- 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds
- Drop top at 30 mph
- Stylish inside and out
- Track capable
- Frozen Grey Metallic paint
- Confusing infotainment
- Inconsistent steering feedback
- Pricey options
- $3,600 for Frozen Grey paint
features & specs
The 2020 BMW Z4 keeps alive the Sunday drive.
Two-seat roadsters deliver a lofty payload: Salvation from humdrum road boredom. The 2020 BMW Z4 convertible fits the spiritual bill with a pair of turbocharged engines and road-hugging handling. It begs to be driven simply for the joy of driving.
With the top down in the new M40i version, that simple joy becomes an extended thrill. The active damping and tighter chassis makes the Z4 track-capable but it’s more at home as an everyday driver to flee town, drop the top, and just go.
We give the 2020 Z4 a 6.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Back after a brief hiatus since 2016, the BMW Z4 roadster has a coupe twin, the 2020 Toyota Supra, which we review separately.
The base Z4 sDrive30i taps a 2.0-liter turbo-4 for 255 horsepower. The Z4 M40i draws on a potent 3.0-liter turbo-6 that makes 382 hp. Both come with an 8-speed automatic only. The sDrive30i hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds and starts at $50,695. For more performance and a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, the M40i costs $64,695, without options.
The longer, wider, taller Z4 has a shorter wheelbase and 50:50 weight distribution, all of which make it highly maneuverable even at higher speeds. A double wishbone suspension up front and multi-link independent suspension in back with available active dampers allow for tighter, precision handling on the track or on twisties, while comfort mode softens the ride while schlepping around town or cruising on the open highway. The black soft top opens and closes in about 10 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph. It is quiet with the top up on the highway.
Inside, the snug seats have enough power adjustments to find the right comfort zone. Criticisms of BMW’s iDrive infotainment center may be worse with the latest, fully digital design. Automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warnings come standard, but more advanced safety and convenience features such as adaptive cruise control cost extra.
2020 BMW Z4
Stylish with the roof up, wild and free with the top down, the 2020 Z4 looks brilliant.
The third-generation Z4 reflects the times with a more muscular, angular look. Its curves stretch to reflect motion, and though there’s a lot going on, it looks sharp. It earns an 8 inside and out, but we’d add another point if you trimmed it in the $3,600 Frozen Grey Metallic coat exclusive to the M40i and the Magma Red Vernasca (aka orange) interior that, with the top down, pops like daybreak in autumn.
It’s more than three inches longer, nearly three inches wider so it appears low and despite being a half-inch higher for better sight lines than the previous model. The wheelbase has been shortened by an inch, giving it an even longer, broader nose, and the rear is chunkier than its curvier predecessor.
The most notable difference is the abundance of air intakes, real or otherwise. The nose tucks down into a lower honeycomb kidney grille, which BMW says is part of the new design direction. The grille stretches toward the standard LED lights, which extend down the side over the available 19-inch alloy wheels (18-inch are standard). The M package offers three intakes on the lip and front edges. The body lines strafe upward from the side skirts into the LED lights wrapping horizontally around the rear. This projection of air flow looks less cute and more masculine, and from behind, chasing the Z4 down a single-lane mountain lane as it dips and darts like a hummingbird, the Z4 is a classically modern roadster.
The inside is designed for driving, not playing with all the controls. The center console and steering wheel can be busy with dials and buttons, but the overall presentation of the dash is streamlined and as sharp as the outside, with the instrument cluster blending into the embedded display screen above the horizontal bands of controls in the center stack. The side vents are chunky, but the overall effect is snug and intimate.
2020 BMW Z4
The Z4 is most at home on twisting single-lane roads that stretch forever, but it can handle track duty, too.
Even though the Toyota Supra and the BMW Z4 are mechanically related, they are different cars for different purposes. The Supra is a street racer, for the fortunate youthful few living out their “Fast and Furious” fantasies or more mature drivers yearning to relive their own youth. The Z4 is a roadster made for cruising at speed. On the track or around town, the Z4 works to deliver an engaging driving experience, earning an 8 for performance.
The two engine choices in the Z4 let it be enjoyed as a peppy cruiser or a trackable thrill ride. The base sDrive30i is powered by a 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 with an 8-speed automatic transmission that generates 295 pound-feet of torque. That torque comes on early and maintains from 1,550 rpm to 4,400 rpm. Even though there is no manual transmission, the diminutive paddle shifters are a perfect match for the quick shifting 8-speed automatic that provides plenty of passing power and enough pop from a stop to leave traffic behind. It hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
New for 2020, the Z4 M40i hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds but, starting at $64,695 it costs $14,000 more that the sDrive30i. The price of speed is pretty sweet, if you’ve got it. The M40i is powered by a 382-hp 3.0-liter turbo-6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission churning 369 lb-ft to the rear wheels. Peak torque comes at just 1,600 rpm, so there is plenty of grunt available with the quick-shifting 8-speed. It surprises a passenger from a stop, causing him or her to reach for handles and brace for God. It lifts off quickly, despite its 3,457-pound curb weight, which is the same as some small crossovers. The transmission doesn’t want to be pushed much past 5,000 rpm, and will shift for you if you tempt the redline or put it in manual mode. The small, contoured paddle shifters are nearly perfect for a tap in and tap out, even around town.
In sport mode, the baffles on the Z4 open up from an idle murmur to an impatient grumble. Hammer the throttle with the top down and that hunger fills the air, then lay off the gas and the exhaust baffles snap crackle and pop as if it’s telling you it’s hungry for more gas.
The variable-assist electric steering provides more feedback the harder the Z4 is pushed, so it’s light and loopy at low speeds or while cruising, and tighter while performing.
The Z4 M40i comes standard with Adaptive M Sport suspension and electronic locking rear differential, which are optional on the 30i. The suspension softens while cruising and tightens up at speed, with the differential correcting for optimal grip multiple times per second. Under certain conditions, these minute but precise corrections can create a slight skipping sensation in the rear, but it’s these same torque corrections that let you bust out of turn at higher speeds. It’s not as wag happy as a Mazda MX-5 Miata, but not as precise or confidence-inspiring as the 718 Boxster. It’s still a blast to track, and the M Sport Brembo Brakes grab the 19-inch alloy wheels shod in Pilot Super Sports with enough force to take the next lap faster.
While impressive on the track, the Z4 is best had as a roadster, as designed. The 30i has similar handling characteristics, but the M40i’s suspension is 0.4 inches lower, making it all the better to zip through hairpins quicker.
2020 BMW Z4
Comfort & Quality
The Z4 cabin opens up to a driver-focused cockpit and clever use of available storage space.
Despite its proportions, the Z4 hugs all the right places once you slide into the power adjustable seats. It doesn’t feel cramped, and all the ergonomics center on driver comfort. We give it two points above average for its comfy seats and luxury touches, but take two back due to a small cargo area and two-seater confines. It's a 5.
The M Sport seats standard on the M40i come heated with 14 different power adjustments, including a thigh support adjuster and four-way lumbar support. There’s enough up and down travel to fit taller drivers with the top up. The high back position tends to be firm on the backbone, and the driver position is a tad off-center, so when using adaptive cruise control the right knee has less room to relax than the left one due to the wide center console.
Below the center stack at the head of the console is a wireless charging pad, then the inconvenient gear stick that requires two snicks to get from reverse to drive, then the armrest. Two cupholders stacked in the center armrest on the passenger side inconvenience only the passenger, as the driver can still leave her half of the armrest down while the cupholders are full.
Behind the seats is a storage space with a retaining net for sunhats or tablets or pocketbooks, and between them is a pass-through to the trunk for a set of golf club drivers or skis. The 9.9 cubic feet of trunk space with the top up or down is the same as the Supra coupe. Neat trick. Two golf bags would fit.
The soft top goes up or down in about 10 seconds at speeds up to 31 mph, and the push button operation is as easy and quiet as it gets, with the only noise coming from the confirmation ding.
2020 BMW Z4
The Z4 has not been crash tested by the NHTSA or the IIHS, nor do we expect them to.
Since the NHTSA can only afford to test a sample of high-volume vehicles we’re not expecting the feds or the IIHS nonprofit to test the Z4. Without official crash testing, we don’t rate safety.
It is important to note, however, that automatic emergency braking at low speeds and lane-departure warnings come standard, but more advanced safety and convenience features such as adaptive cruise control cost extra.
2020 BMW Z4
The Z4 is well-equipped in any trim, but also expensive.
The 2020 Z4 starts at $50,695 and can easily jump to more than $73,000 with all the packages and finest Bavarian touches. At its base Sport Line, the two-seat roadster comes well-equipped and features the latest iterations of iDrive infotainment system and a new instrument cluster design called Live Cockpit that BMW is rolling out in other models.
It gets an 8 for features thanks to good standard features, a large touchscreen, and good 4-year/50,000-mile warranty.
M Sport seats with 14-way power adjustments come standard, but don’t confuse it with the $2,950 M Sport Motorsport Form, which adds M performance bits and more safety features.
Embedded in the dash above the horizontal band of climate controls is a 10.3-inch display screen that can be split in three panes. Toggling through those screens with the controller dial on the console is more confusing than the last generation of iDrive.
The controller dial should be for the passenger. The new digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster, steering wheel controls, and optional head-up display combine to give the driver access to the vital driving stats and conveniences without having to remove hands from the steering wheel. The tachometer and speedometer frame the cluster display so the middle can be used for a map/navigation view. To toggle between vehicle info and radio controls, however, you have to press the BC button on the stalk on the left side of the steering column. It’s like Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, but not nearly as good. One cool feature in the info display is the horsepower and torque reading in twin vertical bars.
Advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking and LED headlights come standard, as does Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Jumping up to the more potent M40i jumps up the price to $64,695. The Porsche 718 Boxster may look more attractive at this point. Larger 19-inch wheels add $600, and an assortment of colored leather options with contrast stitching over the standard synthetic leather adds at least $1,700 because it’s bundled with ambient lighting.
The Premium Package ($1,400) adds remote engine start and a head-up display, while the Executive Package ($2,500) adds a Harmon Kardon sound system, high-beam assist, and adaptive headlights that improve safety in IIHS testing of similarly equipped vehicles. The Driver Assistance Package ($500) is a might-as-well safety choice, adding lane-departure warnings, but adaptive cruise control is $1,200 more. Of all of the extras, the only one we’d really want is adaptive cruise, but not at that stand-alone price.
2020 BMW Z4
The Z4 improves fuel economy while adding size—neat trick.
The 2020 Z4 may be longer and wider, but it’s only 24 pounds heavier than the outgoing model (the M40i is about 90 pounds less than the 35is). Still it’s 1 mpg more efficient than before and the EPA rates the 2020 Z4 at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined.
We give it a 5 based on that number.
The higher-power M40i is rated 24/31/26 mpg by the EPA.
Not only is it more efficient than its predecessor—as it should be—it’s more efficient than competitors such as the Porsche 718 Boxster and the Audi TT Roadster.