By on August 17, 2017

2017 BMW Z4 Roadster Concept - Image: BimmerfileThis is not the next BMW Z4.

But it’s very likely an accurate portrayal of what the production version of BMW’s third-generation Z4 (and successor to the Z3) will look like when it goes on sale next year.

Love it or hate it, the BMW Roadster Concept that BMW will officially unveil in Pebble Beach later today is an eye-catching followup to the departing Z4 that appeared eight years ago. Now we wait to see whether the next Z4, which shares its underpinnings with the reborn Toyota Supra, will attract any buyers.

U.S. sales of the Z4 plunged by more than 90 percent between 2003 and 2015. 

2017 BMW Z4 Roadster Concept - Image: BimmerfileAttracting droptop customers is an increasingly difficult task for all automakers — BMW isn’t alone in that aspect. Outgoing BMW sales boss Ian Robertson famously questioned whether the sports car market would ever revive following the depths of 2009’s recession.

In the U.S., specifically, BMW averaged more than 13,000 annual Z4 sales in the five years prior to the recession but then sold only 10,398 total Z4s between 2012 and 2016.

At the lower end of the sports car market, the launch of a new Mazda MX-5 Miata resulted in 16,897 U.S. sales in 2006. Another new Miata produced only 9,465 U.S. sales in 2016.

Closer to the Z4’s realm, Porsche sold 41-percent fewer Boxsters in 2016 than in 2006. Mercedes-Benz SLK/SLC sales plunged by two-thirds during the same interval. Audi TT sales rose to a seven-year high of 3,044 units in the U.S. last year, but that represented a 68-percent drop from 2002.

Over-the-top design might be just what’s required for the 2019 BMW Z4 to capture the minds of remaining sports car buyers. BMW’s kidney grilles are stretched wide. Massive intakes below the headlights appear fit for swallowing small mammals. The upswept character line along the doors familiar to Z4 observers is emphasized. The outlets aft of the front wheels are far larger. Horizontal taillights slide under a wing incorporated into the trunklid. Double buttresses behind the headrests add interest to the otherwise flat rear deck.2017 BMW Z4 Roadster Concept - Image: BimmerfileThe concept cues are obvious. Outsized wheels fill the wheelarches to the brim. The side mirrors are unrealistic. The windshield surround is delightfully slim. The paint job appears more costly than your entire car.

But the Roadster Concept  does a fair job of carrying the Z4 torch while clearly distinguishing itself from past Z4s.

It might not matter. The market has forsaken the BMW Z4.

Fortunately, because of a partnership with Toyota that will help both automakers allay cost concerns, the BMW Z4 has not forsaken the market.

[Source: Autocar]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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29 Comments on “BMW Roadster Concept Suggests Next Z4 Will Be a Stunner, but Will Anybody Buy It?...”

  • avatar

    When I’m shopping convertibles, I definitely want a door sill that’s higher than my shoulder. German engineering, that’s how you make a roadster feel more claustrophobic than a Camaro.

    Really though, this thing looks like a cartoon. An F-Type will look classier, and sound better.

  • avatar

    I just saw a black z8 earlier this week and it was so beautiful and sleek. Then I saw this and it isn’t. It’s ok, it’s aggressive and all. It’s not ugly, it’s just not beautiful.

    • 0 avatar

      This guy certainly liked his Z8 until it got sawed in half…

      Lovely car, particularly from the rear three-quarters perspective.

    • 0 avatar

      The Z8 is nice at rest, but for all it’s speed potential, has significantly worse wind management than even 1st gen Miatas. If you’re more than 5 feet tall, it’s just not particularly useful for much beyond parading up and down High Street looking doofy.

  • avatar

    Manufacturers are missing the plot.

    I think there are a lot more people who want a raw, air-bag/crumple-zone free bare bones sports car for ~$20K than something like this for $60K. After all, people still ride motorcycles.

    I don’t know if it’s legal or how it would factor into EPA stuff, but I’d love something like a kit car from a major manufacturer. I ride a motorcycle, but would gladly give it up for something like an FFR 818 or the like with an emissions compliant engine. This new Z4 is kind of an intersection of bad… yes it looks good, and yes it will be fast, but I’m sure it’s going to be heavy, isolated, and expensive. For all that I might as well just get a 340i.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds like you want a Bugeye Sprite, but they could never make one pass modern safety standards without doubling the weight increasing the width by 50%. Then you need to add in all the features people expect today – rollup windows, heater, radio, floor mats, seatbelts, rust-proofing, and pretty soon you are almost up the size, weight, and price of a Z4.

    • 0 avatar

      The Miata is basically that (albeit a bit more expensive).

      And it sells fine but not amazingly.

    • 0 avatar

      Sales of the Miata and Fiata say pretty much otherwise. 30K a year or so in the US? Seems about right to me.

      That is about as small and simple a car as you can legally sell in the US today. And I literally do not fit comfortably in one. Admittedly I am a 95-percentile male in overall size. But I DO fit just fine (top down) in a MUCH smaller Triumph Spitfire because when you leave out all the nanny state safety gear, comfort gizmos, and infotainment, there is a heck of a lot more room in the car. But I am under no illusions of what will happen if I tangle with any sort of modern car, never mind Soccer Mom Sue’s SUV Family Truckster.

      Of course, I am also of the opinion that if it is legal to sell a motorcycle, it should be legal to sell an emissions compliant new Triumph Spitfire-esque car as long as there is a big disclaimer that it meets no safety standards at all.

      This new BMW/Toyota will probably sell enough globally to be profitable, but it is hardly going to set the sales charts on fire. We are in a particularly practical age when it comes to cars. Impractical but cool and pretty doesn’t really sell.

      I think it will be attractive enough, I’ll probably prefer the toned-down production version. Not that I would ever buy one, not my sort of thing and I already have a beloved convertible in the garage (for 21 years now).

    • 0 avatar

      The whole “modern car requirements” thing is why I’m saying manufacturers should move to kit cars for sports cars. In most states all they need to do is pass emissions. Safety wise you are on your own, which is OK with me. 4 wheels would be a significant upgrade from 2. Only creature comforts I would want are HVAC, windshield wipers, rear defroster and ABS. I’d manage the rest.

      I think the enduring success of the Miata and all the kit cars in the UK show that there is a demand for minimalist sports cars. I’d rather spend $20K on something brutal and raw than $40K on something marginally rawer and significantly less practical than a 328i

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve talked to people about it, and it seems the consensus is that the only reason kit cars aren’t subject to the same fleecing by the rent seeking classes as production cars, is that there are too few of them to represent a lucrative honey pot. And that once/if someone with serious backing builds a kit car that changes that……. ta-da, here comes the leeches.

        Very much along the lines of Bastiat’s “unseen”: Lots and lots of useful activity simply doesn’t take place, in an environment where the leeching and rent seeking classes have unlimited carte blanche to highway rob and harass anyone who dares attempting something productive and useful; entirely at their discretion.

        Much the same way CAFE, and other regulation, prevents narrowly focused, specialist entrants from being set up to grab a slice of the Big3-4-5s ridiculously markup heavy pickup truck market. And, even more extreme, how zoning, land use and building permit nonsense, keep the rent seekers in the “real estate” rackets flush, and the rest homeless or in indentured debt servitude.

        • 0 avatar

          “I’ve talked to people about it, and it seems the consensus is that the only reason kit cars aren’t subject to the same fleecing by the rent seeking classes as production cars, is that there are too few of them to represent a lucrative honey pot. And that once/if someone with serious backing builds a kit car that changes that……. ta-da, here comes the leeches.”

          do you people also toss around terms like “Faustian,” “Kafkaesque,” “Orwellian,” and make sly references to “John Galt” like a college kid in his 2nd year?

          kit cars get a pass because if you build it yourself, you are personally assuming responsibility for its on-road behavior.

          • 0 avatar

            Noone in the real world gives a quarter toot about “personally assuming responsibility for its on-road behavior”, if the savings are big enough. Porsche would have lines stretching all the way back to Germany, if they cheaply sold 993 kits, where assembling the kit required all of hiring out attaching wheels, doors, the engine and lights, to someone who helps the owner build it in a P provided assembly plant. With the budding owner being on hand to tighten just enough screws to claim it’s a “home built.”

            Regulation, certification and litigation driven cost runups and stagnant development amongst the oems, were the reason light aircraft are now at least as likely to be “home built” as fully certified production planes.

            The way rules are currently written for kit cars, would enable a similar development there. Except, as I pointed out above, noone in neither the kit car nor kit plane industries, nor any of the approximately one million “angels” and VCs who are obsessed with general aviation, believes rules will stay that way for cars for long enough to recoup investment, if the production built to home built ratio for cars even hinted at moving in that direction.

            Noone goes through life wanting to pay more for less. The only reason most end up doing so anyway, is because alternatives are straight up banned, witn the ban being backed up by asymmetric access to arms. For the benefit of the entrenched and connected. To the detriment of everyone else.

  • avatar

    Z4 is and always has been a good car, but its size and price point are just not well suited for the US. A well equipped Z4 is pushing $60k. That’s Corvette money. A loaded-up Mustang GT convertible is $15k less as well. It also doesn’t have the cachet Porsche does with the Boxter.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Belt line is too high, and it’s not pretty overall.

    One of my DDs is an M roadster. I can actually rest my arm on the top of the door; outward visibility is excellent.

  • avatar

    I like it a lot!

    As long as i can fit in it, its as reliable as a toyota, and depreciates like a rock- I’ll definitely consider one in 8 or so years.

  • avatar

    The Z4 has never been an attractive car. This new one looks amazing! Hope the production car looks a lot like this.

  • avatar

    I like it, but I’ll be very shocked if it sells in enough volume to make a profit even with the shared platform.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course it will. BMW is a master of component sharing. Underneath, I have no doubt this is largely a 3-series, just like the Z4 and Z3 were. Once the basic platform is engineered the variations don’t cost much, and this thing is going to be expensive. And then having a Toyota version too just makes it all the sweeter.

  • avatar

    Mercedes sells a fair number of SLCs, and this Z4 looks WAY nicer…who knows, BMW might have something here.

    Besides, they desperately need something to inject some va-voom into their lineup. Bimmers are BORING these days.

  • avatar

    I think that the decline in convertible purchases has a lot to do with the size of available models. Once the top is down there’s just no space left in the trunk, and even with the top up the space consumed by the lift mechanism cuts back the usable space where there wasn’t much to begin with. The roll over protection mechanisms eat up even more space. This limits the ability to properly enjoy a convertible on a fun getaway where it’s at its best. Anyone trying to sell into this niche would be well advised to start with a larger platform that can better absorb all of the extra gear that a convertible requires.

  • avatar

    Looks like an update of a GM Kappa… stunning? Not so much.

  • avatar

    I know the conventional wisdom is that the market doesn’t care about what enthusiast want, but I sometimes have to wonder if manufacturers are letting the sports cars die of mediocrity. I don’t know very many BMW fans who thought the E89 was as good as the E85, never mind the power train decline as a 2.0t 4 became the base engine and the top spec performance model couldn’t be had with a manual. I doubt many Porsche fans think the 982 718 is as desirable as the 981 Boxster, which, depending on how much you hate electric power steering, may not have been as good as the 987. Overall, even though they’ve gotten faster, sports cars have gotten less fun in involving to drive. Unless you’re buying it as a fashion statement, what’s the point of having an impractical two seats sports car that isn’t amazing to drive?

    • 0 avatar

      I wonder too if they are being hurt by the dramatic improvements seen in the American entries. 7 years ago, I would’ve never favored a Camaro or Mustang over a Boxster, and the Corvette was neck and neck with the German, relying on its engine to offset its still inferior chassis. Now, with as good as the American chassis tuning and engines have gotten, and as mediocre as the Germans have become, I would love to own any of the above 3 Yanks but have absolutely zero interest in, or affection for, the Germans. Wasn’t there an article not too long ago about the mustang now being the best selling sports car in Germany?

  • avatar

    Does anybody have an insight on what the differences will be between Z4 and the Supra? Besides the dubious prestige of the “BMW” badge what would make a customer choose a BMW over Toyota?

    Somehow I feel that Supra will be a higher tech option offered in the same $60K range as this new Z4 Bavarian wunderauto.

    • 0 avatar

      The BMW will offer a manual transmission, for one thing.

      And an I6. Presumably the 6 cylinder option in the Supra will be the same TTV6 that Lexus is now using.

  • avatar

    TTAC: “BMW Roadster Concept Suggests Next Z4 Will Be a Stunner, but Will Anybody Buy It?”

    ANS: No. Too little, and too late.

    Corvette has this sports-car thing all wrapped up in America, and killed the Viper too!
    I had a Z4. Never again: under powered and overpriced, requiring $450 tires, and failing electronics.


  • avatar

    Aside from the i8, the best front fascia design BMW has done in years.

    No weirdly shaped (“derpy”) headlights and the kidney grille has a wider, more modern and aggressive take.

    Really nothing new, and in fact, doing what other automakers have been doing for years ((note how both BMW and MB have been “stretching” out their headlights) – but still, an improvement nonetheless.

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