In the age of the SUV boom, anyone of sound mind would know that the sports car segment is rapidly shrinking. Automakers have begun shifting their focus and resources to developing cars that sell, and to sell is to conform to market needs.
When the daily grind involves reporting the kilowatts of an electric motor and how quickly a lithium-ion battery pack can be charged through DC fast-chargers, one can only imagine the abounding joy when BMW and Toyota announced the co-development of the Z4/Supra.
At the paultan.org office, no cars in recent memory have stirred a debate quite like the reborn Supra, which serves as proof that deep down, we’re all still diehard petrolheads. While some of us do drive sports cars with a stick, out in the real world, the pool of people who actually buy sports cars is so small that it’s barely profitable for automakers (Koenigsegg and the likes notwithstanding). So yes, the fact that BMW chose to even create a successor to the E89 Z4 is a cause for celebration.
Meet the G29 Z4, a true blue maverick of a roadster. This sDrive30i variant in full M Sport kit was photographed in Australia as part of its launch, and we managed to squeeze a brief seat time (first impressions video coming up soon) in the front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car.
As you know, the Z4 will also be making its way to Malaysia in the sole sDrive30i model (it was previewed recently, albeit as the M40i in left-hand drive format), and it’s tipped to be priced at around RM460k. However, the six-cylinder M40i version will most likely be omitted from the launch line-up.
So, what can you expect? Well, under the bonnet of the Z4 sDrive30i rests the familiar B48 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology, tuned to produce 258 hp at 5,000- to 6,500 rpm and 400 Nm from 1,550- to 4,400 rpm. That’s identical to the G20 330i M Sport‘s output, but crammed into a smaller, 1,490-kg body. It takes just 5.4 seconds to hit the 100 km/h mark from standstill, before maxing out at 250 km/h.
Drive is routed to the rear wheels through the famous eight-speed ZF Steptronic transmission, which features a wider ratio spread that offers sportier gearshifts. For optimal acceleration, the lower gears have been shortened. Those wanting manual control over the gearbox, your only choice are the steering-mounted paddle shifters. There won’t be a manual version, not least for now.
The G29 Z4 rides on top of the critically-acclaimed CLAR platform that comprises a newly designed double-joint spring strut axle up front, as well as a five-link rear axle. According to BMW, this combination helps the roadster achieve the right balance between sportiness and ride comfort.
The front axle subframe and control arm mountings are extremely rigid, and the front axle elastokinematics provide better steering precision and dynamic lateral handling characteristic. The control arms and swivel bearings are made out of aluminium, which reduces unsprung weight. The rear axle gets a combination of lightweight aluminium and steel design.
While not obvious, the G29 Z4 is in every way bigger than the older E89 Z4. It is 4,324 mm (+85 mm) long, 1,864 mm wide (+74 mm) and 1,304 mm tall (+13 mm), but its wheelbase has been shortened to 2,470 mm (-26 mm) to sharpen agility. Track width is also up – 1,609 millimetres at the front (+98 mm) and 1,616 millimetres at the rear (+57 mm), a move that greatly improves stability.
Now, in true roadster fashion, the new Z4 is only available with a retractable soft top. The new mechanism, which allows folding and unfolding to take place in just 10 seconds (and up to 50 km/h), is cleverly designed so as to not eat into the 281-litre boot space (50% more than the older Z4). It also boasts a perfect 50:50 weight distribution, or what’s known as the holy grail of the sports car kingdom.
Design-wise, the Z4 will polarise, but it’s worth mentioning that the final product stays true to the concept. Catch it under certain angles and different lighting and you’ll like it, but there’s no arguing that the front fascia needs some serious getting used to. Part of the reason is due to the new vertically-stacked LED projector lights, which is a first for BMW. The headlamp clusters themselves are narrow and don’t bode seamlessly with the wide mesh-type kidney grille (also a first for BMW).
Round the side, the sharp shoulder line, aggressive fender vents and upswept skirting give the admittedly busy profile a more athletic edge. A set of 19-inch twin-five spoke M Sport wheels with blue M Performance brake calipers graced our test unit in Melbourne, but Malaysian-bound models could likely roll on 18-inch items as standard.
Much like most recent BMWs, the rear is where things get more visually arousing. The slim LED tail lights help add good contrast to the chiselled M Sport rump, and there’s no self-adjusting spoiler to sully the clean section of the tailgate. Instead, it’s integrated into the boot lid, and it’s also where you’ll find the third LED brake lights. Dual exhaust tips with an integrated diffuser is standard.
Swing the doors open and you’ll be greeted with a familiar cabin. As modern roadsters go, this is clearly one of the better designed interiors, complete with the brand’s latest suite of gadgetry. That includes the BMW Live Cockpit Professional (10.25-inch high-definition digital instrumentation), a 10.25-inch infotainment display that’s linked to BMW’s Operating System 7.0 with iDrive, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Other goodies such as powered leather sports seats with extendable thigh support, digital display screen for the climate control (between the central air vents), coloured heads up display, wireless charging tray, and ambient lighting are part of the included kit. There are two cubbies hidden within the centre armrest, too.
Notice the hole in both the seats? Well, that’s to allow for the installation of a child seat. That’s right, besides the added aesthetic touch, the opening lets you slide the anchoring strap through, before securing it to a latch below. It’s available on both seats, but this is mainly due to standardisation for LHD and RHD markets.
There’s up to a dozen speakers littered around the cabin, some of which are positioned behind the seats. The top-of-the-line model gets a 464 watt 12-speaker Harman Kardon Surround Sound System with a digital amplifier, but anything less should still be somewhat decent.
On the safety side of things, the Z4 gets reverse camera, six airbags (passenger front airbag can be manually switched off), ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, Traction Control System, and Cornering Brake Control.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Z4 can be had with Collision Warning and Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function, Lane Departure Warning, Active Cruise Control with Stop-Go function, Speed Limit Info system with No Passing Info display, distance information, Lane Change Warning System, Rear Collision Prevention, and Cross-Traffic Alert. Whether or not we get any of these remains to be seen.
The G29 BMW Z4 sDrive30i should be reaching Malaysian shores in the coming months. Every unit is fully imported from Austria, where it is built by the folks at Magna Steyr. Anyone looking forward to this? Or are you leaning more towards the Supra? Comment, below.
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