For 2011, BMW added an “s” to the end of the absurdly long model designation of its 2-seat roadster, Z4 sDrive35i, to signify a special version with slightly hotted-up engine (with 335 hp and 332 pound-feet of torque), an M aerodynamics package, and the adaptive M sport suspension.
So, does that make the 35is the clear choice for Z4 buyers? Not necessarily. The issue is that it comes only with BMW’s DCT dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and a classic-style roadster like the Z4 really wants a stick-and-clutch manual. That’s particularly the case when we’re talking about a manual as sweet as the six-speed box in the 35i.
Having recently spent some quality time in the Z4 sDrive35i, it’s frankly hard to see how it’s worth sacrificing the stick-shift experience to gain 10 percent more horsepower and torque—keeping in mind that the twin-turbocharged 35i is already imbued with 300 ponies and 300 pound-feet. True, its 5.1-second, factory-measured 0-60 time isn’t as quick as quick as the 4.7 second figure for the 35is, but the 35i is certainly plenty quick in real life, and its lag-free straight six will goad you into sending the tach needle racing toward the redline time and again.
Equip the 35i with the M Sport Package ($3500), and you won’t miss out on any of the other important equipment of the 35is, including the 0.4-inch lowered M suspension with selectable adaptive damping, the sport seats, the M steering wheel, or the visual goodies like the aerodynamic kit, the 18-inch wheels, or even the interior trim bits.
Practical considerations aren’t much of a factor in a car like this, but there are two that also argue in favor of the 35i over the 35is: the 35i gets an additional 2 mpg highway (26 vs. 24 mpg), and even with the M Sport Package, its sticker price can still start with a 5 rather than a 6.