Zed gets an A : BMW Z4 M40i Drive [review]
Let’s get the Supra-shaped elephant out of the room first. It’s clickbait-worthy to drag the Supra into every feature that involves the BMW Z4 (and vice versa), since well, it’s no secret both cars sit on the same platform.
However, the truth is, we think it’s irrelevant to square the two off in Supra vs. Z4, ‘which is better?’ showdown stories as far as real buyers are concerned.
Why? Well, you either want a roadster or a coupe, and this quickly defines your purchase criteria.
Things were different when the Z4 was available as both Coupe and Roadster, but the current reality is far more straightforward (and we think this is a strategic direction from both brands).
(Click HERE to read about our first drive of the Z4 M40i in Portugal)
The sportscar segment isn’t about compromises where you’re prepared to settle for something you don’t really want.
Some buyers only want a drop-top (or fixed-roof coupe), so deciding between Z4 and Supra is largely a matter of personal preference, and not about who ‘did’ it better.
(If you're looking for the Toyota A90 Supra, click HERE)
Top of the wish list for many a young driver is a flashy coupe or better still, a roadster. Practicality in a car does not matter much for a single person free of the trappings of marriage and children. Typically, this period for self indulgence usually doesn’t last very long.
In the senior years when the empty nest syndrome looms, the hankering for something personal and striking returns. With possibly more spending power and fewer responsibilities, the choice of fun, motoring or otherwise, widens.
For the well-heeled, the new BMW Z4 M40i immediately springs to mind. This new generation roadster is longer and wider than its predecessor but has a shorter wheelbase. Besides being more agile and planted, the revised proportions express a new dynamism absent in earlier Z4s.
A low-slung and wide BMW kidney grill now has a grid structure. Air-breathers in the front fenders plus strong character lines give the new Z4 a purposeful muscular stance - like a predator about to pounce on its prey!
A fun roadster still needs to be practical enough to live with every day lest it finds itself up for sale within a year. Boot of the new Z4 is 281 litres, an increase of over 50 per cent. It’s big enough for two mid-sized suitcases.
But as a lifestyle car in this price range, the all important question is can it carry a full-sized golf bag?
The answer thankfully is a resounding “Yes”! The layout and shape of the boot ensures the bag is a snug fit crosswise. Boston or cabin bags can be stored further inside the trunk before loading the golf bag.
There is space behind the seats to stash flat-packed shelves (or even crutches!), with smaller items kept snug and safe in the luggage nets fitted to the rear bulkhead.
Two large cup-holders reside in the centre cubby hole, which splits open longitudinally. The glovebox is roomy while door pockets are long and reasonably wide for small items.
I wouldn’t advise putting wallets in them though, they are not deep enough to ensure security.
The M sports seats feature electro-pneumatic backrest width adjustment: Firm and snug, they deliver superb all-round support under all driving conditions. The seating position is low and immersive, giving occupants and car the feeling of being as one.
Best of all, the low-slung seats also mean it’s a doodle to ferry your well-behaved furkid around in relative safety, since he’ll sit deep in the car and is less tempted to make a break for it with the roof down!
Intuitive multi-modal interaction allows the driver to choose between touch control on the 10.25-inch display, use the familiar iDrive Controller, controls on the steering wheel, or even voice control.
I find this plethora of choices far superior to other systems that depend solely on the touchscreen.
Kudos to BMW for realising not everyone is enamoured with touching screens while driving.
The M40i variant comes standard with a superb Harman Kardon sound package featuring 12 speakers fed by a digital seven-channel 408 watt amplifier. Roof up, the cosy cabin of the Z4 is transformed into a veritable audiophile sound stage.
So we note that the new Z4 M40i is aggressively stylish, well equipped and practical and thus easy to live with. But does it really live up to its M billing? Is it truly fun to drive? The answer is a resounding “Yes”!
In its latest M40i guise, the classic BMW 3.0-litre straight-six features a water-cooled exhaust manifold integrated into the cylinder head, sharper turbocharger response and direct injection technology working at maximum pressure of 350 bar. All this translates to a whopping 340hp and 500Nm.
The century sprint from standstill is dispatched in just 4.5secs. Even more impressive than what this figure suggests is the urgent yet refined delivery of power. Acceleration is linear with neither turbo-lag nor any loss of refinement at peak revs. This is a gem of an engine.
Adaptive M Sport suspension, M Sport brakes and M Sport differential are all standard on the M40i.
Choosing between COMFORT, SPORT and SPORT+ settings showcases very different driving experiences for the keen driver.
Ride is reasonably compliant with COMFORT, which is the mode of choice for everyday commuting.
But if in the mood for serious driving fun, select SPORT+. This firms up the ride, steering response quickens and the Active M Sport rear differential settings change. The active diff modulates speeds of the outer and inner rear wheels during hard cornering, thus ensuring maximum traction out of corners.
The M40i darts around with mind boggling agility especially when SPORT+ is selected. This setting allows a fair bit of rear drift, thus upping the fun quotient yet further.
The new BMW M40i thus qualifies as a personal car par excellence. It is a highly practical two seater with the option of open top motoring when conditions permit. Even more important is the performance and agility which is there for the asking when in the mood.
This car could well be marketed as an anti-ageing device. It makes this old man feel young again!
STORY Dr. Winston Lee
PHOTOS Penoramic Publishing
BMW Z4 M40i
Engine 2998cc, inline6, turbo
Transmission 8spd Steptronic auto
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.4-7.1l/100km