2020 BMW Z4 vs 2017 BMW Z4
The new BMW Z4 is a totally different car compared with the one from before. BMW officials are adamant about the new positioning of the Z4 which has, apparently, become a far more engaging and dynamic machine. Developed along with the new Supra (according to BMW “Toyota ordered a sports car as a coupe from us [BMW], which we developed according to our order,” said BMW Z4 Project Manager Andreas Ederer), the new Z4 had to be meaner and sharper than ever before. After all, it shares the drivetrain, the chassis, and many driving aids with the upcoming Toyota icon.
Despite its clear connections with the new Supra, the BMW Z4 is its own car, and we have to look at it as a continuation of the lineage that started all the way back with the first Z car - the Z1. In that regard, I will try to draw some parallels between the newest kid on the block and its latest revealed predecessor - the 2017 BMW Z4 sDrive35is.
However, before we sink into the real fun stuff about the engines and performance of the 2019 BMW Z4 M40i and the 2017 BMW Z4 sDrive35is, I’ll start, well, at the very beginning:
Revealed at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the BMW Z4 E89 replaced the controversial, but memorable Z4 E85.
The new BMW Z4 G29 was revealed at a dramatically different setting - on 23 August 2018, at the Pebble Beach Golf Links near Monterey. It was one of the most impressive unveilings at the Concours d’Elegance venue. One we may even call prestigious.
2. Assemblage and Production
The new BMW Z4 G39 assemblage has been moved to the Magna Steyr factory in Graz, Austria.
This is not a BMW owned factory, but basically a subsidiary of Canadian Magna International, which has been producing cars for various manufacturers since 2001. Right now, apart from the upcoming production of the Z4 and the new Toyota Supra, the factory churns out the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Jaguar I-Pace and the E-Pace, as well as the BMW 5 Series.
Compared with the new model, the previous generation BMW Z4 E89 was produced at the BMW factory in Regensburg, Germany. At this point, the Regensburg factory is responsible for assembling 1,400 cars daily. 9 BMW models are built there including the new BMW X2.
Interestingly enough, the new BMW Z4 has been designed by a long-time Z car fan, Calvin Luk, an Australian living in Munich that drives a first-gen Z4 E85.
With some powerful BMW Z-car knowledge, Luk noted that he drew inspiration for the design of the new car from each memorable Z car in existence. Including the gorgeous Z8. Really, I can see some hints of the Z8 in the rear.
In contrast to the new BMW Z4, the previous generation car was actually the first BMW car to be completely designed by women. Juliane Blasi was responsible for the exterior design with Nadya Arnaout working on the interior.
4. Basic dimensions
The new BMW Z4 takes a slightly different approach to design compared with the previous generation car. Some would say that despite the more sophisticated exterior look, the Z4 actually gained a conservative layout. It features a shorter wheelbase, longer overhangs, and wider track compared with the last-gen Z4. I am not the one to start conspiracy theories, but after learning this, I feel like the new Z4 actually isn’t the successor or an evolutionary step over the previous car, but a new standalone project. One that had to bridge the gap of market demand, Toyota requirements, and BMW character. Despite so many different concerns BMW had to address, I think we have a better car altogether.
Still, I am glad that it retained a massive, long bonnet. That is what makes it look sexier than with shorter overhangs or longer suspension.
Sometime in 2000 or 2001, I had the chance to drive in the BMW Z4 for the first time ever. I drove in a nice white E36 and simply drooled over it. However, the guy that drove me showed me something cool. After seeing the expression of awe on my 13-year-old face he started telling me about the car. He also showed me later that the battery was in the back and not at the front. I thought it was cool, but only later I found out that BMW positioned the battery there for weight reasons. They needed their car to be as close to 50:50 weight balance as possible.
BMW applied the same ideology for the new Z4 M40i. It is a car with a perfect 50:50 weight balance.
I did a bit of a research in trying to find out what the previous generation car’s weight balance was and it was not the 50:50 of the new car. The old BMW Z4 sDrive35i has an axle load distribution of 49:51. This is, I think, the best BMW ever achieved for the last gen car. Other E89 Z4 cars were less powerful, smaller engines or with differently specced trims had even less perfect weight balance. For example, the 2010 Z4 sDrive30i has a weight balance of 48:52. Nevertheless, BMW seems to be far more concerned about these things for its newest generation car.
6. Lower Center Of Gravity
BMW Z4 Project Manager inferred that the company has lowered the weight of the top-of-the-line Z4 M40i by 110 lbs compared with the top-of-the-line 2017 BMW Z4 sDrive35i. That is a lot. However, it’s really important how this weight has been saved.
It turns out that the installation of a fabric roof, and creation of a new, stiffer, but lighter chassis contributed the most to lower the weight on the upper part of the car.
With less weight overall, and much less weight at the top, the center of gravity of the BMW Z4 has been considerably lowered. This enabled BMW to utilize all the potential of the sporty suspension, RWD setup, and massive power of the engine. No wonder BMW compares this car with the likes of the M2, the 718 Cayman and other. Remember, the Cayman is a mid-engined Porsche. And the BMW Z4 M40i is here to fight it. A lowered center of gravity was a must.
7. Improved Driving Dynamics
In an interview with the Bimmertoday.de, Andreas Ederer, BMW Z4 Product Manager disclosed a number of features that made the new BMW Z4 far more sports orientated compared with the last generation model.
This was his answer to “measures that directly contribute to increasing the driving dynamics of the new BMW Z4 G29”:
“These are the geometric orientation of the front axle and rear axle, but also the wheel diameter and tires. For example, in the BMW Z4 M40i with M Sport Differential, Adaptive M Sport Suspension, M Sport Brake and high-performance tires, we have compiled an extremely sports-oriented package in terms of driving dynamics.”
All those who did not like the jelly-like feel of the Z4 E89 steering, or its softer driving dynamics should be more than happy with the sharper new-generation model. This is, I think, the most important change compared with the previous generation model - a well defined and focused chassis with clear sports intentions.
8. Breaking The Rules Of Design
Although controversial in some sense, the last BMW Z4 actually had more original and unique BMW design cues compared with the new car. Design of the BMW Z4 G29 had to complement new technology, new BMW design language, and reinvent the front light packaging.
The differences are numerous:
- With longer overhangs and shorter wheelbase, the silhouette does not reveal a muscular or an eager rear end. As I was saying above, this makes the new Z4 a bit more conservative (far from ugly, mind you).
- The front lights experienced the biggest change. Although still featuring double-round headlights, they aren’t positioned horizontally but are stacked one on top of another. Something no BMW has actually experimented with until now. This created a new visual effect on the front and enabled BMW to install a bigger double kidney grille. However, some would say that the new car looks too much like a Fiat 124 Spider up front - I leave it up to you to figure out if that is a good thing or not.
- Continuing with the design transition which started with the latest BMW X5, the new Z4 features a massive double-kidney grille with more angular design. Again, something different compared with the previous gen car
- The rear end seems to have gained L-shaped lights, but far thinner than before. They do, however, remind a bit of the 8 Series lights and feature a hint of the Z8 as well. Nothing to be mad about here.
- Obviously, dramatic changes to the design ideology made the new Z4 far less controversial than before. I don’t know about you, but even though I consider the new car to be sexier compared with the last Z4, I miss what only can be described as courage that that last gen car had.
Performance and specs
2019 BMW Z4 M40i
|Engine:||3.0-liter, turbocharged, I-6, B58 engine|
|Transmission:||8-speed ZF transmission|
|Power:||380 horsepower for the U.S. (340 horsepower for Europe)|
|Torque:||unknown at this point|
|0-62 mph:||4.6 seconds|
|Top Speed:||155 mph|
2017 BMW Z4 sDrive35is
|Engine:||3.0-liter, turbocharged, I-6, N54 engine|
|Transmission:||7-speed dual clutch|
|Torque:||369 pound-feet of torque (during overboost which can last for 7 seconds)|
|0-62 mph:||4.6 seconds|
|Top Speed:||155 mph|
Aside from the mandatory new safety and driving assistant technology BMW filled the new Z4 with, the latest roadster from Bavaria is quite a different car than before. Although wearing a slightly more flamboyant body garnished with some pieces of iconic BMW design cues, the car feels a bit more conservative compared even with the last generation model. I don’t even need to compare it with the first Z4 which is, whether you like it or not, an icon in the world of car design.
We are in luck that some oddball features got replaced by a stiffer chassis, more precise steering, and sportier character. However, it is a bit incredible that the most powerful version revealed is much the same in terms of performance as the most powerful version that came before.
Read our review on the 2019 BMW Z4.
Read our full review on the 2017 BMW Z4 sDrive35is.
Read our driven review on the previous generation BMW Z4.
Read more BMW news.