BMW finally unveiled the all-new Z4 roadster to the crowd gathered at Pebble Beach for Monterey Car Week. Much like the Toyota Supra it was jointly developed with, the BMW Z4 has long been teased, seen testing in camouflage and was victim to leaked images, but BMW finally rolled out the new M40i sports car with which it intends to go after the Porsche Boxter.
Of all the BMW series in recent memory, the Z family is the most perplexing. The Z1 seemed more like a gimmick than a purpose-built two-seater sports car. The Z3 had a mixed reception; partly celebrated as a competent sports car, partly derided as a Mazda Miata with BMW badge and unwarranted premium price tag. Then you have the Z8, which started life as a design exercise and sent into limited production. In 2002 we got the first Z4, the true successor to the Z3, which BMW made larger, gave it a stiffer chassis and aimed it at Porsche’s entry-level Boxster. The last generation Z4 deviated from that battle plan and took on grand tourer vibes. Now, the 2019 Z4 is back taking the fight to the Porsche roadster.
In top-spec M40i guise, the Z4 cranks out 340 horsepower to the rear wheels using a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder and an automatic transmission. To match the Boxster’s balance via its mid-mounted engine, BMW boasts the new Z4 comes with a perfect 50-50 weight distribution, which, in part comes from the rear axle mounted transmission upgraded with an electronically controlled M Sport differential. However, the real test of the Z4 might not be against the Boxster, but the Toyota Supra it’ll inevitably be compared to.
Another tradition which makes the Z cars stand out from the rest of BMW’s line up is from one generation to the next the Z roadsters take on the most drastic changes in design. This time around the Z4’s design takes a healthy chunk of influence from the new 8-series and with mixed results. The wide kidney grille combined with the stretched headlights sit on the front of the car as if the BMW designers wanted more space but couldn’t find any. It’s one of the brand’s smallest cars and it got the front end from the largest. The rest of the car does well to work with the welcomed return of a ragtop, but it’ll be interesting to see if a coupe version makes it to production and messes with the balance.