Earlier this year BMW released the facelifted BMW Z4, on paper the facelift is not all that exciting. But the 2014 BMW Z4 sDrive35is could very well be the most exciting car I drove this year. I will try to explain why…
When the BMW Z4 was first introduced in 2002 it came as a soft-top roadster and from 2006 also as a coupe. Engines ranged from a modest 2.0 liter 4 cylinder with 152hp to the 3.2 liter straight-six with 330-343hp found in the Z4 M Roadster and Coupe. Until the end of the first generation Z4 in 2008 all of nearly 200,000 first-generation Z4s were build in the BMW USA South Carolina plant.
With the introduction of the second generation BMW Z4 in 2009 the production moved back to Regensburg in Bavaria, Germany. But it was not just the production that changed; the initial concept of the Z4 was changed and the soft-top roadster was replaced with a folding hard-top roadster/coupe. The styling also received a significant upgrade and for the first time a 7-speed dual clutch transmission was offered on the Z4.
Just like the first generation Z4 a range of engines is also on offer. Since early this year these have included a new entry-level sDrive18i 2.0 liter four cylinder with 154hp up to the twin-turbocharged 3.0 liter straight-six with 335hp in the current flagship sDrive35is that we tested.
In addition to the new entry-level engine, the facelift of the second generation BMW Z4 comprises of some minor exterior and interior details and a new Hyper Orange package that can also be seen on our test car. It includes a combination of an orange/black exterior, orange Alcantara door panel trim, leather seats with Valencia Orange stitching and some other bits and pieces.
Besides the optional Hyper Orange package, all sDrive35is models come with the M Sport Package as standard. This includes the adaptive M suspension, 18 Inch M wheels, M Aerodynamics package, M steering wheel, sports seats and the familiar M badges throughout the car.
But enough on all the specifications, time to really explain what makes this such an exciting car to drive. Lets begin by saying I’m not a fan of convertibles, its either too cold, too hot or raining. And even when its the occasional beautiful day, driving with the top down messes up your hair, gives you sunburn and nobody understands a word you’re saying on the telephone. And than I haven’t even mentioned the disadvantages a convertible has from an engineering perspective.
The only convertibles I like are generally the ones that don’t give you the feeling you are driving a convertible when the roof is up. The McLaren 12C Spider for example, nearly the same weight, just as stiff and just as fast as its coupe brother. And in this case the Spider even allows for a better experience of the engine and exhaust sound thanks to the small rear window that you can open and close.
With the Z4 it is hard to compare how it stacks up against its coupe counterpart because there simply isn’t one. However the Z4 sDrive35is has something else though that makes me completely forget that I don’t like convertibles; and that is its fabulous straight-six engine with the wonderful name N54B30TO. It produces 335hp and 500Nm of torque and is an absolute dream to drive.
The 3.0 liter N5430TO uses two small turbochargers plus direct fuel injection which allows for a broad power band and very little turbo lag. Despite its relatively small-displacement, it gives you the power output and feel of driving a much heavier V8 engine. Put your foot down in 7th gear at 120 km/h and there is enough torque available immediately to take you directly through to the electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.
Due to the long bonnet and the low seating position you get the feeling you are driving something more ‘grande’ than the reasonably sized Z4. The view over the long bonnet reminds me more of the Jaguar XKR than anything else in this class. This design does have one downside, the luggage space in the rear is fairly limited, with the roof down there is only room for one small suitcase.
The 7-speed dual clutch sport automatic works flawlessly and is very precise. Thanks to the broad power band and ratio setup the higher gears don’t feel like an overdrive like in many modern day luxury and sportcars. It is this pure feeling of an engine that works for you and not for emission ratings that becomes more scarce every year. Of course this has an effect on the fuel economy but I will gladly buy a bit more fuel in return for the sensations this engine gives you.
Open the roof and you are not just treated by the torque but also by the sound. Lift your foot of the throttle and the exhaust rumbles non-stop, step back on the gas and you get treated by the fabulous tunes that only a BMW straight-six creates. The brakes could grip a little quicker and the ride could be a little sportier but driving through the German countryside, the only thing that really reminds me I don’t like convertibles is the occasional smell of cow shit.
Overall the BMW Z4 sDrive35is is so much more than what comes to mind when you think Z4. Yes, I would rather have a real coupe but knowing that that won’t happen, at least not with this generation Z4, I will settle for the Z4 sDrive35is right now!