Looking for an executive convertible packed with great technology that’s simple to use and makes your drive easier? Look no further than the BMW Z4.
The Z4 perhaps isn’t the most eye-catching roadster with its business-esque demeanor, but for as a cruising road warrior with the ability to let its hair down at the weekend and have fun in the sun, it’s an interesting proposition.
The BMW Z4 price starts at a relatively reasonable $49,700 / £38,165, but that price can ramp up through more powerful engine choices, paint finishes and a raft of optional extras. Our S Drive 30i M Sport model, with a host of extras, came to £53,565 (around $60,000).
BMW Z4 design
(Image credit: TechRadar)
BMW Z4 S Drive 30i M Sport
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency: 39.2mpg
The BMW Z4 is a sharp looker, with its kidney grill on the front and dual tailpipes on the rear, and the M Sport model we drove comes with added aggression with sportier bodywork and large 19-inch wheels.
Its low-slung stance and powerful undulations shows the Z4 means business. It has an executive look to it, rather than the sports car aesthetic you see with the likes of the Toyota Supra and Mazda MX-5.
The Z4 is only available as a soft-top convertible, so for anyone looking for a coupe or a hard-top convertible you’ll need to look elsewhere. The Z4 looks good as a soft-top though, both with the roof up and down.
It takes around 10 seconds to put the roof down, and you can do this while on the move at speeds of up to 31mphs – handy if you’ve got it down and the weather takes a turn for the wet stuff, as you don’t have to stop to get the protection up.
Another positive about the roof is the fact there are no manual handles or clasps you need to unlock when you want to put the roof down. It’s all done electronically, making things much easier.
A wind deflector can be included, which sits between the headsets of the seats, reducing turbulent air in the cabin when the roof is down – and it works. You can comfortably cruise at 70mph without being buffeted all that much.
The only minor point against the wind deflector is that it sits directly in the line of sight of the rear view mirror. The mesh effect means it’s easy to see through during the day, but at night it does reduce rear view-ability a little.
The cabin provides a comfortable, premium environment to be in, and the accommodating seats provide plenty of leg and head room – even at 187cm, there was clearance between our head and the roof of the Z4.
Our M Sport BMW Z4 model came with heated seats and a heated steering wheel – useful additions when the weather gets cold, especially if you still want to drive with the roof down.
It is a pleasing place to spend time, and long journeys don’t feel all that taxing. There’s a central armrest which opens (in two parts) to reveal a pair of cup holders and a small storage area for keys and cash, plus there’s a USB-C port for charging your devices.
BMW is one of the few manufacturers that includes the newer, smaller and reversible USB-C port in its cars – so if you want to use it you’ll need to make sure you have the right cable.
This central storage area is a touch awkward though. If you want to use the cup holders, you have to open one side of the armrest to gain access. It’s not a huge issue for the driver as you still get a sliver of rest to pop your arm on, but it does compromise the passenger’s elbow room slightly.
You also get small door pockets to toss your keys or phone in, but not much else, plus there’s a netted area which runs behind the seats, allowing you to stow small bags and items of clothing. However, for anything larger, you’ll need to access the boot – and there’s a small hatch which lets you pop things through from the front.
The boot itself is a reasonable size, considering the presence of the retractable roof somewhat reduces the available space. Still, you can fit a couple of weekend bags in there, or a modest supermarket shop without too much hassle.
Your driving position is low, which adds to the sporty aesthetic of the Z4, yet you still get a good view of the road ahead and out of the side windows – although look over your shoulder and the sizable pillar of the roof reduces your blind spot visuals.
You’ll need to be extra careful when it comes to changing lanes. However, with the roof down you get uninterrupted views all the way around.
BMW Z4 drive
Close the door, put your foot on the brake and press the start button next to the gear shift and the BMW Z4 ripples to life.
Select drive and push down on the accelerator and the Z4 delivers smooth power, and it effortlessly cruises up to motorway speeds. The automatic gearbox does a good job, but if you want more control and punchier getaways you can switch to the manual paddle-shift mode, allowing you to choose when the Z4 changes gears.
Considering the Z4 is a convertible, the road noise isn’t too oppressive considering there’s less sound insulation in play here. It means the BMW Z4 isn’t too taxing to drive for an extended period of time.
The Z4 can shift you from 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds, which is pretty quick – and really feels it when you have the roof down – and will keep on climbing without issue to highway cruising speeds.
If you want a more energetic experience, switch to sport mode for a stiffer ride, punchier power delivery and a noisier exhaust note. It’s a fun mode to switch on from time to time, but you’re better off sticking with the default when you’re just looking to get from A to B.
BMW Z4 specs and tech
BMW has one of the best in-car infotainment systems around, and that’s no different here. The BMW Z4 comes equipped with the firm’s latest in-car system, and it’s a joy to use, as well as being feature-packed.
It revolves around the large, central touchscreen which is clear and responsive to your taps. There’s not much in the way of lag or load times, and we found the whole system to be pretty intuitive.
If touch isn’t your preferred choice of control, the Z4 comes with BMW’s circular iDrive dial to the side of the gear shift, allowing you to scroll menus and make selections. There are physical shortcut buttons to core features as well, for quick access to the likes of the navigation and media menus.
The built-in satellite navigation is very good, with clear directions and detailed maps – with directions mirrored in the digital instrument cluster and the HUD (heads-up display) – the latter of which projects important information into your eye line on the windshield.
The digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel is clear and easy to read. It provides a modern look and displays core information, but customization of this digital display area is limited when compared to the likes of Audi which provides far more options to be shown here.
If the built-in infotainment system isn’t to your liking, however, the BMW Z4 also offers wireless support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
This allows you to connect your smartphone to the Z4, without the need for a cable, and gives you key smartphone apps on the vehicle’s touchscreen display. The implementation on the Z4 is seamless, making it incredibly easy to link your phone and access apps such as Apple Maps, Waze, Google Maps, Spotify, WhatsApp, Messages and more from the car’s screen.
Another nice feature is navigation directions via smartphone mapping apps are mirrored on the digital instrument cluster and the HUD, making it easier and safer to quickly check the next instruction.
Many cars that support CarPlay and Auto don’t mirror these directions on cluster displays or HUDs, so it’s a nice addition here.
There’s an additional covered storage area behind the drive selector too, which houses a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones along with a standard USB port and space to store keys and loose change.
Pop the BMW Z4 into reverse and you’ll be able to see what’s behind you on the main display, thanks to the rear camera – which is especially handy when the roof is up and you view out is limited.
There are sensors on the front and rear too, which will let you know if you’re getting too close to another object, and park assist will help steer you into tight spots.
You also get the usual array of driver aids including lane assist, adaptive cruise control which can keep you a safe distance from the car in front while also mirroring its speed, climate control and automatic wipers and lights.
The speaker system is also excellent, with a deep bass response and excellent audio clarity at even high volumes. It helps deaden the road noise, and can still be heard clearly with the roof down.
The BMW Z4 combines great tech, plenty of features and a comfortable drive which makes it great for long journeys and heavy commutes, but also fun when it gets to the weekend.
BMW makes some of the best in-car tech, and the Z4 is a great way to show it off to your passenger, and any envious onlookers as you cruise by with the roof down.
- John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he’ll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.