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First drive: BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.

First drive: BMW Z4 sDrive20i
Less is more in the case of the latest BMW Z4 roadster.


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BMW Z4 sDrive20i

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The latest generation BMW Z4 goes back to its roots with a fabric roof and a renewed focus on driving dynamics. It may share much of its makeup with the reborn Toyota Supra, but BMW wants a piece of the Porsche Boxster pie with its current range-topper, the M40i. Here we're driving the other end of the Z4 spectrum, the sDrive20i. It may be the entry point to the current Z4 range, but we reckon this sDrive20i model is the hidden gem of the line-up.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: BMW Z4 sDrive20i
Pricing: 38,740 as tested; starts at 36,990
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-seat roadster
CO2 emissions: 138g/km (VED band 131-150: 210 first 12 months, then 160 annually thereafter)
Fuel economy: 47.0mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 6.6 seconds
Power: 197hp at 4,500-6,500rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,450-4,200rpm
Boot space: 281 litres

What's this?

We're driving the latest generation of BMW's Z4 roadster. Soft-top two-seaters aren't ten-a-penny these days, but the Z4 sticks to the traditional format and shapes it in a design that is modern if somewhat polarising in appearance. It isn't what you'd call classically beautiful, but there are some fetching angles, namely the rear three-quarter view.

BMW has given it more presence too. It is 13mm taller than its predecessor, but more importantly, it's also 74mm wider and longer by 85mm. You sit close to the rear axle line, giving you a great view down the bonnet, while the sports seats hold you in place. The roof electrically drops in 10 seconds. When it's down, there's a small wind deflector that you can slot in between the roll hoops. As flimsy and plastic as it seems at first, it does quite a decent job of keeping the wind out of the cabin during faster roof-down motoring.

The interior isn't going to win many awards for roominess, but nor does it feel cramped or as small as a Mazda MX-5's. There are numerous storage compartments for smaller oddments, but it's the quality of the interior that is more likely to interest buyers. A digital instrument display keeps everything looking modern, though the layout of the graphics isn't the easiest to read and there is little way of changing it significantly. Crowning the centre console is a large touchscreen display that runs BMW's Operating System 7.0. The rotary controller remains and is still the easiest way to navigate your way around, although the pinch and zoom feature in mapping is useful. Every bit of the Z4's cabin looks and feels top notch, and specifying some contrasting interior colours adds to the premium feel.

How does it drive?

This BMW Z4 is the most driver-focused iteration of the roadster to date. Aside from sharing its DNA with the Toyota Supra, the BMW has a close eye on the Porsche Boxster and has dispatched the M40i to pick that fight. But having driven the different versions of the Z4, this more modest sDrive20i is more fun and, whisper it, more rewarding to drive.

As you sit low in the car, the driving position seems spot on and the thick-rimmed steering wheel feels good in the hand. Some may find it a bit too chunky, but the electrically assisted steering feels excellent - well-weighted and accurate.

This entry-point to the Z4 range may only have 197hp, yet the chassis and handling are such that you feel confident in exploiting every single bit of horsepower that the turbocharged four-cylinder engine can serve up. You don't have to worry about the tail end wagging a bit as you power out of a roundabout, either. Sure, those rear tyres can slip a little under duress, though the BMW's traction control system keeps everything in check without throwing a wet towel on the party. It makes you feel like a good driver. It makes you want to drive.

There's still plenty of comfort from the suspension. It soaks up bigger bumps with ease, although what's more impressive it how well damped it feels on less well-paved roads. When you turn into a faster bend you can feel the suspension load up progressively and along with the communicative steering this results in what is a predictable and rewarding drive. You'd happily spend several hours at the wheel and enjoy every bit of it.


It may have only modest performance for such a car, but it's what you can do with that power that makes this Z4 such an enjoyable car to drive. The balance of the chassis contributes towards what is an engaging driving experience. You accurately feel what the car is doing when you're pushing beyond seven-tenths, while its steering lets you place it exactly where you want it. The Z4 sDrive20i may be the least powerful model in the range, but from behind the wheel, it's the most fun.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain

Dave Humphreys - 22 May 2019    - BMW road tests
- BMW news
- Z4 images

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i. Image by BMW.


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