New For 2014

Changes for 2014 are few. The headlights now incorporate the obligatory LED strip. BMW’s ConnectedDrive system adds more capabilities, such as the ability to play Internet radio stations via a linked mobile phone or to have Facebook and Twitter posts displayed on the navigation screen or read aloud. The optional Hyper Orange package replaces last year’s Citrus Yellow package. This orange-and-black themed trim package includes special paint, upholstery, and trim. Buyers can choose a contrast-painted roof in black or silver.

Vehicle Summary

More so than any other roadster on the market, the BMW Z4 is all about classicism. Check out its low-slung proportions and its ultra-long hood and short deck. The narrow, two-seat cockpit is set well back, just ahead of the rear axle. Not quite so traditional, however, is the retractable hard top where we might expect to find a fabric roof. The Z4 is currently in its second generation, and its styling is much more successful than that of the ungainly original.


BMW offers its rear-wheel-drive, two-seat roadster in three versions. The base Z4 28i uses the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 240 hp. Next up is the Z4 35i, with the characteristic BMW straight six under the hood, turbocharged to deliver 300 hp. At the top is the Z4 35is, which has a more highly tuned version of that same six putting out 335 hp. All three versions have a standard rocker switch to adjust the powertrain response among three modes: comfort, sport, and sport-plus.

That switch also adjusts the suspension settings in cars equipped with the Adaptive M suspension; it’s standard on the 35is and optional on the others. No matter the mode, the Z4 corners flatly and reacts quickly to steering inputs. Too bad the car’s electrically assisted power steering is overly light and detached. Despite its capable handling, the Z4 is really more of a relaxed tourer, with comfortable seats and a well-finished interior. The retractable hard top seals out the elements, but it takes up much of the trunk space when stowed. We do, however, like the fact that the power top can be lowered even if you’re moving along at slow speeds (provided the trunk compartment divider is in the correct position).

As to which version of the Z4 is best, here the race is not necessarily to the swift. Sure, the 35is is the fastest, ripping to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. But the 35is comes only with the M-DCT automated manual gearbox, and we prefer the six-speed stick that can be had in either of the other two versions. (Those who don’t want to do their own shifting should know that the Sport automatic in the 28i is smoother around town.) Choosing between the 35i and the 28i is harder: the 35i has that potent, great-sounding straight six, but the 28i gets better gas mileage and is a lot cheaper.

You’ll like:

  • Responsive engines
  • Rakish driving position
  • Sexy styling

You won’t like:

  • Trying to fit your luggage in the trunk
  • Climbing out of the low-slung seat
  • Explaining why you didn’t get a Boxster

Key Competitors

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