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2020 BMW Z4 retains spirit of iconic roadster

2020 BMW Z4
2020 BMW Z4 - The Chronicle Herald

Who doesn’t like a good roadster? Especially when it sports a Bavarian brand we’re all familiar with and the letter Z. The BMW Z4 ranks among the most iconic two-seaters on the market, nestled between the Porsche Boxster and the Audi TT.

The model entered its third generation when the Z4 M40i was unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August 2018. The overhauled model launched with a fresh new face, armed with a new chassis that splits the weight evenly between the front and the back, and running on a new turbocharged inline-six engine that also, interestingly, underlines the new Toyota Supra. The smaller sDrive30i followed shortly after.

BMW’s modern aesthetic translates well on the convertible silhouette. - Saltwire
BMW’s modern aesthetic translates well on the convertible silhouette. - Saltwire

BMW’s modern aesthetic translates well on the convertible silhouette. If you ask me, the Z4 hadn’t been handsome in a long time and the model wears its new lines well. On the inside, it is furnished with a pair of model-specific seats with increased motion range and the trunk volume was increased by 50 per cent — not such a difficult feat to achieve when you stretch the vehicle by 40 cm.

The Z4 is much more engaging than I expected it to be. Premium brands tend to step away from their exhilarating performance heritage to add instead to modern-day drivers’ increasingly long list of requirements. I don’t blame them but that usually translates into a cocooned, asepticized, and disconnected driving experience.

Thankfully, not all is lost and there still a few good options out there. If you pit the Z4 against its ancestors, it probably also feels a bit too tamed but remember that in 20 years, the standards and expectations for luxury have evolved.

The Twin-Power turbocharged 3.0L, inline-six engine creates 382 horsepower and 368 lb.-ft. of torque. - Saltwire
The Twin-Power turbocharged 3.0L, inline-six engine creates 382 horsepower and 368 lb.-ft. of torque. - Saltwire

The Z4 has retains its good spirit. That weight distribution is an asset, especially in the handling, which is precise and provides plenty of grip. The car is extremely well-behaved—maybe a tad bit too much so for my taste but not enough to spoil my fun.

The Twin-Power turbocharged 3.0L, inline-six engine sends all the 382 horsepower and 368 lb.-ft. of torque goodness to the back wheels—a classic layout unless there’s all-wheel-drive involved. And because BMW knows we’re a little disgruntled the model doesn’t come with a manual transmission anymore, they made sure the eight-speed automatic transmission was quick and swift enough to make up for it.

Note that, unsurprisingly, the model has gained some weight through the years and while it handles beautifully, it doesn’t let you forget about its 1,568 kg. It isn’t too punitive but it’s part of the model’s modern reality. The weight also grounds it significantly which isn’t something I would complain about. Plus, the abundance of features surely compensates for the few extra kilos for those of us looking to get the most out of their $76,000.

The car is equipped with BMW’s iActive system that features parking assists, cross-traffic warnings, a concierge service, and the weather forecast. The system also includes the “Caring Car” functionality that adjusts the climate controls and plays music according to your mood of the moment, whether you wish to relax or get a boost. BMW cares about you. If that wasn’t enough, there’s even neat ambient lighting that gives the cabin an entirely different vibe at night. It’s quite soothing really.

Like most other BMWs, the Z4 has matured through the decades. Unlike other BMWs, it only hides its horns a little better. The BMW Z4 M40i can be as classy or as flamboyant as you want it to be — it all comes down to how you drive it.

The specs

Model: 2020 BMW Z4 M40i

Engine: 3.0L, I-6, 382 horsepower, 368 lb.-ft. of torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive

NRCan rating (L/100km city/highway): 8.9 / 6.6

Length: 4,637 mm

Width: 2,024 mm

Wheelbase: 2,470 mm

Weight: 1,568 kg

Price: base, $76,100 as tested, $84,895 including freight

Competition: Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, Mercedes-Benz SLC 43, Jaguar F-Type

Standard features: heated steering wheel, automatic sport transmission with paddle shifters, Multi-Function Steering Wheel with Cruise Control, Adaptive M Suspension, Variable Sport Steering, Rear View Camera, Electric Seats w/ Driver Memory, Heated Front Seats, Automatic Climate Control, Dynamic Cruise Control, SiriusXM Satellite Radio Tuner, Apple CarPlay Preparation, USB Integration with Bluetooth

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