2009 marks the newest generation of BMW’s Z series roadster. This year’s Z4 is a first in many aspects for the German automaker. First, there are no longer separate convertible and coupe models, as every Z4 is now a hard top convertible. Second, there are a lot more luxuries than in previous generations. Third, the Z4 has now elevated itself into the luxury sports car, proudly standing beside other such vehicles as the Porsche Boxster.
The Z series has come a long way. First there was the Z1 from 1989-1991. This model never made it to American shores because the unique drop-down doors didn’t meet U.S. safety requirements. After that, the Z lay dormant until the Z3 came out in 1996. The intial Z3 was powered by a four-cylinder engine and a lot of critics at the time compared it to a Mazda Miata instead of a Porsche. A six-cylinder engine was enventually adopted, and in 2002 the Z3 was discontinued in favor of the Z4. The 2009 is the second generation of the Z4.
So what do you get in the Z4? The top of the line 35i model has a twin turbo 3.0-liter inline six engine that puts out 300 horsepower. This inline six engine has been found in various configurations in many BMW engines and has always been reliable and powerful. Gone for good are those dreaded four-cylinder Z3 days.
The 2009 BMW Z4 has the power of a regular sports car, but it also features the luxury expected from the company. A sumptuous leather interior accented with lots and lots of gadgets, like BMW’s iDrive system. The iDrive is essentially a computer interface for your car. Whether you want navigation info or you want to engage the car’s Sport mode, the iDrive will take you there. And that Sport setting is probably the mode you’ll want the car in most of the time. This stiffens up your suspension and makes the car more responsive. In a lot of cars, the Sport mode makes the ride unbearably bumpy, but the Z4′s Sport ride is comfortable except on roads that are more potholes than pavement.
The new Z4 is a bit bigger than its predecessor, but it avoids being bulky. The interior is comfortable even for the taller drivers and there is still decent trunk space even with the hard top retracted (a rarity in hard top convertibles). The best thing that the Z4 does, though, is understand its market. A top of the line Z4 with a few options will run $60,000, with more modest models starting in the mid $30k’s. Those who are looking to spend that sort of money are looking for sporty performance and all the latest luxuries, and the Z4 has both. Roadster purists may be turned off by the luxuries and their attendent price hikes, but if you want a luxurious ride with the wind in your hair, you can’t do much better than the 2009 BMW Z4.