2009 Z4 New Car Test Drive
The 2009 BMW Z4 marks the second generation of the Z4 name and third of this recent line of two-seat roadsters James Bond debuted in his 1996 Z3. The 2009 Z4 is a totally new car, apart from the lower output of the two engines and a few miscellaneous pieces.
The 2009 Z4 sports a retractable hard top, a departure from any previous two-seat BMW. The retractable hard top replaces the roadster and coupe versions of previous-generation (pre-2009) Z4 models with one car. The hard top retracts for the same open-air driving of a convertible, but closes with the press of a button to provide the advantages of better security, rigidity, rearward visibility, quiet and weather control of a coupe.
The Z4 offers the driving character you expect from BMW and it will be familiar to any fan of the marquee. As with other cars getting bigger and laden with more luxury and features, the higher-optioned Z4s tend to feel more like Grand Touring machines than sports cars. In terms of pure sports car, we liked the sDrive30i with sport package. The performance and feel of balanced precision is there in every Z4, and the sDrive35i with dual-clutch gearbox gets close to the previous M Roadster as a track day tool.
While some will choose a Z4 based solely on the badge and others solely on style, they will over time learn the real reasons, both objective and emotional, behind the car and why they want to keep it. Others will appreciate the performance and technology without regard to style, and yet others will shop merely because they've been waiting for a folding hardtop roadster from Munich.
BMW accurately point out that the Z4 sDrive35i is about the same size and offers performance close to the Z8 of early this century, and it does so for about half the price. The Z4 is also far more practical, and yes, there is such a thing as a practical roadster.
The Z4 competes primarily with the Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster; secondary consideration may go to the Nissan 350Z roadster, Infiniti G37, or Lotus Elise relative to your position on the luxury-sports continuum.
The 2009 Z4 is offered in two models, the sDrive30i and sDrive35i. In current BMW nomenclature, sDrive refers to rear-wheel drive. However, there are no xDrive (all-wheel-drive) Z4s and no M model has been announced.
The Z4 sDrive30i ($45,750) comes with a 255-hp 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed sport automatic with shift paddles is optional ($1,325). It's delivered with faux leather leatherette upholstery, manual climate control, power retractable hardtop, heated power mirrors and rear window, six-way manual bucket seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, power windows and locks, trip computer and adaptive bi-Xenon headlamps. Options unique to the sDrive 30i are brushed aluminum or ash wood trim ($500) and Kansas leather upholstery ($1,250) from the sDrive35i.
The Z4 sDrive35i ($51,650) uses a 300-hp 3.0-liter inline six, though it is a different engine than the 30i and employs twin turbochargers; a six-speed manual gearbox is standard and a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual optional ($1,525). Other mechanical upgrades include larger brakes and wider rear tires and wheels. Cabin upgrades include standard leather upholstery, brushed aluminum trim or ash wood, and automatic dual-zone climate control. Kansas leather upholstery on the dash, visors, door sills ($1,350) is optional, along with a 19-inch wheel upgrade to the Sport package ($1,200).
Options for both Z4 models include navigation ($2,100); Comfort Access ($500); Park Distance Control ($750); HD radio; satellite radio w/1-year sub ($595); smartphone integration ($150); anti-theft alarm ($400); metallic paint ($550). The Cold Weather package ($1,000) includes heated steering wheel and seats, storage pack, through-loading system, headlight washers. The Premium package includes auto-dimming mirrors, gate opener, power seats with lumbar and driver memory, ambient light package, BMW assist, leather on 30i. Premium Sound ($2,000) adds six-disc DVD changer, hi-fi sound system, iPod/USB adapter. Sport adds 18-inch alloy wheels and run-flat performance tires, Adaptive M suspension, sport seats; 19-inch wheels are also available. Exclusive Ivory white Nappay leather is available, along with anthracite wood trim.
Standard safety features include frontal airbags, head/thorax side airbags in the seats, active knee protection, roll hoops, and electronic stability, traction and braking controls, tire pressure monitors. The only option that might be considered safety related is the Park Distance Control.