Review: 2009 BMW Z4

"A complete, 100 percent win."

It is worth noting that both the exterior and interior design of the BMW Z4 were penned by women. It's also worth noting that the car is spectacular.

BMW's worldwide design group held an internal competition for the prestigious job of styling the second-generation Z4 roadster. The competition was already underway when newly minted car designer Juliane Blasi arrived in 2005 at DesignworksUSA (BMW's West Coast studio) as part of a six-month exchange with the main studio in Munich, where she'd worked since 2003. Interior designer Nadya Arnaout had been at DesignworksUSA since 2000, working for Henrik Fisker in the industrial-design area on cell phones and vacuum cleaners, but she jumped to prominence for her breakthrough interior in the stunning 2007 BMW Concept CS.

"I told them to go do a car and out-sex the guys," recalls recently retired design boss Chris Bangle. "Fight it out on the floor. No reservations. It was a complete, 100 percent win."

Blasi, who studied transportation design at Germany's Pforzheim University, one of the oldest design programs in the world, says she is inclined to sports - especially skiing - but not particularly to sports cars. The Z4 was her first full-size model. She is especially proud of the low rear deck height, which neatly conceals the retractable top, and the longer rear overhang balancing the shark nose jutting over twin kidney grilles that are canted on a slightly negative plane.

Arnaout was halfway through a degree in Germany when she transferred to the Art Center College of Design. Her Z4 interior is graphic, formal, and spacious, with an unusual asymmetrical, driver-oriented center console. All functional controls are contained within a U-shaped wood-trim section on the dash.

Asked how her family feels about her unusual profession, Blasi says she has an uncle who's a professional artist: "To him, this is not important." Arnaout's two older brothers, however, are "big car fans," she says. "They love it."

4 of 4

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