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Driven: All-new BMW Z4 to rely on ‘six appeal’

Three-tiered launch range for BMW’s new Z4, with M40i flagship set to be top seller

10 May 2019

BMW is confident the flagship $124,900 M40i six-cylinder turbocharged version of its all-new third-generation Z4 roadster will be the most popular, in line with where the market is for premium two-seater convertibles.


This is despite costing some $40,000 more than the entry-level 20i that kicks off from $84,900 plus on-road costs.


While declining to divulge sales or more precise model-mix expectations, BMW Group Australia product and pricing manager Howard Lam did reveal that buyers at this end of the sportscar segment are generally seeking the version with the highest performance, technology and features.


“We believe the M40i will be the bestseller of the new Z4 range,” Mr Lam told GoAuto at the launch of the all-new G29-series roadster (and BMW’s reborn 8 Series) in central Victoria earlier this month.


“Most customers in this class are after the most powerful, fastest and best-equipped model they can get their hands on, and the Z4 M40i certainly delivers.”


BMW Group Australia chief executive Vikram Pawah added that pushing boundaries and creating new class yardsticks is what the company strives to achieve with all of its sportscar models.


“Both the 8 Series and Z4 are not volume drivers, they’re more image shapers, because these are niche segments within the premium segment,” he said.


“I expect these models will redefine the definition of sports luxury – be it roadster luxury or be it racer luxury … and setting a new benchmark within the industry. That’s what we are all about.


“We set benchmarks about performance, about driving dynamics, about luxury, about technology; that’s what these models do – display the core values of the BMW brand.”


As GoAuto reported last October following the Austrian-built Z4’s debut at the Paris motor show, the M40i will stand as the flagship of the range for the time being as it already meets or exceeds many of the performance parameters set by the outgoing BMW 2 Series-based M2 Coupe.


This essentially makes a red-hot ‘Z4 M’ edition redundant, as well as a niche too far in an already specialised corner of the luxury sports convertible market.


Released locally just months after hitting the streets in Europe, the third BMW roadster to wear the Z4 moniker after the preceding E89 from 2009 to 2016 and the original E85 from 2002 is based on the company’s CLAR platform that has underpinned every longitudinal-engine passenger car from the German brand from the 3 Series up since the latest 7 Series surfaced in 2015.


It has also been applied to every SUV since the current X3 up that landed here in 2017, while the closely related Toyota Supra coupe due out in Australia soon sits on the same component set and was co-developed alongside the Z4.


The fourth model from Australian designer Calvin Luk – who was also behind the look of the current X1 and X3, as well as the 1 Series LCI facelift – the Z4 steps in with an M Sport bodykit as standard in all variants including the four-cylinder turbo 20i and 30i.


Aesthetic inspiration is said to have come from the Z8 – a handmade luxury convertible V8 from 2000 to 2003, during which 5703 units were produced, primarily for the US market.


Compared to its predecessor, the newcomer is 85mm longer (at 4324mm), 75mm wider (at 1864mm) and 13mm taller (at 1304mm). Front and rear tracks also grow, by 98mm and 57mm respectively, leaving only the 26mm-shorter wheelbase as the only key dimension not to increase.


BMW claims the latter benefits agility, backed up by an aluminium-intensive subframe, a low centre of gravity, 50:50 front/rear weight distribution in the four-cylinder 20i and 30i models (the M40i’s inline six makes it fractionally heavier up front) and rear-wheel drive – a staple of the brand’s roadster series well beyond the mid-’90s rebirth as the Z3.


Steering is a variable-ratio electric rack-and-pinion set-up, while the front suspension employs what BMW calls a “double-joint spring-strut” layout and the rear axle contains a five-link arrangement using combined aluminium and steel construction to help minimise unsprung weight.


At the lower end of the range, both the 20i and 30i are motivated by BMW’s B48-series 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine.


Using a single twin-scroll turbocharger, the 20i develops 145kW of power from 4500rpm to 6500rpm, and 320Nm of torque from 1450rpm-4200rpm. It can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds and return a combined-cycle average fuel consumption figure 6.5 litres per 100km. CO2 emissions are rated at 148 grams per kilometre.


In the 30i, output increases to 190kW from 5000-6500rpm and 400Nm from 1550-4400rpm, with the 0-100km/h dash completed in 5.4s. It also returns 6.5L/100km and 149g/km.


The M40i, meanwhile, relies on BMW’s B58 3.0-litre straight-six turbo, but uprated in M Performance guise with a water-cooled exhaust manifold that is integrated into the cylinder head and direct fuel injection tech of up to 350 bar pressure.


It produces 250kW from 5000-6500rpm and 500Nm from 1600-4500rpm, enabling 0-100km/h to be devoured in 4.5s. Fuel economy comes in at 7.4L/100km and CO2 emissions are at 169g/km.


All drive is sent to the rear wheels via a ZF eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, meaning no manual gearbox is offered.


An electronically controlled limited-slip ‘M Sport’ differential is standard on the M40i and a 17-inch M Sport brake package is included in the M40i and 30i. These two models are fitted with 19-inch wheels with Z-rated 255/35 front and 275/35 rear performance tyres, as opposed to the 20i’s 18-inch rims with respective 255/40 and 275/40 rubber. All feature a tyre-repair kit in lieu of a spare wheel.


All models naturally stick with an electrically activated roof, but this time it is a fabric rather than folding hard-top design.


Needing 10 seconds to erect or fully stow away, and at speeds of up to 50km/h, its more compact and malleable construction means the boot is now twice as large as before – at a Corolla hatch-beating 281 litres – while also aiding in lowering the Z4’s centre of gravity for improved dynamics.


A ski-port access is built in to the rear firewall for slightly longer items.


Other standard gear includes BMW’s latest iDrive Operating System Version 7.0, M leather sports seats with electric adjustment, memory and heating, M sports steering wheel, head-up display, QI wireless smartphone charger, dual-zone climate control, vinyl-covered instrument panel, LED headlights with auto high beam, automatic parking with reverse assistant, digital radio and wind deflector.


Along with stronger oomph, the extra $20K for the 30i nets buyers the aforementioned bigger brakes and 19-inch alloys, keyless entry/start with remote smartphone functionality, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, adaptive dampers as part of the Adaptive M Suspension upgrade and adaptive LED headlights.


The M40i includes the e-LSD, lumbar seat support, ambient lighting and a Harman Kardon audio upgrade.


BMW Australia is also offering an M Sport Plus Package at $3500 on the 20i, offering tyre pressure monitoring, fancy M seatbelts and most of the M Sport chassis upgrades as featured on the 30i and M40i, as well as several other comfort and tech-related packages.


In the industry’s over-$80,000 sportscar segment in which the Z4 competes, sales slid an alarming 28.7 per cent last year, although many contenders are now ageing and BMW’s supplies of the previous model went dry in 2017.


Key players include the Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz SLC, Porsche Cayman/Boxster, Jaguar F-Type and Alpine A110.


2019 BMW Z4 pricing*

sDrive 20i (a) $84,900
sDrive 30i (a) $104,900
M40i (a) $124,900

*Excludes on-road costs

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