Comparison: BMW Z4 sDrive35is vs. Mercedes-Benz SLK350

Matt Tierney
#BMW, #Z4

The Mercedes, for its part, boasts variable ratio steering that quickens during aggressive driving. We feared this would feel unnatural, as many such setups are, but Mercedes has executed it nearly to perfection. The variable effect is transparent, and the steering itself is light, precise, and extremely communicative. We wish we could say the same of the Z4's steering. It's a variable effort setup that seems to have two settings: "heavy" and "heavier." We'd happily live with this extra forearm exercise if the reward was excellent feel and feedback but, sadly, it is not.

The BMW Z4 sDrive35is proves once and for all that a hardtop convertible can be aggressive, macho, and sporty. And yet, the Mercedes-Benz SLK350 is also aggressive, macho, and sporty without needing to prove it constantly. It looks muscular without a million creases in its sheetmetal; it handles well without the pretense of heavy steering or adaptive dampers. If you want a the most performance and attitude you can get for your dollar, then by all means, go for the Z4 and its iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove powertrain. Just make sure you don't actually want a Porsche Boxster, first. Most hardtop convertible buyers, however, would do better to choose the SLK350, which provides as much real world driving pleasure but never hides or apologizes for being what it is: a very comfortable, stylish hardtop convertible.

4 of 4
Neither of these cars seems to live up to their potential. They both seem overpriced for what you get.
Intereting that no cars intended for the home market, either BMW or Mercedes, have cup holders. For all I know, ours is the only country's market that would seem to require one. So if the Z4's cup holder looks tacked on, I'm not surprised.
"We still think BMW's insistence that each paddle should be able to call up either upshifts or downshifts (tap forward for upshift, pull back for upshift) is confusing." Now this is confusing...either action (tap forward or pull back) gets the same result?
Weren't these $45,000 ten years ago? They may have similar names, but they are in a completely different class than the Z3 or original SLK.Miatas get better and everyone else just gets more expensive.
Looking at the pictures, the thing that stands out to me is that horrible, tacked-on cup holder in the Z4. It's clearly an American-market afterthought. Give me 30 minutes and I could design something better.

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