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The BMW Z4 is the latest evolution of the roadster that began life as the Z3, back in the 1990s. It's grown longer, more lascivious, and much better styled over the decades--and its performance reach a new peak in the 2012 model year. The hardtop convertible sports car continues to age well, adding features to a package that's the rival of the Mercedes SLK, if not quite the Porsche Boxster and Cayman.
Visual distinctions for the 2014 model year include a new 18-inch wheel design, and a new side indicator light with a "dynamic sweep" design.
Taken against competition like the recently redesigned Boxster, the Z4's performance is a tad unathletic, being rather heavy and tuned more for a balance of comfort and speed. Under the hood, you'll find the same engines and transmissions as last year. The base Z4 sDrive28i gets a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; the Z4 sDrive35i gets a 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder turbocharged engine; and the Z4 sDrive35is gets an even more potent 335-horsepower in-line six-cylinder turbo.
Across all the models, acceleration is brisk, with the sDrive35is dashing out the quickest 0-60 mph time of the bunch at 4.8 seconds. The sDrive35i comes in a tick slower at 5.1 seconds, and the sDrive28i takes 5.5 seconds. While power is generally good in all models, the base sDrive28i can feel a bit sluggish at low speeds. Cornering is stable and fairly balanced, though the suspension is a bit soft for truly aggressive driving like you'd try at the track. Around town, however, that smooth suspension makes for a more laid-back ride than many sport roadsters. An available Sport Package upgrades the performance a notch, and adds sporty appearance details inside and out.
Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic for sDrive28i models, while the sDrive35i substitutes a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for the automatic. The sDrive35is is only available with the seven-speed DCT.
While power is generally good in all models, the base sDrive28i can feel a bit sluggish at low speeds. Cornering is stable and fairly balanced, though the suspension is a bit soft for truly aggressive driving like you'd try at the track. Around town, however, that smooth suspension makes for a more laid-back ride than many sport roadsters. An available Sport Package upgrades the performance a notch, and adds sporty appearance details inside and out.
Inside the 2014 BMW Z4, the cabin is well-appointed and typically BMW-quality in materials and layout. The retractable hard top roof gives the Z4 almost coupe-levels of quietness and insulation from the elements, tucking away neatly and quickly when the mood strikes. Interior updates for the 2014 model year include an optional Fineline Anthracite wood trim; Kansas leather trim; and the Hyper Orange package, which adds black and orange accents to the doors, seats, and other elements of the cabin.
The BMW Z4 hasn't been crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in recent years, but BMW's reputation for chassis engineering, a solid standard safety equipment package, and the innate obstacle-avoidance properties of the Z4's sporty design should make it as secure as any roadster.
Features and equipment are generally first-rate in the Z4, though some of the latest safety and driving assistance innovations haven't been imported to the aging roadster. The ConnectedDrive suite of features is updated for 2014 to include High Beam Assistant, Park Distance Control, and, for navigation-equipped cars, web-accessible features like BMW Online Portal, real-time traffic information, and iPhone-based BMW apps that can scan Twitter or Facebook posts and read them aloud. The BMW Apps feature also enables MOG, Pandora, Aupeo, or Stitcher music streaming. BMW's various remote telematics services are also now included in the ConnectedDrive package. Navigation, satellite radio, heated front seats, and more are available as standalone or package upgrade options.
On the gas mileage front, the 2014 BMW Z4 spans a fairly wide range. The base turbocharged four-cylinder rates up to 33 mpg highway and 22 mpg city for a combined rating of 26 mpg. At the other end of the spectrum, the high-performance sDrive35is model scores just 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined. Compared to its competition, the Z4's gas mileage isn't particularly impressive.
- Tight, quiet retractable hardtop
- Strong, efficient base turbo four (28i)
- Excellent dual-clutch automatic
- Great ride-and-handling balance
- Storage for smaller items
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- Not much space
- Steering lacks feedback
- High price
- Somewhat cluttered dash