The Z4 is the unsung sports car of BMW’s lineup. While the 2016 BMW M3 and 2015 BMW M4 snag all the current headlines, the 2014 BMW Z4 quietly soldiers on without much hubbub. The last time the Z4 had its limelight was in 2012 when BMW swapped the Z’s smooth, naturally aspirated inline six-cylinder for a turbocharged four-cylinder in the base 28i car. Before that, it was the Z4’s heavy refresh into its second generation in 2009, which included a more mature look and the addition of the convertible hard top.

Since then, not much has changed. Then again, not much needed to. Even in 2015, the Z4 still holds true to the classic design of a proper drop-top sports car: engine in front, drive wheels in back, rearward-mounted cockpit, and a good power-to-weight ratio. These are the same principles that made the Z4’s predecessor a success – the Z3.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of the Z4 in the standard sDrive28i trim. And though it doesn’t directly compete, I couldn’t help compare the BMW to Mazda’s famed MX-5 Miata. Both offer a true roadster experience, though at very different price points and to different audiences.

Nevertheless, the BMW fulfills the role of a great top-down driver. That’s when the car really comes alive. But what’s it like to live with the Z4 on a daily basis? Glad you asked. Keep reading to find out.

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2015 BMW Z4 - Driven
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    eight-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    240 @ 5000
  • MPG(Cty):
    22
  • MPG(Hwy):
    33
  • Torque @ RPM:
    260 @ 1450
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    5.4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    130 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; Rear Drive
  • car segment:
  • body style:

0Exterior0

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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Pure roadster. The BMW Z4 is instantly recognizable as such thanks to its long nose, sloping beltline, short overhangs, and topless-focused design. Though it has not changed in six years, the car still looks good. Starting up front, the car features the iconic BMW kidney grille with a familiar three-section grille down below. Xenon headlights wrap around the front and create a wave-like motion in the bodywork that continues rearward, sloping downward once past the A-pillar. The long hood features a large bulge in the center that slopes effortlessly down to the fenders, as if pointing out the potential for horsepower capped by gentlemanly restraint.

Though it has not changed in six years, the car still looks good.

The sides of the Z4 are just as interesting. A large accent line rises at the bottom of the front fender and carries through the door. It’s mirrored by the upper body line that comes off the headlights. Perched in the upper third of the negative space is a side vent, the BMW roundel, and the car’s trim level designation.

Around back, the only body line that seems to carry through is the lower bulge on the doors that run into the bumper. Designers gave the Z4’s rump a sporty look, thanks to the defined spoiler lip on the trunk. Just ahead of the spoiler is the center high-mount brake light, nicely recessed back into the deck lid. With the hard top down, the two aluminum-colored roll hoops that protect the seats are clearly visible. Not only are they functional, but work to sharpen the otherwise rounded top area of the car.

My 28i tester came fitted with the M Sport Package, which includes the beautiful 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone rubber and the aerodynamic body kit. Non- M Sport cars have less-aggressive grilles and rear ends.

Of course, I can’t talk about the Z4 without spending time on its two-piece convertible hard top. Press a button on the center console just under the dash, and the ballet of moving metal begins with both side windows rolling down, along with the two small windows that fill in behind where the B-pillar would be. The trunk then clamshells open, allowing the hard top to separate from the windshield and split in half just over the two passengers.

The rear section with the roof pillars then moves upward, coming to rest on top of the other roof section. At that point, the entire assembly moves rearward and down into the truck space. Finally, the trunk lid closes, sealing everything up.

Trunk space is obviously impeded with the top folded, but roadsters’ trunks aren’t usually known for their capacity. BMW does provide a protective shelf that keeps luggage contained and safe from getting smashed. When the top is up, the shelf can be pushed back, allowing more cargo space. Still, luggage for two will be tight.

0Interior0

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Interior Test drive
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2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Interior Test drive
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2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Interior Test drive
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The Z4’s interior continues the exterior’s theme of swooping lines and intercepting angles. My tester’s Aluminum Carbon trim helps brighten up the otherwise dark expanse of black leather and plastic. The eight-way power driver’s seat offers plenty of support, including a manually adjustable thigh support extension — nice. The Z4’s narrow width allows elbows to comfortably rest on both the door and center armrests at the same time.

My tester’s Aluminum Carbon trim helps brighten up the otherwise dark expanse of black leather and plastic.

The M Sport option provides a M-style steering wheel with Bluetooth, cruise and radio controls, along with paddle shifters. M Sport also gives the driver the ability to dial the adaptive suspension system into its three settings via the buttons just left of the gearshift. Speaking of which, BMW’s electronic shifter takes a bit of getting used to, but becomes old hat after a couple days of driving. A button on its side allows for reverse, neutral and drive, while park is engaged via the button on top, obviously labeled with a P. Rock the shifter to the left for manual control of the eight-speed gearbox.

BMW’s iDrive is also here. Its center console-mounted controller offers several hard-key buttons for quick navigation through its menu screens. The rotary knob is easy to control. While far from the best infotainment system on the market, the iDrive system does work well and is easy to figure out.

Also easy to figure out are the Z4’s minimalist gauges. A speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, and coolant temperature are the only analog gauges present. Other information is found in the center information screen. While this is typical BMW, the design and lack of color are starting to date the overall look. HVAC controls are simple to operate and match the design of the interior.

As with the trunk, interior storage space is at a premium. The center armrest must be folded back to put drinks in the cup holders. A cell phone holder is also present under there. There is some space between the seatbacks and the rear bulkhead. It proved a great spot for jackets and other small items.

Lastly, my main gripe with the Z4’s interior is its overall feel. The materials feel a bit down-market. The plastics fall somewhere between hard- and soft-touch. The leather feels more like vinyl, despite its $1,250 up-charge. But beyond that, the interior is a nice place to spend time.

0Powertrain0

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Drivetrain Test drive
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Under the Z4’s long, bulging hood lies a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder. Though it’s turbocharged and called TwinPower, the engine only has one turbo. The twin aspect comes in play with the turbo’s twin-scroll design.

Though it’s turbocharged and called TwinPower, the engine only has one turbo.

Essentially a twin-scroll turbo is fed through two separate exhaust tubes – each coming from a set of paired cylinders. This design always keeps exhaust pulses pumping into the turbo. Under throttle, this produces boost without the traditional lag associated with turbos.

The engine kicks out 240 horsepower between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm and a respectable 260 pound-feet of torque from a low 1,450 rpm all the way to 4,800. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Shifting can be done via the console-mounted shifter or the steering-wheel-mounted paddles. Both methods call up gears in a decent amount of time, giving the Z4 a lively feel.

This, combined with the relatively light curb weight of 3,307 pounds, pushes the car to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. That’s not bad for a four-cylinder car with a retractable hard top.

Despite the 2.0-liter’s need for premium fuel, the engine is fairly efficient. The EPA rates the car at 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. During my time with the Z4, I averaged right at 25 mpg in mixed driving.

0Driving Impressions0

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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The Z4’s roadster characteristics were easily felt the second I slid into the driver’s seat. The car seems to wrap itself around you and begs to be driven with the top down. In normal driving and under a light foot, the Z4 pulls off the commuter thing well. It’s smooth in traffic, merges well, and isn’t a bear to drive. Decently sized side mirrors help remove blind spots, though a blind spot detection system is noticeably absent.

Select Sport mode on the center console and the M Adaptive suspension, throttle response, and transmission awaken.

Once congested traffic can only be seen in those mirrors and the road begins to curve, the Z4 moves into its own. Select Sport mode on the center console and the M Adaptive suspension, throttle response, and transmission awaken. BMW’s electronic steering system feels decently good and communicates enough information about the road to inspire confidence. The suspension feels taught but never over tight, and the transmission usually seems to be in the right gear, even when left in auto mode.

Power levels feel adequate for moving the car quickly down country roads. The 2.0-liter’s turbo allows a surprising amount of turbo noise emanate past the sound barriers, adding to the fun, and the exhaust hums with an angry buzz that sounds classy but never overbearing.

Though I drove as much as I could with the top stowed away, heavy Florida downpours persuaded me to drive with the top in place. The cabin is quiet of wind noise, though road noise is pronounced. Visibility is surprisingly good as well.

Overall, the experience behind the Z4’s wheel is that of exhilaration. It doesn’t come from speed, but rather being connected with the car. It just feels right.

0Price0

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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While the Z4 has a few shortcomings, its Jekyll and Hyde back-road sporty nature and boulevard cruising demeanor comes at a high cost. The base price for a Z4 starts at $48,950. BMW is known for grouping options together in large packages, so with the ticking of a few boxes, the price can swell dramatically.

My tester came equipped with the Cold Weather Package ($700), M Sport Package ($3,650), and Technology Package ($2,250). Other options included the optional white paint ($550), leather seats ($1,250), and premium sound system ($950).

Add in the $950 destination charges, and the total price comes to $59,250. That’s not cheap for a two-seat sports car with a 240-horse four-cylinder.

0Competition0
12014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible1

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible Exterior
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While my thoughts still lie with the MX5 Miata, its price point is simply too low for an apples-to-apples comparison. The Vette, on the other hand, is an unlikely competitor whose price is surprisingly on point. With a starting MSRP of $55,000, the Stingray provides two seats, a very sporty chassis, and a honkin’ V-8 powerplant. Of course, the price jumps if you want the rag-top convertible version.

Performance wise, the competition is hardly that. The Vette will outrun, out handle, and out stop the BMW. What’s more, it’s V-8 offers a satisfying growl not heard from the Z4’s four-cylinder. Like I say, they’re odd competitors, but the argument is still there that someone can opt for a Corvette for the same money as a moderately equipped, base model Z4.

Read our full review here.

12014 Mercedes-Benz SLK1

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class High Resolution Exterior
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Perhaps the Z4’s closest competitor is the SLK from Mercedes. It too features a folding hard top, two seats, and a price starting around the $50,000 mark. In fact, the SLK undercuts the Z4 by some $5,000. The Mercedes comes with three engine options: the base 1.8-liter turbo with 201 horses, the 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 horses, and the mighty 5.5-liter V-8 from AMG that makes 415 horsepower.

Oddly enough, the Z4’s 2.0-liter lands smack in between the SLK’s four-cylinder and V-6 in terms of power, though the four-cylinder is a full second slower to 60 mph than the V-6 and the Z4. Opt for that V-6, and the price does jump to $57,650.

Read our full review here.

0Conclusion0

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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The BMW Z4 might be getting long in the tooth, but its abilities as a hard-top convertible haven’t diminished. It proved to be a fun car to toss around on twisty roads and down long stretches of flat highway. Its rev-happy turbo-four certainly doesn’t kill the experience as it provides generous amounts of torque over nearly the entire rev range. The suspension is able to soak up road imperfections without tossing you into a ditch while still providing a decent ride.

Still, the Z4 is best left for a weekend toy. The lack of interior storage and the small trunk makes daily life hard. The same can be said for most roadsters, though, so its not necessarily a knock against BMW. It’s simply par for the course. Get past this particular greenway’s high entry fee, and it’s a nice course to be on.

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