Z4 Provides Open-Air Sports Car Fun

CHATHAM, Mass. – The rain was intense and unrelenting when the 2023 BMW Z4 sDrive30i came to my driveway, damping the enjoyment a modern sports car like this can provide. But after two days of intense downpours, punctuated by lightning and thunder, the motoring gods smiled on me, the sun came out, the Z4’s power top went down, and all was right with the world.

I have always been a sucker for a drop-top; all of a vehicle’s warts, shortcomings and issues evaporated (in my mind) if the roof disappeared.

A low-slung, two-seater like this BMW sporting machine was an exhilarating machine even with the roof closed, but with it open, it was even better.

As has been the case for sports cars since their inception more than 100 years ago, the Z4 puts the driver and lucky passenger far back in the chassis, just in front of the surprisingly generous trunk for such a car (at 9.9 cubic feet 50% larger than the previous Z4 generation).

Both occupants sit low behind the long hood (bonnet for those in the U.K., homeland of some of the most iconic sports car brands like Jaguar, MG, Triumph and AC) but thanks to BMW’s engineering, the ride is firm without being bone-jarring stiff, the handling is (to use an old auto-writer cliché) go-kart like and the 2-liter engine which lives under that hood responds immediately.

Efficient, strong powertrain

Historically, the assigned engine designations resonate with the BMW aficionados. In the case of the Z4 sDrive30i, B46 translates into a 2-liter, twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 255 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque.

The power flows to the rear wheels (traditional sports-car/performance-car layout) through an automatic eight-speed transmission which reacts quickly with no drama. According to Car and Driver the Z4 can hit 60 miles per hour in just over five seconds.

This power does not come at the expense of fuel economy; I averaged 32.3 miles per gallon regardless of how aggressive I drove (and I was not shy with my right foot). The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the BMW at 28 mpg overall (25 urban, 33 highway).

Sophisticated chassis keeps the Z4 planted through the curves

When it was introduced in 2019 this (the third) generation of the BMW Z4 roadster featured a new suspension system developed for maximum handling dynamics and agility. There was a new double-joint spring strut system at the front and a five-link suspension in the rear.

According to BMW, “This chassis combination offers the best balance between sports car handling and ride comfort. The front suspension sub frame and control arm mounting points are extremely rigid, which lends to precise cornering characteristics as well as having a beneficial effect on the drivetrain’s acoustics. The sports car tuning of the front suspension dynamics aids the new Z4 Roadster’s steering precision. Aluminum control arms and swivel bearings reduce unsprung weight resulting in superior agility and efficiency. The new rear suspension also employs a lightweight aluminum/steel design. The large supporting base and very rigid structure of the rear axle subframe as well as the bracing used for connecting it to the body result in extremely precise wheel guidance.”

The review unit included the optional ($2,450) Dynamic Handling Package which brought the Adaptive M Suspension system featuring a 10 mm (.393-inch) lower ride height and electronically controlled dampers (which offer both comfortable and more aggressive ride and handling dynamics).

The second major element in the handling package was the electronically controlled M Sport rear differential which provides a sharper sporting edge to the Z4 handling. An electric motor generates a locking effect in the differential that equalizes torque distribution between the inside and outside rear wheels when cornering, making it possible to power out of bends with greater momentum. The active differential lock also works effectively in reducing both understeer and oversteer.

The last element in the package is M Sport Brakes with blue calipers. The Brembo supplied brake system features four-piston fixed calipers up front, two-piston ones in the rear, larger, vented rotors all around and larger pads than the standard Z4 brakes.

The chassis capabilities are enhanced by the anti-lock braking System (ABS), dynamic traction control (DTC), cornering brake control (CBC), and dynamic brake control (DBC).

All of these systems and components interact with the road through the optional ($600) 19-inch M double-spoke Orbit Gray alloy wheels (9Jx19 up front, 10Jx19 in the rear) shod with 255/35R19 96Y tires in the front, 275/35R19 100Y in the rear.

The impressive chassis hardware looks great on paper, and in my type of driving, seems to work as advertised. Regardless of the roads I traversed, the way I pushed the two-seater or the macadam surface, handling was both solid and reassuring. I never came close to finding this car’s limits and did not have to to thoroughly enjoy the driving experience.

And at no time was the experience uncomfortable. I was challenged a bit getting into and out of the low-slung roadster, but once inside, everything fit perfectly.

Driver assistance systems

Standard advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) on the Z4 sDrive30i are forward collision warning, daytime pedestrian detection with city braking and lane departure warning systems.

The review car also had the optional ($700) Driving Assistance Package featuring active cruise control with stop & go function, the speed limit info system, active blind spot detection, plus rear collision protection and cross-traffic alert.

Comfort, convenience, technology and amenities

The intimate cabin is designed as a working environment for the driver, but does not scrimp on features, amenities and comfort for either occupant. The automatic climate control is a dual-zone system with both parties having virtually complete control over the air on their side of the car.

The optional ($1,500) Magma Red Vernasca Leather covered sport seats are electrically adjustable, heated (part of the optional, $3,000, Premium Package) and both fully supportive during any aggressive driving activity as well as being supremely comfortable.

The Premium Package also includes a heated steering wheel, remote engine start, keyless entry/push-button start, electrically adjustable lumbar support, adaptive LED lights and parking assistant.

The cupholders are hiding in the center console and there is a large storage bin under the dash, and behind the seats, as well as a generous globe box – surprising storage in such tight confines.

The infotainment system with navigation features BMW’s latest iDrive console-mounted command dial which, along with voice commands and touch, activates the actions outlined on the 10.25-inch dash-topping screen.

Again, the test car featured an optional ($875) infotainment system, the SiriusXM satellite radio with Harman Kardon surround sound system.

Living with the 2023 BMW Z4 sDrive30i

The premium two-seat sports car segment is small and the 2023 BMW Z4 sDrive30i is a premier member of the group. It comes with a base price of $52,800 and the extremely well-equipped version I evaluated came with several useful options and packages, the most significant mentioned above, and a total price of $64,620 (including $995 destination charge).

The price is actually a value figure when considering competition, competency and sheer premium sports-car fun.

Next week TBR Drives the new Mazda CX-90 three-row medium sport utility vehicle.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.