The Z4 roadster has become the first BMW to drop its in-line six for a four-cylinder turbo, spurred by a quest for better fuel economy. It’s a big deal for BMW, a car company that has made its name with straight-six engines. The fact that the new 2.0-liter four is a good engine makes this change a bit easier to swallow. Compared with the old six, power is down a bit but torque is up; it makes the 28i a quick car, able to race to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds with the eight-speed automatic. The automatic is a no-charge option over the six-speed manual, which has fluid shift action through its long throws. This engine doesn’t just make the numbers, it makes the right noises, with a sharp bark overlaid with the whoosh of its turbocharger. Still, we’re glad a straight six, which powers the 35i and the 35is, remains available. The 35i gets a 300-hp turbo version and a choice of a stick shift or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The racier 35is is an M Roadster in all but name. Its turbo six bumps up the output to 335 hp and comes only with the dual-clutch seven-speed. However, many of the 35is goodies — the Adaptive M suspension with driver-selectable modes, the eighteen-inch wheels, the aero body kit, and the sport seats — are available on the two other models. Leather is standard on the six-cylinder cars but not the 28i. Unfortunately, the switch to a four-cylinder engine has not made the Z4 any more affordable. In fact, the base price has increased by more than $1000 (although there is a bit more standard equipment, with Bluetooth and a USB audio input now included).

Drive: Rear-wheel
Trim levels: sDrive28i, sDrive35i, sDrive35is
Body style: Convertible, 2-passenger
Engines: 2.0L turbo I-4, 240 hp, 258 lb-ft
3.0L twin-turbo I-6, 300/335 hp, 300/332 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 7- or 8-speed automatic
Passenger volume: N/A
Cargo space: (top up) 8.0 cu ft

In a move that portends the future, BMW has dropped the normally aspirated straight six — the brand’s signature engine — from the Z4. In its place is a new turbo four-cylinder. It makes less power
(240 hp versus 255 hp) but more torque (258 lb-ft versus 220 lb-ft). The new engine spurs a name change, from Z4 sDrive30i to Z4 sDrive28i. The two other Z4 models, the sDrive 35i and the sDrive 35is, continue with turbocharged straight-six engines.

Front and side air bags with passenger-side Occupant Position Detection Systems (OPDS), ABS, traction and stability control, and adaptive xenon headlamps are standard. BMW Assist, with automated crash response, is optional.

All: 17-19 mpg city/24-26 mpg highway

  • Classic roadster proportions
  • All three versions are quick
  • Nice interior
  • Small trunk, even smaller with the top down
  • No manual for the 35is

The classic roadster, as interpreted by BMW.

  • Audi TT
  • Mercedes-Benz SLK
  • Nissan 370Z
  • Porsche Boxster
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