When BMW dropped a larger engine into the Z4 it could only mean one thing. That instead of an M Z4, we would have to make do with the 35is. If you want a fast BMW roadster, this is as close as it’s going to get.
Still, considering that this 35is has just as much power as the old Z4 M, it’s not that terrible. The only things that you’re going to have to do without are those M badges.
From the outside, the Z4 sDrive 35is looks very good. In fact, we think that this is the best-looking Z roadster yet. In a way, this new car takes a bit of the old Z8’s styling. The look is butch and very aggressive and that’s good for a car like this. We love the straps look on the hood, trunk lid, and the ducktail spoiler.
Inside, the Z4 isn’t bad. BMW has raised the quality of the materials that should have been there in the first place. It feels low down, almost as if you’re sitting on the road. There are plenty of toys to play with, especially if you get the navigation system that comes with iDrive. We didn’t really have time to fiddle with the system, but we hear that it’s a bit easier to use than the old versions.
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Under the hood of the new 35is is a twin-turbocharged straight six that produces 335 horsepower and 332 pound feet of torque. The old M version had 338 horsepower and the torque is up on this new model by 63lb-ft.
The engine is simply wonderful and the best part of this car. There is no turbo-lag to speak of and anywhere above 2,000 rpm you can find buckets of power. Floor the pedal and the 35is can hit 60 miles per hour in 4.8 seconds and 100mph in the blink of an eye.
The 35is comes with a double-clutch transmission, which isn’t all that bad. Sure, we would have rather had a manual, but that’s life. If you don’t like BMW’s radical shift level then you’re not alone. It does take a little bit to get used to, but once you play with it for a bit it becomes second nature. The gear changes are smooth and predictable, almost effortless.
Unlike its relaxing gearbox, the 35is can be scary at speeds. BMW has a poor history with the way its Z cars handle and this new one is no different. The old Z4 was not crisp by a long shot, but it was fun to throw around. This new one is the same way, but you’ll need a track to really have fun.
The Z4 has Drive Dynamic Control and Adaptive M Sport Suspension that enables you to adjust the dampers. There are three settings – Normal, Sport and Sport +. Sadly, while it does work, the 35is never feels right in any of the three settings.
On the normal roads the car is too soft and it rolls about like an old Buick. While the M3 is predictable and is always feeding you information about the rear-wheels, the Z4 doesn’t feel as connected to the road. If BMW can make the M3 so darned good on the road then why did they fail so badly with Z4 sDrive?
If you turn the car’s drive dynamic system to Sport and Sport + the ride gets a bit better. Yet, instead of soft Buickness, you get hard, very hard. In fact, the ride is so hard in these settings that any open topped beverage in the cup holder will be spilled when you drive over a small leaf.
The steering is too vague around the dead center and when you turn into a corner the nose is slow to react. This can be very tricky to control because while you’re worrying about the front, the rear is slipping around. We hate to say it, but the BMW 135i handled better.
The worst part of this car though, is the cost. For $61,925 it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it. Get the base Z4 or the 1-Series for a better time. You could even get an Audi TTS and save yourself some money.