2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport review (video)

BMW only makes a roadster once in a while. It’s a special occasion product. But it wasn’t always like that. The first production vehicle that ever wore the iconic BMW badge, the 3/15 ‘Dixi’, was actually a convertible. And in that respect it could be regarded as an integral ancestor to this all-new, 2019 BMW Z4.

Like the original Dixi, which was based on the Austin 7, the 2019 Z4 shares its parts with another car too. In 2012 BMW and Toyota announced they would team up to co-develop a next-generation sports car. Toyota borrowed BMW’s expertise in handling and powertrain performance, while BMW split the development costs with Toyota. Both cars utilise BMW’s latest CLAR platform, which is seen in various forms underpinning all of the latest rear-drive-based models, from the 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, 8 Series, and X3, X4, X5, X6, and X7.

BMW Australia offers three variants of the new model. There’s the 145kW/320Nm sDrive20i and the 190kW/400Nm sDrive30i, both sharing a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. At the top of the range is the Z4 M40i which has been developed by the M Performance sub-division. It uses a sweet 3.0-litre turbo inline-six to deliver 250kW and 500Nm. All models in Australia come with an eight-speed auto and rear-wheel drive system as standard. Prices range from the following (excluding on-road costs):

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive20i auto: $84,900
2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i auto: $104,900
2019 BMW Z4 M40i auto: $124,900

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 190kW@6500rpm / 400Nm@1550-4400rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: Rear-wheel drive, M Sport limited-slip diff (optional)
Wheels: F: 19×9.0, 255/35  R: 19×10, 275/35
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1383kg
Power-to-weight: 7.27:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 6.5L/100km
Economy during test: 8.4L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 52L/98 RON

Power efficiency: 29.23kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.50 seconds*
0-100km/h: 5.07 seconds*
0-200km/h: 20.21 seconds*”
60-110km/h:
3.54 seconds*
1/8 mile: 8.76 seconds at 136.7km/h*
1/4 mile: 13.47 seconds at 170.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.008g
100-0km/h braking: 2.80 seconds at 33.82 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.253g
Decibel at idle: 57*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 84*
Priced from: $104,900

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport – THE PACKAGE

Despite being a nimble little sports car, the new Z4’s cabin is surprisingly practical. There’s some storage options around, including a centre console box, a netted shelf behind the passengers, and a secret security box in the rear bulkhead. Unfortunately, the cup holders are found under the centre console armrest, which means the lid needs to be open to use them. The lid is split down the middle though so you can raise just one side if needed. In front of the gear selector there is a very shallow tray which houses the standard wireless smartphone charging pad, with little room leftover for anything else.

As you would probably expect, this cabin is all about the driving experience. You sit nestled securely in standard M Sport seats which offer adjustable side bolsters. As a driver you couldn’t ask for a better driving position. It is perfect. And if it’s not perfect, you’ll likely be able to adjust it to suit your frame. The steering wheel face is almost vertical and right at your chest, with ideally-positioned pedals to suit both left- and right-foot braking. With a tall throttle pedal attached traditionally from the floor, and a very low-mounted seat, the driving position is not only natural but it feels as though it has been designed to combat fatigue.

Right at the back the boot volume measures 281L, which is about 50 per cent more than what you got in the old model. And the roof doesn’t seem to sap much space. Instead, it tucks away neatly behind the bulkhead and above the boot area. You could easily use this car for a weekend away, in that respect. As we did, actually. We had no trouble fitting in three large hand bags and some odd bits and pieces, with space leftover for the useless stuff one inevitably purchases during trips away.

Taking a look back at the price tag, with this sDrive30i starting from $104,900, the new Z4 is an expensive vehicle. The equivalent 330i which features the same engine and is underpinned by a very similar architecture, is priced from just $70,900. Considering this has three fewer seats and less physical ‘car’, why is it so much more? Well, we’re struggling to understand that as well. However, the sDrive30i does come with loads of standard luxuries and gadgetry.

Up on the dash is BMW’s latest 7.0 media interface which includes a 10.25-inch screen presenting sat-nav, Apple CarPlay connectivity, digital radio, and it’s connected to an impressive 10-speaker premium sound system. You can play around with different ambient lighting colour options, and alter various car settings such as configure the Individual driving mode. There’s even some BMW online-based apps at your disposal.

All Z4 models come with dual-zone climate control, however, we’ve noticed that some of BMW’s latest models feature a separate air-con button while others are hidden in the ‘A/C Menu’. This is one of the latter, which we find a bit annoying. Instead of being able to activate or deactivate the A/C with one swift button push, here you need to dive into the menu and make at least three selections.

Speaking of selections, we think BMW’s iDrive hand controller is one of the best systems in the industry. After not long at all you’ll find it is very intuitive. So intuitive that many selections can be made without even looking down at the controller. Its placement and available menu buttons that surround the main dial are very convenient, and the menu functionality is instantly fathomable. You either scroll up and down or left and right. And there’s a main menu list along with a central home screen and home button, in case you go in too deep.

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport – THE DRIVE

Sitting hunkered down low, the new Z4 provides an immediate sense of occasion. You know this is something special, and certainly more special than the 330i we mentioned earlier. In that sense, that’s what some of the extra price is getting you. And of course you can throw back the roof.

The soft-top arrangement is electronically operated and takes around 10 seconds to retract or raise. As a bonus, this action can be done at speeds of up to 50km/h. This is awesome as often electric-folding roof setups make you either stop or slow right down before you can operate them. If there’s a sudden downpour of rain and you’re on the highway, you could activate the hazards and get away with closing the roof without causing too much issue.

If you haven’t ever driven a convertible with the roof down, this is something you have to do at least once in your life. It’s way more exciting than what you might expect. Yes, the headroom is endless. But we think it’s a little bit like riding a motorcycle. You can hear the trees rustling and the birds chirping, and other road users moving about. And you can hear the tradies as they whistle out to you. You can also hear more of the engine and exhaust. It’s a tantalising experience for all of your senses.

With the roof up the new Z4 is fairly refined and quiet, with only moderate wind noise battering the reinforced fabric roof. It’s not as quiet as a coupe, but you can hold a conversation without raising your voice too much. In this mode though the interior can seem confined and you’re suddenly more aware this is a strict two-person cabin. There’s no echoing or irritating creaks or rattles to report, though.

So, what about that engine and its sound? It might be just another 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder in a world where almost every carmaker offers something similar. But make no mistake, the performance on hand here places the Z4 into serious sports car realms. Peak power is available at 6500rpm and the redline won’t cut the power until 7000rpm. Classic sports car stuff. However, peak torque, all 400Nm – more than the industry standard of around 350Nm for a 2.0T – is spread between 1550rpm and 4400rpm. This is not traditional at all.

With so much torque available from so low in the rev range, the powertrain is incredibly tractable. You don’t need to rev it out to achieve gut-wrenching performance. In fact, if you go for an acceleration run and let the standard launch control system run its course, you’ll notice that even with the transmission in S mode it will upshift the first gears at around 5200rpm.

Obviously BMW knows best and obviously engineers have made sure this is the best way to go about achieving the full acceleration potential, because the figures you get are quite amazing. Using our Vbox Sport this 30i model achieved 0-100km/h in 5.07 seconds. That’s not only quicker than BMW’s claim of 5.4 seconds, which itself is outstanding for this level of power, but it’s also nabbing at the heels of some fairly hardcore rivals.

We reckon a lot of it has to do with the 1384kg tare weight, and the quick-shifting ZF-based eight-speed auto transmission. The power is always direct and responsive, with no hesitation or letup throughout the entire rev range. Likewise, the multi-piston M Sport brakes wipe off speed with utter confidence and stability. You can slam them on at the last minute (although we’re not recommending you do that) and the Z4 gathers itself up and maintains complete composure.

On a spirited strip of road, you really don’t need any more power or torque. It sprints between corners so effortlessly and quickly that sometimes you need to double-check your speed, because more often than not you’re way over the speed limit. And without even trying. Try harder and the superb chassis dynamics start to work their magic. It needs to have an excellent suspension setup with outstanding handling. Not because it’s a new-generation BMW roadster, but because the powertrain is so relentless.

This is easily one of the best-handling roadsters we’ve ever driven. The amount of grip available is incredible, and the stability defies the laws of physics. Even if, like us, you’re a bit immature and try to throw the car around and get some weight-shift happening, the car won’t flinch. At all. Part of this is down to the fantastic Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. They measure 255/35 on the front and a fat 275/35 on the back – the rear wheels are 10 inches wide.

Of course the other important factor is the suspension. The 30i comes standard with M Sport adaptive suspension. In the sportiest setting the ride is firm. Probably too firm for most drivers around town. And to be honest, it can be overly firm for anything but super-smooth mountain roads. Fortunately you can adjust the driving modes and create your own custom settings. Our favourite was to have the steering in Comfort, the engine and transmission in Sport Plus, and the suspension in Comfort. This seems the most suitable for regular roads.

This test car showcases the optional M Sport electronic limited-slip differential ($2400), which further increases grip levels. And yes, it will drift with the stability system turned off. However, we feel like the M40i version would probably be the correct fit for outright drifting sessions as the top-end power here seems to limit the length of the slide. In other words, you need to apply a lot of momentum to activate a drift, whereas, we’re guessing, you could rely more on the power to initially kick the tail in the M40i version. Like in the M2, M3/M4 and even the old M140i. But that’s perfectly fine to us. This is a very enjoyable and secure vehicle to drive, dynamically, along any sealed road.

Unless you’re super determined on powersliding at every chance available, the Z4 sDrive30i offers more than enough power and performance. It’s quick without being ruthless. And this will appeal to a broader audience we think. The fuel economy is also very respectable, with an official average of 6.5L/100km – we averaged 8.4L/100km during our week.

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport – THE VIDEO

2019 BMW Z4 sDrive30i M Sport – THE VERDICT

The new Z4 more than meets the standards of a next-generation sports car. It’s very clever in the corners and extremely quick in between them. And with the roof down, it’s as exciting as any convertible should be. Infused with BMW’s latest in-car media and creature comforts, and a decent-sized boot, this is also a great grand tourer.

We don’t think there is any need to move up to the M40i unless you’re transfixed on the lust of an inline six engine; the 30i goes hard as it is. Really, the only concerns we have are the high price and the firm suspension. The latter of which should probably be expected considering it’s designed as a sports car and not a luxury cruiser.

PROS:
– Incredible performance for a 2.0T
– Rock-solid platform, never feels nervous even at the limit
– Sexy design
– Reasonably practical for a roadster

CONS:
– Firm ride
– High starting price
– Seperate A/C button would be nice

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.