Someone Opened The Roof On The Z4 At 110 mph And It Worked

As with every new car, manufacturers are trying to reinvent the wheel. Well, not literally, but, at least, they are trying to make the most of it. It is the same case with the new 2020 BMW Z4, a new BMW roadster that looks to transform everything we have known about the previous gen Z4 into something more meaningful, sharper, and definitely more sporty. The latest generation car makes do with some fundamental changes compared with the outgoing model, the E89 Z4. How deep the changes go is quite extraordinary, despite BMW actually offering something similar to the previous gen car - a RWD, small, and fun roadster.

Here, I am presenting to you five things you didn’t know about the new BMW Z4. These should give you a whole new insight into what BMW actually wanted to achieve with the new car and help you understand how the Bavarians managed to change the car’s character without changing the layout.

1. “Race With The BMW M2”

Five Things You Didn't Know About The New BMW Z4 Exterior
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Interestingly enough, I am starting this story with the fact that BMW actually invited journalists to test out the car and feel it in its prototype form even before releasing the car to the public at the Monterey Car Week.

This was a big deal for the company as it let journalists drive near-priceless prototypes in an effort to let them learn more about the car, to feel out the feedback, and most importantly, to build a bit of hype about the car. Not the sort of hype as the previous Z4 left behind it, though.

See, with cars driven in Miramas, south of France at BMW's own test track, BMW wanted to shift people’s perceptions of the Z4.

There, it wasn’t important how fast the roof will close, nor how advanced the radar and assistant systems were. Instead, BMW seated journalists in the BMW Z4 M40i - the most powerful one - with the BMW M2 in front and instructions to follow it.

2016 - 2018 BMW M2
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Read between the lines and you’ll quickly discover that the new BMW Z4 is as sporty as one of the best M cars ever - the BMW M2. And it does not actually wear a proper M badge, either.

There, we learned that the new BMW Z4 will compete with the likes of the Porsche 718 Boxster.

However, instead of the mid-engine layout, and a four-cylinder engine, the Z4 M40i actually has a straight six and an engine placed above the front axle.

It is a perfect front engined, RWD sports car. Unfortunately, without the manual.

Regardless, the drives the lucky few actually experienced showed something really important - the new Z4 G29 is sharp, stiff, capable, and definitely able to compete even with the best. Porsche being the best of course, but I can see the new Z4 going against the F-Type Convertible or some lesser Mercedes cars.

2. U.S.-Spec Models Have More Power

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Remember the time when U.S. manufacturers produced vehicles powered by massively large V-8 engines that produced laughable specific outputs? Well, ever since, the Europeans have been asking how, for the love of god, does a Dodge-built 8.4-liter, V-10 produce as much power as an engine half the size from Europe. Well, cultural differences aside, we simply had cheap fuel and awful emission standards that used to enable manufacturers to sell cars with massive engines but not a lot of power. Well, in the case of the BMW Z4 M40i, a curious thing happened.

The Z4 M40i for Europe has an engine that’s good for 335 horsepower. In the U.S., the new Z4 M40i First Edition has 380 horsepower.

How’s that?

Well, BMW had to be compliant with the WLTP harmonized emissions and fuel consumption standards for all the cars it wants to sell in Europe. As European standards are stricter than anything in the U.S., BMW had to limit power to meet the requirements. That’s where we got 40ish horsepower more for our car. That is actually a big difference in power for a car this size.

3. Open Roof At 110 Mph

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Have you ever wondered just what speeds a fabric roof opening on a convertible can handle? Well, I may have the answer. See, during the prototype testing, BMW test drivers conducted a multitude of awesome tests in trying to develop a soft fabric roof that has better characteristics than the metal roof of the old model. While they did achieve better NVH results with the new roof, one fact staggered me.

During one of the tests, the test driver ventured out to assess the strength of the fabric roof and all the support that is holding it in place.

According to Andreas Ederer, Product Manager for the new Z4, one of the engineers actually opened the roof while traveling at more than 110 mph.

I AM NOT JOKING. The roof opened, although, it was actually very close to getting ripped off.

Now, I am not saying that you should attempt this at home, but this serves as a testament to the incredible BMW quality process that should ensure the longevity of the Z4. I mean, I haven’t heard about a fabric roof opening at 110 mph ever before. Let alone about the roof surviving such an incredible feat.

Apparently, everything worked perfectly afterward, without any rips, or any structure collapse. Astonishing!

For civilized people, the opening/closing mechanism will work up to 31 mph with the whole process taking only 10 seconds.

4. Soft top, hard top, soft top

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The story about the Z4 roof is a simple and a confusing one at the same time.

  • Z4 E85 - Soft top
  • Z4 E89 - Hardtop
  • Z4 G29 - Soft top

Why such a strange evolution? Well, BMW officials may have found millions of physical reasons, but I think that one of the most important ones is that people of the world today like soft top convertibles more so than hard top ones. Just think about it - every single important modern convertible is actually a soft-top, with the exception of the Mazda MX-5 RF. That says something about the new Z4 as well.

However, apart from that, making the new Z4 far more dynamic and planted required BMW to make it as light as possible.

That is why the car lost the hard top and with it around 110 lbs compared to the last-gen car.

Probably more important is the fact that engineers had an easier task of making the 2020 Z4 perfectly balanced with weight distribution of 50:50. Furthermore, the center of gravity is far lower compared to the previous gen car - another fundamental gain.

All in all, the new soft top Z4 G29 should be a better driver’s car than any version of the previous gen car. Some of that confidence most certainly comes from the fact that this one isn’t as chubby, nor as top heavy as the previous car.

5. Possible Problems

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The fifth entry is not a fact, but actually, a list of things that just might, in my opinion, prove wrong for this new BMW Z4 G29. It is a list of problems for the Z4 any gearhead would think of, really.

Here, I am listing all the features of the new Z4 that basically undermine everything we know about short, fast, and dignified sporty coupes.

BMW has really shaken some worlds here:

  • No manual transmission
  • Fake exhaust tips
  • Massive front end covers behind which BMW radar and sensor gear is hidden
  • The car looks cute in a way from some angles (not something worthy of a BMW Roadster designation)
  • It will, by the look of things, be available only as the convertible - there’s no coupe in sight
  • The Z4 M has not been confirmed
  • Vertically aligned headlights (c’mon BMW, you made your fortune on mad and angry horizontally aligned headlight clusters, why reinvent them now?)

Obviously, this is only nitpicking, but some of the stuff I listed here is actually every proper car enthusiast’s dream. And the BMW Z4 doesn’t have it. It does have plenty of other favorable traits, mind you.

Further Reading

Five Things You Didn't Know About The New BMW Z4 Exterior
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Read our review on the 2019 BMW Z4.

2017 BMW Concept Z4 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review of the 2017 BMW Concept Z4.

2015 BMW Z4 - Driven Exterior Test drive
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Read our driven review on the current BMW Z4.

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Read more BMW news.

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