There has been a lot of talk about the new Z4 and its distant cousin, the Toyota Supra. It’s getting a bit of a beating from the public without any of them actually testing it. Both cars might have been co-designed or cross developed, but it’s fair to say that the type of customer that looks to the BMW Z4 M40i is not the same customer who looks at the Toyota Supra.

As this was the first Z4 I have driven, and due height issues with the previous smaller Z4’s, I was keen to see what BMW were offering in this now niche market.

The Range (or the differences)
There is only one Z4 available in New Zealand, that is the BMW Z4 M40i (starting from $133,800)

Highlights for this model include 19″ M light alloy wheels double-spoke style, BMW head-up display, BMW live cockpit professional with 10.25’’ display, driving assistant, Harman/Kardon surround system, M Sport brakes, M sport differential and M sport seats. 

The engine is the 3.0-litre turbocharged straight 6, which generates 250kWs of power and 500Nm of torque. It’s connected to the rear wheels by an 8-speed sports automatic transmission and can propel the Z4 to 100kmph in 4.5 seconds. Fuel consumption is advertised at 7.4 L/100km. 

Standard features for the M40i includes: M Sport differential, electronically controlled limited slip differential and adaptive M suspension. Driving Experience Control with Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro and Adaptive modes, auto start/stop, electric power steering with Servotronic, launch control and performance tyres. 

Driver assist options includes: active cruise control, lane departure warning, lane change warning, front collision warning with brake intervention, crossing traffic warning rear, rear collision prevention and speed limit info. Parking assistant, which includes a rear view camera, parking assistant, reversing assistant and lateral parking aid.

Paint selections available are Alpine White, Black Sapphire, Misano Blue, Glacier Silver, San Francisco Red, Frozen Orange and Frozen Grey II. Our test car was in Misano Blue, which looked great. 

Some of the optional extras available includes: steering wheel heating, tyre pressure indicator, mirror caps black, soft top roof, anthracite silver effect, M seat belts and BMW Individual high-gloss black with extended contents. There is also a First Edition package which combines many of these options into one $7000 package.

The Z4 has a wide range of optional extras available, for a full list of standard and optional specs please check out BMW New Zealand’s website

First Impressions
The first impression was strong, as you can see by its Misano Blue paint selection. This car stood out for miles in Wellington’s BMW dealership amongst a sea of black, silver and white cars. This was perfect; cars like this should not blend in, they should stand out from the crowd, personally I think it looks amazing in blue.

This loud blue really helped to make all of the design lines push out, the cool shark-fin side grille behind the front wheels, and the line that ran back from the bottom of that all the way to the rear wheels. The body had a lot of shape to it, and you felt it enjoyed showing it off. 

The roof was up when collected, and due to the weather I would have to wait to see what it looked like with the roof down or how it was meant to be. 

The Inside
When inside the M40i, you feel like you’re almost sitting on the ground. It’s a rather low car, with a low seating position, which leaves you with a nice sports-car feeling. Even for a tall guy like me, my head was well below the top of the windscreen, something I have not been as fortunate with in other two-seat convertibles

The seats, door trims and centre armrest were all covered with the Cognac leather option, the rest of the surfaces were black. It would not have been my personal choice, but it was not bad. The seats are very comfy, I could see myself doing long drives without any discomfort. 

The interior is clean and free of clutter, the major feature is the central media display and driver’s cluster which are now running BMW Live cockpit professional. The main driver’s display is very clean and customisable. It displays speed, rpm, fuel efficient, petrol, heat, drive mode, gear selection, time, range, and a nav in the centre, all at the same time. I really liked how they have laid it out, everything works nicely together without feeling too much.

I would have liked a more sporty steering wheel, as the one in the M40i felt a bit bland and boring. Maybe something with a flat bottom, some alcantara, just something different. This is something BMW has done to some of its other performance cars, leaving you to option better wheels if you so prefer. Apart from that the wheel was kept clean and didnt have too many buttons on it, leaving the focus cleaner on driving.

The central media display is also nice and clean, with the home screen laid out into apps, which can be adjusted in any order you prefer. The nice part of this is that it allows you to have several things showing at the same time, like the Nav on one half, and then the other half split in two again, with media playing on top and phone connection on the bottom. It’s a really nice system, easy to navigate and find what you’re after without getting lost in menus.

To add to this, there has been another milestone reached, something I complained about in the 2017 BMW M2 Coupe – Car Review – No M Button Required. The car being displayed in the M2 was always grey, even though the car itself was blue. What might feel like a small things, I am happy to report that the car in the driver experience modes is the same colour as the car you’re in. Not a big win by any means, but I will take what we can get. Nice one, BMW.

Yet again BMW have decided to reinvent the layout of the controls around the gearstick. It seems like every BMW we test, this changes. I felt the one from that other models had a better layout as they have now moved the driver experience controls behind the gearstick. This actually makes it rather had to get at, as your hand is sitting nicely on the gear stick, so to make any selection you have to lift pull your arm back like a struggling T-Rex. Rather surprised that they didn’t see this issue before they want to market.

Above this area and under the dash is a small storage cubby, which has an area for coins or small loose items, a usb plug and 12-volt socket, and the wireless charging pad, Most of the time I have found these hard to deal with, sometimes they need perfect placement to get the charge working, others are so hidden that you always forget your phone, or they are hard to get in and out. As the one in the M40i was front to back with the car, it was super easy to drop in and see if the charging had started. Then if you wanted you could cover that area up, very nice.

Just beside the electric hand brake button you have the control to lower or raise the roof. As the roof neatly stores in a space just behind the seats, without the need for the boot to open or close, the entire operation happens in a blink of an eye. I think it takes 5 seconds in total to go from roof to roof down, and the same the other way around too.

The bonus to how the roof operates is that you never lose any boot space, like other convertibles do. Many have a tray that is required to be lowered so the roof can sit in the top of the boot space without crushing anything. This also reduces the boot space a bit more than you would expect. The boot in the M40i is not enormous, but it’s a good size at 281-litres and it has a good opening space. If you happen to have any long items, or skis, there is a hole in the boot that runs into the cabin, to allow you to load trick items in the boot and cabin, neither of which are affected with the roof down.

The Drive 
Now we get down to the nitty gritty, what’s the Z4 M40i like behind the wheel? Right off the bat you can tell it’s a bit of a cheeky car; in comfort mode it’s sedate but there power is there if you want it. Steering feel is nice and light and the car gives you a level of confidence about driving it.

The low seating position really feeds back a lot of information about how the car handles, the ride is firm, but not uncomfortable. With more spirited driving, you really felt the G forces pulling at the car from side to side as you swept through the corners. The servo steering was fantastic, so accurate, it always felt like I could place the car within centimeters of where I wanted it.

The note from the engine and exhaust was really nice, even in Comfort mode, there was a nice gurgle to it. This all got much better then you moved over to Sport mode, louder sounds, pops, crackles and gurgles.

In addition to the noise change when you switch to Sport mode, several things happen. The ride firms up, engine becomes super quick to react, steering feels sharper and the rear end pulls back a bit on the traction control. When in Sport if you pull out of an intersection and put your foot to the floor, the rear wheels will spin up, allowing you to skid for a short period of time, and finally feed in the traction control. This may sound a bit scary, but it’s not. You never feel like the car is going to spin around in a 360 uncontrollably. The resulting feel of this is really fun and it’s exactly what a sports car like this should be like. I never once felt like the car would over do it and spin out, it was always in control and the more I did it the more I enjoyed it. It really showed the dark side of the car’s design, and the heritage of BMW’s rear-wheel drive sports cars.

The other side was the sun soaked coastal cruiser, this is where this car shined (excuse the pun). Everytime the sun was out (which in winter in Wellington, is not often) I would do my best to get out into the M40i. With the roof down, you just wanted to drive until you ran out of roads. My only slight complaint would be that the only heating options you have are the seats and the normal vented heaters – something Mercedes-Benz has sorted with the air scarf system. 

I rarely drove the car in Eco Pro or Adaptive mode, both felt unnatural for this type of car. Over the week I had the M40i, I achieved 11.2L/100km combined fuel consumption, which is high compared to the advertised figure of 7.4L/100km. However it’s a sports car, and I am sure I could have achieved a much lower fuel consumption figure, however that would really defeat the purpose of the car in the first place.

I really enjoyed my time in the M40i, it’s a great car that has an exciting fun side to it. If It was not ironic, it would be a perfect mid-life crisis car. 

What it’s up against
If you thought the coupe market was shrinking, then you should check out the mid range convertible market. Less and less models seem to be available in the mid to high price range, which only 2 or 3 options in the sub $100k bracket and the rest or up in the high-end luxury supercar market.

Brand / ModelEnginePower, kW/Nm0-100kmh, secondsFuel Usagelitres/100kmTransmissionPrice Highest to Lowest
Jaguar F-Type Convertible3.0-litre, V6280 / 4604.98.6Auto$149,000
Mercedes-Benz AMG SLC 432.0-litre 4-cylinder180 / 5204.78.39G-Tronic$143,600
BMW Z4 M40i3.0-litre 6-cylinder turbo250 / 5004.57.48 Speed Auto$133,800
Alfa Romeo 4c Spider
1.8-litre, 4-cylinder turbo177 / 3504.56.8ALFA TCT Auto$129,990
Porsche 718 Cayman3.0-litre, 6-cylinder 257 / 4204.76.9PDK or Manual$123,900
Jaguar F-Type P300 Convertible2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged221 / 4007.25.7Auto or Manual$119,900







ProsCons
Looks great with the top down
Interior is clean and modern
Suits loud colours
Sounds like a sports car
Drives like a sports car too
Multiple drive modes 
Perfect weekend cruiser
Really comfortable, for what it is
Good boot space
Roof folds nicely away without taking up valuable space
Perfect for taller people
The steering wheel is a bit boring for a sports car
Drive mode selection not placed ergonomically.
Not everyday practical

What do we think?
I was not sure what to expect from the new BMW Z4, as mentioned it has been taking a lot of heat from the co-developed Supra, while having to live up to its previous Z3 and Z4. I have yet to test any of those modes, so it’s hard to say how it stacks up,, but I really enjoyed driving the M40i. 

The Z4 M40i to me is a fun weekend drive, sporty track day or top down country cruiser. It’s the type of car you feel confident behind the wheel, as it will let you know early when you’re pushing the boundaries. 

Every time I drove the Z4 M40i, I was left with a grin on my face, it’s easy to drive, comfy while feeling a bit naughty and sporty too. You also don’t have to be pushing any speed limits to hear the great noise from the exhaust. 

It almost ticks every box, but it’s really the second car in my opinion, as the overall practicality of a car like this for everyday life is limited.

But as a fun toy, it’s damn near perfect.

Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

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2019 Z4 M40i

Vehicle TypeConvertible Sports Car
Starting Price$133,800
Tested Price$133,800
EngineBMW M Twin-Power turbo 6-cylinder petrol engine, 250kW power and 500Nm torque.
Transmission8-speed sports automatic
Kerb Weight, Kg1,568
Length x Width x Height, mm4336 x 1864 x 1306
Fuel Tank, litres52
Spare WheelNo spare
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.4L/100kmReal World Test – Combined – 11.2L/100km
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Stars
Warranty3 years

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