2016 BMW Z4 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
June 14, 2016

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 models in the BMW catalog, the Z4 has aged well since its 2009 redesign. Updates have been few since 2012.

Up against rivals like the rebooted Porsche Boxster, the Z4 comes across as rather unathletic thanks to its heft and grand touring positioning. It corners with excellent stability and good balance, but it is ultimately soft for a sporting car if you're headed to a track. In town or on a quiet byway, the suspension delivers a laid back ride and an extra-cost Sport Package turns up the wick a notch or two.

Under the Z4's long hood, you'll discover the same motors and transmissions the car has had for a few years now. The base Z4 sDrive28i uses a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder; the Z4 sDrive35i gets a 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine; and the Z4 sDrive35is has an even more potent 335-hp turbocharged inline-6. Transmission options include a 6-speed stick shift and an optional 8-speed automatic on the 4-cylinder sDrive28i models, but the 6-cylinder sDrive35i and sDrive35is models can be ordered only with the 7-speed DCT.

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Across all models, acceleration from a stop is pleasantly brisk, with the top-of-the-line sDrive35is dashing out the fastest 0-60 mph figure of the group at 4.8 seconds. The sDrive35i does the job a tick slower at 5.0 seconds, while the sDrive28i takes 5.6 seconds. Though power is readily on tap in all models, the base sDrive28i is a bit more sluggish around town.

On the efficiency front, the 2016 BMW Z4 spans a somewhat wide range. The base turbo four-cylinder rates up to 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined. At the opposite end of the roadster spectrum, the high-zoot sDrive35is model scores just 17/24/20 mpg. Up against its rivals, the six-cylinder Z4's gas mileage is not particularly impressive.

Inside, the BMW Z4 cabin is well-appointed with typically BMW level quality in materials and execution. The retractable hardtop roof gives the Z4 coupe grade levels of silence and insulation from outside elements, folding away neatly and with a quickness when called upon. Supportive sport seats are newly standard on the base model, but unfortunately, faux leather is still the base upholstery.

The Z4 shows its age in its lack of some recent driving assistance and safety tech, although all models are well-equipped from the get-go. A host of connected features link the Z4 to Facebook and Twitter, which aren't really part of the driving experience.

The latest Z4 has not been crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS, but the Z4 nonetheless comes with a full complement of airbags and ABS.

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.

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2016 BMW Z4

Styling

A long hood and short deck give the Z4 classic roadster proportions wrapped in graceful, fluid bodywork.

With its classic roadster shape of a short tail and long hood, the Z4 might feel like a throwback at first. But it's aerodynamic and thoroughly modern, even though this basic design is getting up there a bit.

Converging arcs, soft swells, and sharper character lines provide the Z4with a still-fresh style even though it's been more than half a decade since its last reboot. Somehow both sporty and conservative to behold, the Z4 is a fine balance, with a persona all its own.

Inside the Z4, the cabin layout is cockpit-like and more driver-oriented than other BMW vehicles.It's sophisticated and thoroughly modern thanks to nice materials and interesting design surfaces.

Materials and seating upholstery have a quality feel and are pleasing to the eye, and while there is hardly an abundance of space to spare, the not-quite minimalist look is a pleasant nod to the past. 

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2016 BMW Z4

Performance

All Z4 models are quick and nimble, but the sDrive35is is the most engaging to drive.

By blending roadster-grade sportiness with luxury-level comfort, the Z4 carves out a rather more touring-oriented niche for itself. It's quick but civilized.

A trio of  Z4 choices are on offer: sDrive28i, sDrive35i, and sDrive35is. The first uses a turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The second version rates 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. The sportiest version is the third, extracting 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.

As you would expect, performance on offer matches the engine selected. The base variant of the Z4 is quick and fun, achieving the sprint to 60 mph in as little as 5.6 seconds, per BMW, but it ultimately lacks the vigor of the six-cylinder Z4s. Moving up to the sDrive35i slices 0-60 mph times to 5.0 seconds, but also brings a big improvement in mid-range acceleration from any speed. The range-topping sDrive35is is even sportier with a 4.8-second 0-60 mph sprint and noticeably more responsive acceleration all around.

For the sDrive28i, a 6-speed manual transmission comes as standard, and it remains a desirable choice if you prefer to do your own gear changes. It has a slick, low-effort gearbox that never slows you down. An optional 8-speed automatic also fires off quick and smooth gear changes, though it leaves the roadster feeling rather less spirited. In the Z4 sDrive35i and sDrive35is, the 8-speed auto is replaced by a 7-speed dual-clutch, and no manual transmission is offered. You can leave the dual-clutch to its own devices when it's in automatic mode, but waking it up with the steering wheel-mounted paddles helps make the most of it. It snaps off rapid gear changes, even if it doesn't quite match the racing-level crisp feel of the Porsche PDK.

All Z4s ride and handle well, but the base suspension isn't exactly entertaining. Opt for the M Sport Package and you'll get more confident and zippy cornering and steering that is slightly sharper. Overall, it's a more muted experience than you'll see in, say, a BMW M3, but the Z4 delivers long-haul comfort like few roadsters have ever done.

But if you want to have fun every time you take your droptop out, look closely at the Boxster instead.

An adjustable suspension system offers up three modes that start rather soft and wind up fairly firm. One note: we're not fans of the way BMW uses run-flat tires. Their stiff sidewalls require softer suspension settings to deliver a composed ride, which is unfortunate.

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2016 BMW Z4

Comfort & Quality

The quality materials are highlighted by a sun-reflecting leather, but space is tight as per the roadster norm.

The 2016 BMW Z4 remains one of the most well-balanced sports cars in the industry, but it's not without some compromises.

Cabin and carbo space are predictably tight in the Z4. Packing for a weekend trip may involve a careful selection of luggage, as there's just no room for much greater than a pair of small carry-ons and a handful of personal items. The cabin itself features numerous bins and trays, but they're small. Don't expect to securely stash a tablet or laptop with two passengers in the car.

Despite these expected shortcomings, the Z4's construction and interiors materials are terrific throughout the cabin.The available leather seating surfaces are soft and delightfully supple. An extra-cost extended leather package adorns the dashboard, door caps, and sunvisors with hides as well. Overall, the Z4 feels tight with few squeaks and rattles, a further indication of its stellar build quality.

Hidden in plain sight is BMW's nifty Sun Reflective leather. Instead of letting the sun's rays soak into the leather and scald your bare legs or arms, the seats instead absorb the heat and rarely feel more than just warm. IT sounds like a gimmick, but it works well.

Another strength is the Z4's power retracting roof. Its steel construction silences road rumble and delivers all-season safety and all parking lot security.

The seats, now sport buckets in all models, are comfortable with a wide enough range of adjustment to suit most body types and sizes. They're mounted high in the cabin, which affords a good view for shorter drivers but can limit head room for taller drivers when the top is raised. 

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2016 BMW Z4

Safety

The Z4 hasn't been crash tested, but it comes with a compeititive list of safety features.

Standard safety features include front and side-impact airbags, adaptive brake lights, and multi-setting stability and brake control systems. The Z4 will cut fuel flow, turn the hazard flashers on, and unlock both doors if it detects an accident

For those seeking an even higher level of safety tech, optional upgrades include automatic headlamps, park distance control, and BMW Assist service with Bluetooth. More advanced features, like a backup camera, blind spot monitoring system, and lane departure warning systems aren't even optional in the Z4, which shows this basic design's age.

The BMW Z4 is sold in too low of a volume to warrant evaluation by the major U.S. agencies that crash-test cars.

Visibility is not an issue in the Z4, even with its folding hardtop up. The side windows are fairly large, the rear glass opening is shaped well, and the view out the front is expansive. 

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2016 BMW Z4

Features

Even the base Z4 is well equipped, but performance and technology option packages can send the price skyward.

With prices starting around $50,000 and climbing higher than $70,000 for a loaded up model, you'd expect to find a long list of standard and extra-cost optional features. Fortunately, that's the case.

The Z4 is offered in three models, sDrive28i, sDrive35i, and sDrive35is. Standard equipment for all Z4s includes Bluetooth, audio with iPod/USB support, HD radio, heated mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry, automatic climate control, BMW Ambiance lighting, rain-sensing wipers, and more. Unfortunately, faux leather upholstery is standard on the base model. However, for 2016, the base Z4 sDrive28i gets standard sport seats.

The upgrades list is where things get noticeably more interesting. A full complement of a la carte features include heated front seats, park distance control, automatic high beams, and BMW Concierge services.

Most of the best upgrades are bundled into packages. The M Sport Package (non-sDrive35is models) brings many performance upgrades (some more about  theme than function), including a sportier steering wheel, an anthracite headliner, a firmer suspension, unique anthracite wood trim, and a range of bespoke wheel and exterior paint options. The Premium Sound package adds upgraded hi-fi audio and a first year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. The Technology Package adds navigation with voice-command, real-time traffic information, BMW Online access, BMW Apps functions, enhanced USB and Bluetooth smartphone integration, and more. A number of appearance packages can bring extended leather, and unique Hyper Orange accents, among other ways to personalize your Z4. 

BMW Apps is particularly interesting, bringing streaming radio services like Pandora and Stitcher plus Facebook, Twitter, and Wiki Local access on-the-go. 

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2016 BMW Z4

Fuel Economy

The four-cylinder model makes the BMW Z4 one of the most efficient sports cars.

BMW offers both efficient and fast versions of the Z4 roadster, so you can choose your flavor of fuel economy.

Those looking to save some cash at the pump will choose the Z4 sDrive28i, which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. It 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 other figures untouched. In our experience, the Z4's real-world gas mileage easily matches, and actually sometimes exceeds, the EPA ratings.

The sportiest model, the Z4 sDrive35is, scores 17/24/20 mpg, according to the EPA. It comes only with a dual-clutch 7-speed gearbox. The sDrive35i rates the same 17/24/20 mpg, also with the dual-clutch transmission. 

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August 20, 2015
2016 BMW Z4 2-Door Roadster sDrive28i

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