New BMW Z4

BMW's second-gen Z4 roadster gains a folding hard-top

BMW has announced its all-new Z4, and in a riposte to its rival Mercedes SLK, it has a folding hard-top roof. It’s the first time such a feature has appeared on a BMW roadster although the technology debuted on the current BMW 3-series convertible.

The mk2 Zed is the first Bavarian to be offered with Adaptive M suspension, with electronic dampers boasting three different setups that can lower the ride height by up to 10mm. Apparently the Sport+ setting of Adaptive M is comparable to the mk1 Z4’s standard ride comfort level.

More tech debuts on the roadster in the shape of Drive Dynamic Control, which if specified allows different settings for the throttle and steering responses, ride comfort levels, gear change times and the stability control response. While it’ll allow more adjustability and a sharper drive should you crave it, it does let some of the complexity creep in that has led to some detractors of the M5 and M6.

Engine-wise, things are a bit simpler if you can ignore the X6-style spec names. There’s three petrol units to begin with, the top of the range being the sDrive35i which gains BMW’s great 3-litre twin-turbo, producing 302bhp at 5800rpm and 295lb ft from a lowly 1300rpm. Top speed is limited to 155mph while the dash to 62mph takes 5.2sec. Efficient dynamics features as standard across the range, and the mix of regenerative brakes, servotronic-enhanced steering and low rolling resistance tyres means fuel consumption and emissions are a reasonable 30.1mpg and 219g/km on the 35i.

Next model down is the sDrive30i, which gets a normally aspirated 3-litre with 254bhp and 229lb ft, available from 6600 and 2600rpm respectively. 0-62 takes 5.8sec while top speed is once again 155mph. Economy and emissions improve with 33.2mpg and 199g/km.

The entry-level sDrive23i (a 2.5-litre) offers up exactly the same mpg and g/km figures, but with reduced performance (and no doubt a reduced price). Power and torque are 201bhp (from 6400rpm) and 184lb ft (from 2750rpm) with 0-62 taking 6.6sec with a top speed of 151mph.

A six-speed manual ‘box comes as standard with two automatic options: the 23i and 30i get a six-speed Sport Automatic complete with paddles while the 35i can be had with a paddle-equipped seven-speed double clutch transmission. The Z4 also gets the latest version of iDrive.

The car itself is 148mm longer and 9mm wider than the outgoing Zed, with increased cabin size and passenger/luggage space in mind. Some of BMW’s boasts are that the boot will happily swallow golf clubs and that all-round visibility is up 14 per cent. It seems the mk1 Z4 has been quite a success, so this is just refining the cars flaws rather than reinventing the model like the outgoing car did over its predecessor, the BMW Z3.

As a result, styling resembles a smoothed-over mk1 with a rear-end that resembles the 6-series. The mk2 BMW Z4 should be on sale by summer 2009, with prices announced closer to its on-sale date. The car itself will be unveiled officially at the Detroit motor show in January.

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