Overview & Reviews
The BMW Z4 is one of the more intriguing sports cars available. It's the successor to the original Z3 and is presently the company's only two-seat sports car. Defining traits include a front-engine/rear-drive layout, a hunkered-down stance, a long hood and rearward positioning of driver and passenger. While the first Z4 featured a traditional soft top, the current Z4 model has a sleek retractable hardtop that makes this fun-loving roadster a more viable all-weather option.
The current Z4 also represents a slight change in philosophy for BMW's roadster. Not only does it sacrifice ultimate handling for greater ride comfort and overall refinement, but it also employs a highly fuel-efficient turbocharged four-cylinder as its base engine. The result is one of the most well-rounded sports cars money can buy. You'll need a lot of it, though, as the latest Z4 certainly doesn't come cheap.
Current BMW Z4
The current Z4 is offered with rear-wheel drive in three trim levels: sDrive28i, sDrive35i and sDrive35is. The 28i gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, with an eight-speed automatic available as an option. The 35i comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 good for 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque; its sole transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DCT). The 35is utilizes DCT and a revised version of the regular 35i's engine, boasting 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque with a temporary overboost function that pumps torque up to 369 lb-ft.
Though the primary distinction between these trims involves what's under the hood, there are some other equipment differences. The sDrive28i comes standard with 17-inch wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power seats, Bluetooth and adjustable driving settings that change the programming for the steering, throttle and (if specified) automatic transmission. The sDrive35i adds 18-inch wheels, sun-reflective leather upholstery and sport seats. The sDrive 35is is similar but comes standard with an upgraded audio system and the performance-themed M Sport package (optional on other Z4s). Option highlights include heated seats and steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors and a navigation system.
In reviews, we've found the latest BMW Z4 to be an impressive and highly refined sport touring car, with a surprisingly roomy interior and decent trunk space as long as the retractable roof is raised. Although the turbo-4 makes less power than the old inline-6, it's got more torque, and fuel economy is substantially improved. Besides its rather agricultural grumble at idle, this is a sweet little engine. Should you want for more, the ultra-smooth and seriously quick six-cylinder models are bound to please.
The Z4 is generally a hoot to drive, especially if you go for the optional M Sport package and leave the adjustable drive settings in Sport mode. However, its reflexes and communication with the driver are a bit lacking due to a numb electric power steering system, a fairly hefty curb weight and a predilection for understeer. Still, we think most buyers will appreciate the Z4's firm yet compliant ride and accomplished all-around performance. A spirited top-down journey in a Z4 is a wonderful way to spend a sunny day.
Used BMW Z4 Models
The current, second-generation BMW Z4 was completely redesigned for 2009, as the previous coupe and roadster models were melded into one with the introduction of a retractable hardtop. The styling was revamped to be more curvaceous and fluid than the avant-garde first generation, while the interior gained some space, style and improved materials.
If you're looking at used second-generation Z4s, there are a few notable changes to keep in mind. From 2009-'11, the base Z4 was known as the sDrive30i, and it featured a carryover 3.0-liter inline-6 that produced 255 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. The transmission was a six-speed manual or an optional six-speed automatic. This is a superb engine on its own merits, but it's not as fuel-efficient as the subsequent turbo-4, which replaced it for 2012 when the base model became known as the sDrive28i. The eight-speed automatic was introduced at the same time, supplanting the six-speed unit. As for the sDrive35is, it debuted for 2011 along with the M Sport package for lesser models. Finally, the sDrive35i could be had with a six-speed manual of its own until 2015.
The first-generation BMW Z4 was introduced for 2003 with controversial "flame-surfaced" styling. Originally, there were two roadster models available, identified as 2.5i or 3.0i. The 2.5i had a 2.5-liter inline-6 that made 184 hp, while the 3.0i used a 3.0-liter inline-6 that generated 225 hp. For transmissions, there was a five-speed manual (standard on the 2.5), a six-speed manual (standard on the 3.0), a five-speed automatic or a six-speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG). Standard equipment included 16-inch wheels (17s for the 3.0i), a manually operated soft top (with rear glass) and leather upholstery for the 3.0i. Major options included a power top, xenon headlights and a navigation system.
A significant update occurred for 2006, including the debut of the fixed-roof Z4 Coupe and revamped trim levels with new engines -- the 3.0i (215-hp inline-6) and 3.0si (255-hp inline-6). The Z4 Coupe was offered in 3.0si trim only. A six-speed manual transmission was standard on every Z4, while a six-speed automatic was optional. The largely disliked SMG transmission was dropped. Other changes included a retuned standard suspension for better ride quality, a revised final-drive ratio for improved acceleration and updated styling. High-performance M versions of the Z4 were also offered and are reviewed separately here.
Although we prefer the updated 2006-'08 models, every first-generation BMW Z4 rewarded drivers with an engaging driving experience. In reviews, our editors praised the car's sharp reflexes and quick acceleration, though the ride could be a bit rough -- particularly prior to '06 -- and the steering wasn't as communicative as some competitors. The Coupe possessed a slight advantage in terms of handling due to its added body rigidity.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 614.00
Not a Cayman or a Boxster, but good for what it is - 2011 BMW Z4
By KrakMonkE9 - January 8 - 1:14 pm
One thing one needs to accept about this car is that it's not meant to compete on the track against a Cayman S or Boxster S. It's just not that kind of car. It's absolutely great for what it was built for, which is to be an enjoyable high speed, top down cruiser. If you drive these other cars, you will immediately notice how much better they handle, but for everyday driving, the Z4 is quite good. The N54 engine is superb and eminently chip-able. The car is comfortable and luxurious. The only cons I've really identified is that in the 2011 model year, some cars do not come with the Combox controller, which means you won't have bluetooth audio capabilities. Also, the handling in some tight corners feels a bit delayed. I've felt the rear end skitter out on me more than a few times. Not the extent that it would be dangerous or cause any real concern, but it certainly doesn't have the "turn on a dime" feel of those mid-engined cars.
Stylish roadster - 2015 BMW Z4
By Paul V - January 6 - 4:15 pm
Sporty and comfortable roadster with great build quality and materials. Seats are amazing and power is very good on the 4 cylinder model. The hardtop takes kind of a long time to put up and down and draws a lot of attention so not as quick as a softtop but it's much more secure and gives the car a nice dual personality with the top up vs down. Rearward visibility is among the best i've seen with minimal blind spots and great mirrors that auto dim at night. The 6 speed manual is slick and easy to easy to use and makes it feel like a proper sports car. Rev matching is easy and the engine is torquey and willing at almost any RPM The standard run-flat tires are too hard and non-forgiving and make for a terrible ride especially with the M package suspension and larger wheels. I recommend swapping them out for non run-flats and sticking to 17 or 18 inch wheels. The car looks and is small from the outside but feels larger and very substantial from the inside. It's probably at least 300lbs overweight though. Even though it has great power and decent fuel economy, this car would really benefit from losing a few pounds. As is it's more of a comfortable, fast highway cruiser then a tight-curve hugging car that you can fling around. This would be a seriously great car if it lost a few pounds but it's still an enjoyable and classy vehicle.
Great Car - 2003 BMW Z4
By Bob - December 23 - 11:58 am
Sexy little 2 seater Fun to drive - 2003 BMW Z4
By BG - November 11 - 7:39 pm
Look for a well cared for car. These cars beg for you to push them. One that is taken care of will give you years of enjoyment. The car has the look that many will envy. its fun to drive and if you get a premium equipt model you will not be disappointed. Enough said.
2003 Z4 3.0 manual Long-term driver - 2003 BMW Z4
By Don Avirett - October 24 - 1:41 pm
I have driven this car on the highway at 80 mph for 1 hr each way to work for the last 4 years. I bought it with 107k miles and it now has 224 k miles and runs like new and looks almost new. The only things I have done to it besides tires and brake pads is an AC compressor, a starter, front end stabilizer bar, front left wheel bearings, valve cover gasket repair, and a radio all normal maintenance stuff. I never take it to a BMW dealer for repair. Almost any regular mechanic can work on it and they do not charge high prices. If you get your parts through a regular parts store, they are not expensive. Also, I had rear main seal leak that I fixed with Lucas stop leak. I do not like the electronic power steering it's a little different, but I've gotten used to it. The car has a lot of get up and go but it could use a little more power to demoralize Texas turbo diesel pickups. I drive the car through hailstorms, snowstorms, and windstorms of the Texas Panhandle, and it performs amazingly well. It gets about 27 mpg on the highway.
2011 Z4 sDrive35is, A Smile Making Machine! - 2011 BMW Z4
By MarkandSusan Cartisano - March 5 - 2:41 pm
Purchased a CPO Z4 sDrive35si with all the options and limited edition interior... 25k miles. This car is a smile making machine! First, I drive in the real world, not a test track. If you can make this care misbehave in a turn, you're going too fast for real roads! It is super tight and sticks to corners like glue! Heart pounding and big smile! The most amazing thing is the power band never quits! Ever hit a golf ball just right and watched it rocket away only to see it get a second blast of power! That's the Z4... You punch it down and it blasts off, hits 110mph in a flash and then blasts off again! It wants and has so much more! All this in a comfort that no Boxster can provide.
My First BMW - 2005 BMW Z4
By manhunter2 - September 30 - 11:20 am
After a considerable amount of research, I purchased my first BMW about six weeks ago, a Maldives Blue over Beige, 2005 Z4 2.5i roadster with only 13,400 miles. I also have a 1977 MGB guess I really like roadsters. After looking for a Z3M for a reasonable price, I turned my attention to the Z4. The reviews on the Z4 were, for the most part, glowing and I can say that this is the funnest car to drive I have ever owned. The power - even with the 2.5, is impressive, but its ability to stick to the road, its handling and its looks make it a winner in my book. It's a lot of fun to drive and to look at!
THE Coupe - 2008 BMW Z4
By red4zone - December 19 - 12:19 pm
It's actually my first time writing a review on a car, I was looking for a sport cart 8 months ago. My first choice was a Porscha Cayman S with a manual transmission. I am not going to bring back the whole Porscha vs BM discussion but let's say you will have to try the car to know what you really want. I did love the Porscha but couldnt resist to test the Z4. My only concerns about the Z4 was the look and I really didnt like it in the beginning cause all I could find here in Canada was SoftTop Z4. The driving experience of the Z4 3.0Si was magic yes I said it MAGIC. You do feel like you're driving a beast, nervous and everytime you step on the pedal you get the "push" of adrenaline...
Get out while you can - 2003 BMW Z4
By mike229 - October 2 - 2:44 pm
Those who owned the car and sold it are fortunate. Bought mine in 08 with 99K miles but dealer maintained. It was a fair weather driver and what a mistake. The car now has 104K miles and I've spent some $15K in repairs. Things like water pump, oil pump, alternator, motor mounts, numerous sensors and of course the top. I've replaced the hydraulic pump twice and the side pistons once. I've spent some $5000 just on the hydraulics. It seems the car is notorious for having leaks in the vaccum hose system. The cup holders never worked, and I just let that pass. It's almost as though I can expect a $500 repair each time I drive it. Not what I bargained for.
10 years of driving pleasure - 2003 BMW Z4
By danwatson - August 23 - 5:23 pm
I recently sold my 2003 Z4, purchased new in August, 2003. It had 52,000 nearly trouble free miles. It was never driven hard and always garaged. I was 52 with good knees when I bought it. Ten years later my wife and I have both had knee operations and getting in and out was a chore. Plus, at 6'3", getting in and out with the top up was a chore. With a wife who doesn't know how to pack lightly, anything more than an overnight trip wasn't practical due to the small trunk. Plus no back seat meant no rides for the dog or grandkids. So, it's gone and a new 128i convertible is on a big boat between Germany and the US with delivery expected soon. I hope I have as much fun with this one.