- Strong, efficient base turbo four (28i)
- Tight, quiet retractable hardtop
- Good ride-and-handling balance
- Steering lacks feedback
- Not much space
- Somewhat cluttered dash
While it isn't as agile as the Porsche Boxster it is priced against, the 2016 BMW Z4 balances sportiness with comfort and a comfortable cabin.
Despite being one of the oldest designs in the BMW catalog, the Z4 has aged well since its 2009 redesign. Updates have been few since 2012.
Taken against competition like the recently redesigned Porsche Boxster, the Z4's performance is a tad nonathletic, being rather heavy and tuned more for a balance of comfort and speed. Cornering is stable and fairly balanced, though the suspension is a bit soft for truly aggressive days 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.
Under the hood, you'll find the same engines and transmissions the car has had for a few years now. The base Z4 sDrive28i gets a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; the Z4 sDrive35i gets a 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine; and the Z4 sDrive35is gets an even more potent 335-hp turbocharged inline-6. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual and an 8-speed automatic for sDrive28i models, while the sDrive35i and sDrive35is models are only available with the 7-speed DCT.
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 5.0 seconds, and the sDrive28i takes 5.6 seconds. While power is generally good in all models, the base sDrive28i can feel a bit sluggish at low speeds.
On the gas mileage front, the 2016 BMW Z4 spans a fairly wide range. The base turbocharged four-cylinder rates up to 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined. At the other end of the spectrum, the high-performance sDrive35is model scores just 17/24/20 mpg. Compared to its competition, the six-cylinder Z4's gas mileage isn't particularly impressive.
Inside, the BMW Z4 cabin is well-appointed with typically BMW-quality in materials and layout. The retractable hardtop roof gives the Z4 almost coupe-levels of quietness and insulation from the elements, tucking away neatly and quickly when the mood strikes. Supportive sport seats are newly standard on the base model, but unfortunately, faux leather is still the base upholstery.
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 this aging roadster. However, buyers can get the BMW Online Portal, as well as real-time traffic information, and smartpohone-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 included in the ConnectedDrive package. Navigation, satellite radio, heated front seats, and more are available as standalone or package upgrade options.
The BMW Z4 hasn't been crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS in recent years. It should be noted that, BMW has 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.
The Z4 sDrive28i, which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined with the manual transmission. Opting for the 8-speed auto shaves 1 mpg from the highway rating, but leaves the others untouched.