2020 BMW Z4

By April 1, 2020

Revived for the 2019 model year, along with the closely related Toyota Supra coupe—also revived—the 2020 BMW Z4 resulted from a partnership between BMW and Toyota. Stylish inside and out, the two-seat roadster is the kind of car that yearns to be driven, just for the joy of it.

A more potent M40i edition has joined the initial 30i roadster for the 2020 model year. Otherwise, the sixth-generation Z4 is unchanged.

Buyers may choose either of two turbocharged engines. In addition to stimulating performance, the Z4 excels in road-hugging capabilities. The original Z4 debuted as a 2003 model, superseding the Z3 roadster, but was dropped after the 2016 model year.

In the base Z4 sDrive30i, a 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes 255 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque, peaking between 1,550 and 4,400 rpm. The Z4 M40i steps up to a potent 3.0-liter turbo-6 that develops 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet. Both engines mate with an 8-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels.

Mini-size paddle shifters serve as an ideal match for the quick-shifting transmission. Whether it’s powered by the turbo-4 or turbo-6, the Z4 delivers performance, as either a peppy highway cruiser or a thrill machine with enough vigor and agility to be track-driven.

The M40i rides on an Adaptive M Sport suspension. Softening the experience while cruising, the adaptive suspension tightens at speed for tauter control. An electronic-locking differential in the M40i delivers the best traction possible.

Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the Z4, nor are they likely to do so. Standard active-safety features include low-speed automatic emergency braking, city collision mitigation, and lane-departure warnings. Advanced safety and convenience features such as adaptive cruise control cost extra. LED headlights are standard.

Model Lineup

Prices include $995 destination charge.

The sDrive30i Roadster ($50,695) has rear-wheel drive and comes with the turbo-4 engine, synthetic leather upholstery, 14-way power seats, automatic climate control, black interior trim, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay compatibility, and 18-inch wheels.

The M40i Roadster ($64,695) substitutes a turbo-6 engine for the turbo-4 and adds variable sport steering, along with the M Sport adaptive suspension.

Exterior

Stylish with its fabric roof up, the Z4 looks wild and free—in accord with nature—when the top is lowered. The sharp-looking convertible reflects the current era with its muscular, angular appearance.

Compared to its previous-generation predecessor, the 2020 BMW Z4 is more than three inches longer, nearly three inches wider, and half an inch taller. Even so, it conveys the sense of sitting low to the ground.

Air intakes, whether real or simulated, are numerous on the 2020 model. Its nose tucks into a low honeycomb kidney-shaped grille, which reaches toward LED headlights.

Interior

Inside, the Z4 gets right down to business. Its snug seats have enough power adjustments to make just about anyone comfortable, without feeling cramped. Heated M Sport seats that adjust 14 ways greet M40i riders. They include adjustments for thigh and lumbar support. Up/down travel is sufficient to suit taller drivers, though some might feel a trifle off-center. High seatbacks tend to feel firm.

Dials and buttons may seem excessive on the center console and steering wheels, but the Z4 dashboard is sharply streamlined. A 10.3-inch display screen, embedded into the dash, may be split into three quadrants, but it’s somewhat confusing. So is the infotainment system, which might draw more intensive criticism in its latest form.

A 12.3-inch screen displays the instruments, digitally. Twin vertical bars reveal horsepower and torque readings. The inconvenient gear lever requires two snicks to shift from reverse to drive.

Cargo space is about as expected in a two-seater, totaling 9.9 cubic feet whether the top is up or down. Behind the seats is a storage area with retaining net. Operation of the top is quiet and easy, taking about 10 seconds to lower or raise.

Driving Impressions

Twisting single-lane roads are the places where a Z4 seems most at home. With its top lowered, the new M40i edition can transform the basic joy of driving into a thrill session, harking back to an era of more elemental motoring. Active dampers and a tight chassis make the Z4 track-ready, but it functions most effectively as a daily driver.

The base 30i provides plenty of passing power. It’s able to hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, while the M40i needs only 3.9 seconds. Peak torque in the M40i turbo-6 arrives at 1,600 rpm, making plenty of vigor available.

The quick-shifting 8-speed automatic will change gears on its own if the driver pushes too hard. That happens in manual mode, too. Small, contoured paddle shifters work beautifully.

With 50/50 weight distribution and a relatively short wheelbase, the Z4 maneuvers adeptly. Available active dampers permit tighter, more precise handling. Variable-assist electric steering provides more feedback when the Z4 is pushed harder, ranging from light to tight. Comfort mode softens the ride for around-town tasks or cruising.

During top-up cruising, the Z4 is quiet. Noise can be an issue in sport mode, as open baffles allow the idling murmur to escalate into a less-pleasing grumble.

Fuel economy is slightly better than the previous Z4. The 30i is EPA-rated at 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined, versus 24/31/26 mpg for the M40i.

Final Word

Pleasure is the prime attraction of the 2020 BMW Z4, which improves upon the delights of its predecessor. Apart from a rough spot or two, including the confusing infotainment system, this open two-seater echoes the joys of cruising that excited drivers in the past, brought up-to-date. Even though the M40i is significantly more expensive, it’s also more delightful for enthusiastic driving.

—Driving impressions by The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.

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