BMW Z4 review: sports car, luxury cruiser or mini-GT? - Ride and handling

The Z4 is a talented roadster with much in its favour, just don’t expect Boxster levels of tactility

Evo rating
  • Accurate steering, strong performance and grip
  • Not as sporting or involving as you might expect

Ride and handling

On first acquaintance the Z4 can seem like a far too refined proposition; it’s by no means a demanding car to drive and unless you delve into its various drive configurations you could be left with the impression that it’s a junior exec masquerading as a sporting roadster. Push it harder and it certainly improves, with further layers of ability, but it’s nowhere near as sharp a driving tool as a Boxster. 

In part, this sophisticated nature is down to the Z4’s incredibly stiff structure – there’s nary a shimmer or a hint of flex, even when travelling over rough surfaces. The Sport and M Sport models (20i and 30i only) have less rubber on the road than the M40i and the Sport has a suspension set-up that’s slightly softer too. As a result, it’s the Sport model that seems to be the most playful, with steering that’s slightly more communicative, and while grip levels are slightly lower, it’s a more interactive machine than the arguably overtyred M40i. The Sport model rides better than the M Sport, but the latter is by no means too harsh for everyday driving.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Experience the thrill of driving with evo magazine. Subscribe now and get your first 5 issues for £5 or buy the latest issue in all good newsagents!

The M40i adds a significant amount of kit to its armoury – 19-inch wheels with wider tyres, adaptive M dampers and a limited-slip differential. The grip it can generate is quite phenomenal, and while the variable sport steering (standard on all Z4s) is accurate and direct, it gives very little impression of what the front tyres are up to. The rear is similarly planted, but other than the scenery passing at a quicker rate of knots, there’s not a huge sensation of speed or involvement.

BMW says the M40i is faster than the M2 Competition round the Nürburgring and we can believe that, as it’s very composed when being driven quickly. There’s just a lack of joie de vivre in the way it goes about its business. Quick, undoubtedly, just not enthralling or involving.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

You can add adaptive dampers and the limited-slip diff (30i only) to the 20i and 30i M Sport models, but it all comes as part of the M Sport Plus package which also brings the 19-inch wheels, but at £1950 it’s quite a lot extra to spend, especially as the 19s don’t improve the driving experience.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/ferrari/201950/new-ferrari-roma-612bhp-198mph-gt-car-joins-the-range
Ferrari

New Ferrari Roma: 612bhp, 198mph GT car joins the range

Ferrari has expanded its GT car range with the V8 powered Ferrari Roma
14 Nov 2019
Visit/maserati/granturismo/201792/maserati-granturismo-zeda-run-out-model-revealed
Maserati GranTurismo

Maserati GranTurismo Zéda run-out model revealed

It’s out with the old, in with the new as the final GranTurismo paves the way for Maserati’s ambitious electrified future
12 Nov 2019
Visit/mclaren/201626/mclaren-elva-revealed-new-open-top-speedster-adds-to-top-tier-ultimate-series
McLaren

McLaren Elva revealed – new open-top speedster adds to top-tier Ultimate Series

It’s the lightest McLaren Automotive model yet, packs 803bhp and will cost from just under £1.5m
13 Nov 2019
Visit/hyundai/201819/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-nurburgring
Hyundai i30 N

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Nurburgring

We brought the Hyundai i30 Fastback back to its spiritual home in Germany's Eifel mountains, where there is a racing track you might well have heard o…
7 Oct 2019