An A to the Z [ COTY2019] : BMW Z4 M40i

By davidkhoo, 11 February 2020

If we had a choice, we’d pick a soft-top roadster over a hard-top convertible any day. Why? Well, the latter speaks to us of a certain compromise in choice, which goes against the grain of the unbridled fun and free-spirited freewheeling that a convertible should stand for.

Besides, soft-top roadsters have an elegant silhouette and softer rump-end treatment compared to the heavy-handed, heavy-bottomed rears of their retractable hard-top counterparts.

For some reason, critics like to work themselves into a tizzy when they’re talking about the Z4 and Supra in the same breath, maybe because it’s like shooting fish in a barrel – incidentally, Toyota’s rear-drive sports coupe is also in our 2019 Cars of the Year, and we see no confusion in including both cars at all.

(Click HERE to read our intro to the 2019 Cars of the Year)

I guess the folks who aren’t likely to buy either car like to talk about the two being one and the same, or play ‘Bobbing for Bimmer Bits’ when it comes to nit-picking about the Supra. But this is a refrain as tired as the one espoused by people who continue to equate Beetle to 911 and still think it’s funny.

If you’re looking for a roadster, you’ll buy the two-seater Z4, and if it’s a coupe you’re after, what will you buy? Repeat after me, the Supra. And really, never the twain shall meet because they aren’t even direct rivals to begin with.

(Click HERE to read our first drive of the BMW Z4 M40i)

I’ve yet to meet someone who wants a coupe but decides to buy a Z4 over a Supra simply because it’s a BMW, and vice versa. Technically, neither car is really German or Japanese either, because both cars are built at Magna Steyr’s plant in Austria, which also assembles the iconic Gelandewagen and Jag’s all-electric I-Pace.

Unlike the Z3 and the first generation Z4, no fire-breathing M model is available for the current Z4 – like the last generation Z4 model, with its retractable hard-top, the top spec of which was a 35is with dual-clutch transmission. However, the M40i set-up is a stellar one that delivers a good blend of touring comfort and fast-road performance.

The red exterior colour and cream interior is an acquired taste that admittedly grows on you.

Like its predecessors, the Z4 cuts a sporty figure, features Cerium Grey highlights on the front grille and air-intakes, and boasts classic roadster proportions with a long bonnet, complete with ducktail boot-lid spoiler, black air-breathers and sporty-looking black alloys.

(Click HERE to read about how the BMW Z4 can be daily-driven)

The Z4’s design continues to polarise opinion, but it’s nevertheless smart-looking enough to create a lasting impression, which is all most owners are after.

If the only way we can have the Z4 (and Supra) is because Toyota and BMW collaborated on a sportscar project, there’s nothing to complain about.

We can’t think of many other contenders in the S$350+k compact roadster segment with this level of six-cylinder firepower, a sporty rear-drive platform and drop-dead, drop-top looks – certainly nothing from Audi and Mercedes-Benz that we can think of.

The low-slung Z4 M40i’s combination of 340hp/500Nm 3.0-litre and ZF 8spd auto is a potent one that will guarantee you’ll be catching no Zzzs on the fly. The Zed isn’t just a pretty face, because it’s agile and possesses a playful chassis that’ll serve up sporty dynamics. The shifts are closely-spaced and punchy with authority, which make for sporty and spurty delivery.

With 500Nm available from just 1600rpm, the Z4 feels light on its feet and you’re never far away from the sweet spot to get the car hustling into the gaps in peak hour traffic. There’s little lag to speak of, only a relentless, creamy-smooth surge of forward propulsion as the needle arcs towards the redline.

There’s plenty of depth to the Z4’s character, because it’s adroit at coping with mundane commutes, yet when you’re in the mood for fast driving, the Z4 will give as good as it gets. It’s hard to beat the wind-in-hair, fast-road experience in the Z4 with the soft-top-down and the six-cylinder soundtrack enveloping you in a cocoon of sweet, soulful music.

Both chassis and steering offer an organic and natural feel to driving fast, and this is a huge improvement over the last generation Z4. The new car offers great visibility so it’s easy to place, feels properly stiff and light on its feet, and has a versatile enough powerband such that it is raring to go when you are.

The Z4 can feel ‘soft’ when you’re cruising idly and soaking in the sun’s rays, but this facade can slip in the blink of an eye when the hammer drops and you decide to wind the drive up a notch or four.

The cabin is well specified with infotainment amenities, but suffers from no major distractions – in fact, the cockpit is designed to be driver-centric, so all the controls fall readily to hand when you’re on the move.

As befits its status on top of the Z4 heap, the M40i features M Sport Differential, stronger M Sport Brakes and adaptive M Sport suspension, all of which help it to help you attack your favourite stretch of winding roads confidently.

As far as personal preference goes, we’re strict coupe fans, but there’s nothing wrong in giving a roadster like the BMW Z4 M40i the thumbs-up when it deserves it, which is why we’re happy enough to give this Zed an ‘A’...

PHOTOS Vanq

BMW Z4 M40i
Engine 2998cc, inline6, turbo
Power/rpm 340hp/5000-6500rpm
Torque/rpm 500Nm/1600-4500rpm
Transmission 8spd Steptronic auto
0-100km/h 4.6secs
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.4-7.1l/100km
CO2 168-162g/km

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