high-20s on the highway. Thirty-four didn’t happen, but perhaps I had a headwind.

If you’re not a poser, then your priority in buying a sports car is handling. Here the Z4 partly delights, partly disappoints, depending on the end of the car in question. The rear end delights. It’s lively without being too lively, always ready to dance, with progressive, easily-modulated oversteer just a dip of the right foot away. The car’s layout and driving position provide the sensation that the car is pivoting directly beneath your ass, which you simply cannot get even in the best sport sedans.

By process of elimination, you’ve by now gathered that the front end disappoints. It’s not bad, and certainly contributes to balanced, stable, predictable handling. But, especially compared to the tail end, it’s dull. The steering is nicely weighted, but otherwise dead. It doesn’t help that the steering wheel is far too thickly padded. Any feedback that has made its way along the steering column meets an untimely end just short of your fingertips. You’ll experience a more engaging tiller in a Toyota Yaris.

Aside from adding a couple hundred agility-killing pounds, fancy folding hard tops are expensive. The 2012 BMW Z4 starts at $49,525. Add Premium and Sport packages, as on the tested car, opt for metallic paint, and you’re looking at a $55,675 MSRP. In it’s final year a similarly-equipped first-generation Z4 would have set you back $12,000 less. About $2,600 of the difference can be chalked up to the new car’s additional feature content, based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool. Inflation has added about the same. The remaining $7,000 or so? That would be the top.

Of course, a Mercedes-Benz SLK introduced such a top to the segment, so it’s similarly blessed and burdened. Unfortunately, a direct comparison isn’t possible, as the 2012 SLK is available with neither a sub-300-horsepower engine nor a stick. But even with its standard 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and seven-speed automatic, the Benz lists for only about a grand more, undercutting the Z4 sDrive35i with which it directly competes. In defense of the BMW, the Mercedes isn’t quite as large and, due to the presence of the SL, isn’t trying to serve as broad a swath of the roadster market. Put another way, the BMW is positioned a little higher up the automotive food chain. Similarly equip a base Porsche Boxster, and you’ll also end up at a surprisingly similar bottom line. No fancy folding hard top on the Porsche, but much better steering.

Why, exactly, did BMW fit the Z4 with a hard top? A hard top, with its weight, cost, and complexity penalties, makes most sense for a year-round daily use car. Judging from the average odometer readings reported through TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, most first-generation Z4s were bought as weekend cars—the average example is driven about 6,000 miles a year (meaning for every car driven the typical 12,000+, there are one or two others that don’t often leave the garage). Has the hard top broadened the appeal of the Z4, retaining the original group of buyers while adding more who buy the car as a daily driver? With sales stumbling along at 300 a month, this gambit doesn’t appear to have worked. More likely, the original group is turned off by the disadvantages of a hard top (despite the continuing advantage of the Z4’s driving position and suspension), while the car’s otherwise roadster level of functionality continues to limit its appeal to the second.

The new turbocharged four sounds good and works quite well in the Z4, conspiring with the rear suspension to make it a fun car to drive. But with 200 fewer pounds to motivate (and a price $7,000 lower) the four would work even better, and the car would be even more fun (especially if quicker, more communicative steering were part of the package). A solution could be on the way. Even if the Z4 continues to straddle the fence between roadster and boulevardier, the long-rumored Z2 might have the Z3’s tighter focus, with the rest of the car built around the distinctive experience provided by a center of rotation directly beneath the driver and the view over that long hood. But what if you happen to be seeking a fence straddler that works fairly well in both modes, that provides classic roadster proportions and seating position without classic roadster punishment? Then BMW already has your car.

BMW provided the car with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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59 Comments on “Review: 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i...”


  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I drove a last gen Z4 coupe with the base I6 a few years ago. Wasn’t a bad car, but I sure didn’t feel deserving of it’s price tag. My biggest gripe from the short 20-mile was the cheap interior that wouldn’t stand muster in most subcompacts. Looks like that problem has been fixed, looks wise. I guess the materials are decent.

    The rest of the car? Meh, just overpriced for what it was. Hard to wrap my head around a $52k price tag for that car.

  • avatar

    You’ll experience a more engaging tiller in a Toyota Yaris.

    Damn.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, this says as much about the 2012 Yaris as it does the BMW. Decent steering, appropriately padded steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Does the Yaris have electric steering? I’m guessing the BMW does. I can’t remember the last review I read that complemented pure electric steering (especially feedback), in any car. If the Yaris has it, it might be the first.

      • 0 avatar
        Hogun

        The Mazda2′s electric steering has gotten plenty of compliments, some of them on this site. It’s one of the big reasons I bought one – it’s so much fun to zing around corners.

        Sad that BMW engineers and marketing can’t get on the same page when it comes to making the “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

      • 0 avatar

        I think even the first-gen Z4 had EPS from the start, one of the first such systems. The Yaris also has EPS. It’s not quite as good as the system in the Mazda2, but it’s not far off. The steering wheel is padded much like that in a Mazda–fairly thin. I could have substituted “Yaris” with “Mazda2,” but then the point would have been weaker, as Mazdas are known to have good steering.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Michael – With that said, would you say the BMW steering is weak even for an EPS system? Mazdas have always had good steering, though so have BMWs. As a result, whenever I hear criticism of of EPS on a contemporary BMW, I can’t tell if it means it is bad compared to the bar BMW set with its hydraulic systems, or bad relative to other manufacturers also using EPS.

        It sounds as though Mazda is probably in the lead sorting out this relatively new technology, while BMW is struggling as much as everyone else to sort out EPS.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      The first gen Z4 had an electric steering rack. The Z4M had a hydraulic rack. I’ve never driven a Z4M but I’ve test driven a couple regular E85 Z4 roadsters. Steering just felt numb at best. Pity it sounds like it hasn’t improved much.

      The EPS system in our Mini Cooper has much more feedback, fwiw.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    This isn’t worth the $, and FWIW, I liked the last gen Z4 a lot better.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I always thought the Z3 was much more attractive. This still has heavy symptoms of Banglization.

    Ugh….

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Michael,

    Will you mind doing a review on 2012 528i? I believe that new 528i has the same N20 engine as the z4 that you just drove.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I think Michael nailed when concluding that for $7-10K this car would make sense. But if you want roadster fun in the sun, for about $20K you can get a low mileage last gen Z4 3.0si which would make a perfect weekend car without requiring a second mortgage.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “to frolic along twisty two-lanes.”

    Does Michigan have any of those? A quick glance at a map suggests not. I have a theory that the universality of flat, straight, frost-heaved roads in Michigan is the reason for the domestics’ love affair with big floaty barges.

    One would think that taking two cylinders off the nose would improve handling and feel, but I suppose BMW made the Z4 for people who want to look sporty while rolling along the highway with cruise control on.

    • 0 avatar

      What physics giveth, the steering system and thickly padded wheel taketh away.

      Some somewhat curvy roads can be found once outside the Detroit metro area, and I’ve got a few places I go in the area to test how a car performs when the road bends. But there’s a reason the magazines based here tend to visit SE Ohio often.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      Please consult Google Maps (or your favorite other map provider), and search for “Hell, MI.”, “Pinckney” or “Waterloo Recreation”. The local members of NSX Prime frequent the area during Summer for a reason.

  • avatar
    wmba

    From hubpages:

    “In a predominately male ocuupied field, two women car designers for BMW broke through the other side. Nadya Arnaout and Juliane Blasi, both designed the exterior of the new 2010 BMW Z4 sports car and despite what you may think, praised for its “masculine swagger”. One look at the designers and this praise seems paradoxical.”

    There are many other references if you google this subject. Not my cup of tea, but perhaps apropos of Karesh’s John Holmes reference.

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    That top appears so low that I wonder if I could get myself in the car.
    In all ways my old Fiat 124 Spider was inferior. Except one. Pull up to a stop sign and it was a matter of a very few seconds to unlatch the simple lightweight top and fling it back and down.
    Question – can you use that shelf over the paper towels as a redneck trash compactor? JK, of course.

    • 0 avatar

      The top’s not as low as it looks. Unless you’re very tall getting in and out won’t be a problem. It’s also pretty quick, but not as quick as a manual top. With a Miata it’s still a simple matter of flinging the top back.

  • avatar
    Syke

    OK, I’ll be the pedantic bastard. That’s not a roadster. Roadster’s have clip on side curtains, something that’s completely unacceptable to a drop top nowadays, no matter what the price. I believe the last roadster sold in the U.S. was the MGA.

    Given it has wind-up (ok, electrically powered, ghod forbid we should have to manually wind-up a window) windows, I believe that makes it a cabriolet.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I prefer the Mercedes SLK. For the same price you get a 3.5L V6 instead of a 4-Cyl.

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Michael,

    Not only are you a master statistician, you are also an excellant reviewer. I aways enjoy your Jack Webb “just the facts ma’am” delivery. In my opinion, BMW has jumped the shark once again. Stop start in a roadster? Why? 90% of these will be used as weekend cruisers, and the 10% that will use them as daily drivers are masochists. BMW once again has failed to understand that just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you should.

    I can understand that BMW has to move forward, but the sales figures for this car indicate to me that they are moving in the wrong direction. Their stubborn adherence to run flats, and refusal to provide a proper dipstick, among other things, have ensured that I will not be replacing my E46 “melanomamobile” anytime soon. The BMW legacy was founded on the beautiful, normally aspirated straight six that I have in my car, and I just cannot see myself being happy with a turbo four no matter how well implemented it is.

    Mileage is a secondary consideration for the majority of purchasers of this type of car, although I realize that government regulations are pushing BMW in this direction. I may be stuck in a time warp, but the complexity of a turbo just turns me off. Purchasers previously had a choice, and could always step up to the twin turbo if that is what they desired. Thanks again for another great review, and I eagerly anticipate your next.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      These cars don’t have much of a purpose but to cruise. It won’t be first in class at the autocross, can’t haul big purchases from Home Depot, and will have a hard time keeping up with a V6 Camcord from a stop light.

      With that aside I enjoy my 2007 Saturn Sky 2.4 Hahn Racecraft turbo with 350 HP and 400 torque seeing up to 45 mpg in the summer months. I can throw a set of race rubber on and be contender for fastest time of the day at the local autocross.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I think I have read your claims of 45mpg before, and I still cannot see how you can get 45mpg out of a turbo-modded engine that in stock form couldnt touch that figure?

        The only time my GTI sees 45mpg is when I look at the instant fuel economy readout while coasting down a hill. Not hating, but how do you do it?? Cruising at 40mph?

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Modern day GM Ecotec is pretty impressive even handling 16:1 air/fuel ratio under boost with a hit of knock.

        Most 2800 lbs 4-cylinders can see well into the 40 mpg range with slightly higher tire pressures and conservative driving style. My driving is 80% highway and driving near speed limit which I can do on my 120 mile daily commute.

    • 0 avatar
      Sam P

      BMWfan, the 2002 and E30 M3 both had inline fours and never came from the factory with an inline six. Both are considered to be desirable classic BMWs that cemented BMW’s legacy in a significant way.

      -Another E46 owner.

      • 0 avatar
        BMWfan

        Very true! I kind of had those in the back of my mind as I was writing my post, as I had ridden in an E30 M3 a long time ago. It was a short ride, but I vaguely remember the motor being a little harsh. I couldn’t afford those cars when they came out, so I am really only familiar with the inline six in my E46. From what my friends at the BMW dealer tell me, the current 4 is a really good engine, but I sure do like the smoothness on my six. I’m just an old crest on a new wave I guess. Good luck with your E46!

  • avatar
    arbnpx

    I became acquainted with BMW’s automatic engine stop/start system in a 116d rental in Munich. After sitting in traffic for 3 minutes, my left leg was getting tired, so I moved the shifter to neutral and release the clutch pedal. *THUNK!* The engine winds itself down gracefully, and I get nervous, as though I stalled it out, but I see a huge “turning arrow with X over it” icon with “AUTO” below it, so I say, “Oh, it turned the engine off automatically to save fuel!… What do I have to do to start the engine up again?” I press down the clutch pedal again, and the starter motor starts up, bringing the 2.0L turbodiesel back to life. And then I look at the center console, and see the “AUTO OFF” button to disable the automatic engine stop/start. I imagine that the Z4 sDrive28i most likely has a button to disable the auto stop/start (unless they buried it in an iDrive menu somewhere).

    That said, I loved the 116d. 55 miles per gallon on diesel with normal driving. If BMW USA wasn’t so power-obsessed, they could take on the Prius with those numbers, even with the higher price per gallon of diesel in the US (diesel is the cheapest auto fuel in Germany).

    • 0 avatar

      The Z4 has such a button easily accessible on the console.

      • 0 avatar
        BMWfan

        If you pressed it once and it stayed off until it was pressed again, that would be fine. From what I understand, you have to depress it every time you start the car to deactivate it. I would imagine that BMW will be selling a lot more starters once the car is out of warranty. Do you have any idea if BMW has beefed up the starter system to handle the increased duty cycle? This system makes sense on a daily driver, but for this application, no. Knowing someone that just spent $900 to replace a starter on an E90 at the dealer makes me leery, and the idea of doing a pre flight check just to make a short trip seems a bit excessive.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    The current wave of modern 2-seat roadsters…

    …makes me really, really, REALLY miss the Honda S2000. Funny that such a dull brand (on the whole) absolutely NAILED what a convertible 2-seater is supposed to be about. Driving an AP2 S2k, there’s absolutely nothing that I’d change about it.

    52k for this? At that price point, if you wanted badge snobbery and a drop top, you’d get a Boxster. the new 2013 Boxster (http://www.carthrottle.com/heres-the-new-boxster-same-as-the-old-boxster/) starts at 49k, and will get similar MPG’s from it’s 2.7L DI flat six, while making more power (265) and having the engine in the right place (YMMV) and looking way better (again, YMMV.) Want performance? An LS3 Corvette convertible or a Shelby GT500 would eat this alive.

    The new Z4 seems like a nice car, but that top really ruins it price-wise.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Exactly! The S2000 was the perfect roadster at a very good price point. The Miata is still great too, just wish it had a bit more power.

      All the Euro models are really for posing. My guess is the price on these really doesnt matter, most of them will be leased, and BMW usually offers better lease deals than its competitors to move the metal.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      I was thinking the same thing, Mrb00st. The S2000 is way more affordable to buy and maintain and the Boxster has higher prestige at no more cost. Both are a better driving car than the BMW.

      One aspect few people mention is that (sadly) most buyers of the BMW and Boxster opt for the automatic. That knocks the S2000 out completely, raising it’s prestige considerably in my book! But it also gives a victory to the Porsche, whose dual-clutch system makes the car far sportier than the BMW “slushbox.” A base Boxster with PDK and launch control should have no problem with the BMW, S2000, or V6 Cam/Cord at the stoplights.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    $56k for a 240hp 4 cylinder? I don’t think so. Hell, you could buy Miata AND a Optima Turbo for that much. And have change for a vacation.

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    I owned a (last generation) ’03 Z4 with the 3.0 liter enginge, the 6sp manual, and the sports package. When I got it, the dealer also had a Z3 M. I drove them both and even though the M was a nice car, there was no comparison in handling and stiffness. Could have been the Sports Package (these run flats and suspension tunning, btw, make you feel even a crack on a drive way.) Have never driven the new Z4, but as far as “value” goes, add the complimentary maintenance, free pick up and delivery for maintenance and/or free loaners, for 4 years and subtract a good $2-3K from the price. I really enjoyed it, but I needed a back seat.

  • avatar
    jonnyguitar

    Boxster wins six ways from Sunday.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Is it me, or does a inline 6 say ‘luxury’ but a turbo 4 doesn’t?

    Hell, I think the Lexus IS was diminished when it went from an inline 6 to a V6.

  • avatar

    Though stopping well short of SLR excess, the hood might yet induce envy from John Holmes.

    So Karesh makes porn star metaphors, Baruth writes about threesomes, Bertel posts knotty pictures, and I’m the one who gets complaints from the prudes for using a dictionary word. Go figure.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    What kills me about the new Z4 is that BMW’s “entry-level” roadster can now easily top $70k. The original Z3 sold beacuse it was fun, topless, and under $40k; a perfect option for those who wanted to stretch a bit beyond a 3-Series. In moving upmarket, they’ve killed the Z4′s appeal: no longer cheap, not especially spry, nor particularly status-y for the price.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      As an owner of an ’01 3.0 Z3 roadster (purchased as a CPO in ’03), I have to agree with you totally. Let’s face it, a car with two seats and a trunk that will carry an overnight bag is mostly a toy. So, the question is, how much will you pay for a toy? Obviously, some people will pay a lot. But the spiffier interior and the folding hardtop of the new Z4 do not add to the basic functionality of a roadster. They just add to the cost.

      The interior of my Z3 is functional, maybe even Spartan. But it’s simple and inexpensive. Interestingly, the weakest point of my car — the seats — don’t seem to have been improved much.

      As for the engines, the 3.0 liter M54 engine has many virtues — linear power delivery and enough low-end grunt to toodle along at 2000 rpm if that’s your pleasure. It’s not the best on fuel (27 mpg highway is about the best I’ve done) but, in a car that’s driven 6,000 miles/year, how important is that last 3 mpg? I agree with the comments about the stop/start system. The incremental fuel savings that result are unlikely to repay the cost of additional components, not to mention service complexity. (It’s the electronics associated with recharging the battery that prevent a simple replacement of a worn-out battery.) Also, to the extent that electrically powered accessories discharge the battery more deeply, a different and usually more expensive type of battery than the typical automotive battery is needed, that will tolerate that kind of use. The typical car battery likes to be fully charged all of the time and does not tolerate repeated cycles of deep discharge.

      At the time I was car shopping, I rejected the Miata and S2000 as being too small (I’m 6’3″), and to get any acceleration from the s2000, you have to drive it like you stole it. (Admittedly, the S2000 is a more nimble feeling car than the Z3.) Even before the Boxter engine’s IMS failure problem was well known, I rejected that car mostly because for the same $$$, I could get a newer Z3 with a CPO, whereas I was buying a Boxster with 50% more miles and a very limited warranty.

      I just spent the better part of a day replacing all of the cooling system components, hoses and belts on my car (although none — except the thermostat — had failed). The only other part that has failed on my car is a $200 DISA valve, which I replaced in about 10 minutes.

      Not bad for 11 years and 65,000 miles.

      MK is right, a roadster has a certain feel to it, the result of the placement of the driver relative to the wheelbase.

  • avatar
    meefer

    It’s not particularly fast, sporty, luxe, and it’s certianly not a good value. But it doesn’t have to be if it looked fantastic. Which unfortunately it doesn’t. I’ve seen them in person around SoCal, the proportions kind of make sense with the top down, but with the top up it’s cartoonish in all the wrong ways.

    I’m actually in the market for a second/weekend car and this got crossed off the list really early, especially now that both powertrains have the infamous HPFP from the 335i.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I loved the original Z3. The first Z4 was not as good looking and went too upscale. Resale values on them do not seem very good, I see many Z4′s for sale under $20k. I kinda like the looks of this new one, but the price is crazy high for it.

    But the new turbo 4 sounds like it will be a winner, especially when tuned. Be nice if they will offer it in a lighter, smaller package, like a 1-Series Club Sport model that was being talked about a couple years back.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    If you’re interested in looks, cruising, and road feel is not a top concern, the Jag XK just *destroys* this car. Depreciation on those is brutal. Certified ’09s are under $50K, or less than $45 for an ’08. The AJV8 with the top down sounds glorious, no four banger will EVER be able to match that noise.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    It sounds like BMW is really starting to lose certain traits that used to set them apart; whether buy government regulation, market forces or both.

    As a BMW owner, I always saw their advantage as sweet I6 engines, excellent steering (subjective I guess), FR layout, and available manual transmissions in a practical package.

    Practicality isn’t as important with the Z4, but CAFE regulations have basically forced BMW to switch to a blown 4 cylinder and use of EPS. This eliminates two of the unique traits of the Z4.

    This extends to the rest of their model line as well, since the turbo 4 will see duty in the new 3 and 5, and all new models have electric power steering (with other reviews making complaints against it similar to what Michael says). Rumor has it variants of the new 1 series will have a FF layout.

    Not saying BMW is helpless here and CAFE is to blame. It sounds like they did a good job with the turbo 4 and can always improve the EPS. However, there is a dwindling set of features to differentiate BMW from the competition. VW/Audi also does well with turbo 4s, for example. With nothing to set BMW apart, why would anyone tolerate their sticker prices and running costs?

  • avatar
    iganpo

    I don’t know. After the smoothness of my 93 Camry V6, it’s hard for me to go back to a four-cylinder. Especially a $52,000 one. besides, I get over 26 miles per gallon on my 330 CI.

  • avatar
    svenmeier

    A modern 4-cylinder engine is very refined. People should really drive and experience them first before commenting on how “unrefined” a 4-cylinder is.

    Back in the ’70s nobody thought a diesel-powered car would ever be quick. Look at them today.

    Technology improves.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      Not only that, but most people will opt for the torque-converter automatic, which will dampen vibrations. Further, given the low-RPM torque of the turbo 4, most owners will be quite happy never cresting 4000 RPM.

      With arbitrary MPG benchmarks and strict tailpipe emissions, the days of high-revving engines, manual transmissions, and non-electronic everything are sadly all but over.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    The price of the current BMW Z cars is outrageous. In the mid-past decade the Z3 was an attractive proposition since it was a faster-than-boxster sports car starting in the mid-30K. As mentioned, it was priced similar to 3-series. A young single yuppie could have easily traded a 328′s utility for Z3s performance, at effectively the same price. 10 years later the replacement Z4 starts at cool 50 grand. Perhaps it’s a much better car now, plus the inflation has eroded the value of the dollar since the Z3 was produced. However, I just fail to see the value here.. I might as well buy a Porsche if I had so much money for a toy sports car.

  • avatar
    mvoss

    Fantastic review, though I feel obligated to let you know that the SLK250 is available in stick (only model in MB’s lineup that is), and it’s also 201 hp and a turbo 4. Not exactly the same as the 28i, but it’s a point of comparison.


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