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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
Given the brilliance of nearly every other BMW, the unfocused handling of what should be one of the company’s sportiest cars is even more of a bummer.
Car and Driver
Even at serious cornering speeds, it's extraordinarily eager and imparts a feeling of utter competency.
Edmunds' Inside Line
Something this addictive should be illegal.
At low speeds, acceleration becomes difficult to modulate.
With thirty fewer horses than the old M Roadster - which used the 330-hp six from the previous-generation M3 - the sDrive35i can't match that car's frenetic persona.
The 2013 BMW Z4 treads a line between stylish touring car and purpose-built sports car; so what you get in the Z4 isn't an all-out track-day machine, but instead a charismatic roadster with balanced handling, a civilized road ride, and smooth, relatively efficient power delivery—all of course paired with the top-down sensations of a convertible and a fabulous folding hardtop.
All the engines offered in the Z4 are now turbocharged; in the Z4 sDrive28i you get a 2.0-liter turbo four, while the Z4 sDrive35i retains its 300-horsepower turbo 3.0-liter in-line six; there's also the Z4 sDrive35is, which packs 335 horsepower from a twin-turbo version of the in-line six. Paired with the six-speed manual transmission (an eight-speed automatic is available), the base Z4 is fun and smooth-driving, and there's a strong enough turbo kick in the low- to mid-rev range to seldom be caught in the wrong gear. A six-speed manual transmission is also standard on the sDrive35i as well, although there an available seven-speed dual-clutch unit truly combines the more connected driving experience of the manual with the comfort and ease of an automatic (that gearbox is included in the sDrive35is).
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.
Across the lineup, the Z4 is responsive and willing enough, although not nearly as lean and athletic in driving personality as some other roadsters. An adjustable suspension rides under the new Z4, with three modes: normal, sport, and sport-plus, and they each work as advertised, with sport-plus best kept for track days and when comfort isn't the priority.
Whichever Z4 model you choose, you'll get a balanced, controlled chassis riding on an adjustable Driving Dynamics Control suspension system that offers Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. Dynamic stability control with traction control, brake fade compensation, start-off assist, brake drying, and brake stand-by features offer high-tech aids to improve driving safety and consistency. An optional Adaptive M Suspension with Electronic Damping Control (part of the Sport Package) offers even more adjustability, readily soaking up patchy pavement yet firming up the dampers for better handling on smoother pavement.
In either of the Z4 models, the steering doesn't have the direct feel of the Boxster, and it's a touch too quick. Big, smoothly modulating brakes feel responsive and firm, with exactly the confidence you'd hope for in virtually all conditions.
All the 2013 BMW Z4 models are strong performers, with good power and balanced handling—although they don't have the edgy, communicative steering that some expect in a sports car.