While it isn’t as agile as the Porsche Boxster it is priced against, the 2016 BMW Z4 balances sportiness with comfort and a comfortable cabin.
Despite being one of the oldest designs in the BMW catalog, the Z4 has aged well since its 2009 redesign. Updates have been few since 2012.
Taken against competition like the recently redesigned Porsche Boxster, the Z4’s performance is a tad nonathletic, being rather heavy and tuned more for a balance of comfort and speed. Cornering is stable and fairly balanced, though the suspension is a bit soft for truly aggressive days at the track. Around town, however, that smooth suspension makes for a more laid-back ride than many sport roadsters. An available Sport Package upgrades the performance a notch, and adds sporty appearance details inside and out.
Under the hood, you’ll find the same engines and transmissions the car has had for a few years now. The base Z4 sDrive28i gets a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder; the Z4 sDrive35i gets a 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine; and the Z4 sDrive35is gets an even more potent 335-hp turbocharged inline-6. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual and an 8-speed automatic for sDrive28i models, while the sDrive35i and sDrive35is models are only available with the 7-speed DCT.
Across all the models, acceleration is brisk, with the sDrive35is dashing out the quickest 0-60 mph time of the bunch at 4.8 seconds. The sDrive35i comes in a tick slower at 5.0 seconds, and the sDrive28i takes 5.6 seconds. While power is generally good in all models, the base sDrive28i can feel a bit sluggish at low speeds.
On the gas mileage front, the 2016 BMW Z4 spans a fairly wide range. The base turbocharged four-cylinder rates up to 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined. At the other end of the spectrum, the high-performance sDrive35is model scores just 17/24/20 mpg. Compared to its competition, the six-cylinder Z4’s gas mileage isn’t particularly impressive.
Inside, the BMW Z4 cabin is well-appointed with typically BMW-quality in materials and layout. The retractable hardtop roof gives the Z4 almost coupe-levels of quietness and insulation from the elements, tucking away neatly and quickly when the mood strikes. Supportive sport seats are newly standard on the base model, but unfortunately, faux leather is still the base upholstery.
Features and equipment are generally first-rate in the Z4, though some of the latest safety and driving assistance innovations haven’t been imported to this aging roadster. However, buyers can get the BMW Online Portal, as well as real-time traffic information, and smartpohone-based BMW apps that can scan Twitter or Facebook posts and read them aloud. The BMW Apps feature also enables MOG, Pandora, Aupeo, or Stitcher music streaming. BMW’s various remote telematics services are also included in the ConnectedDrive package. Navigation, satellite radio, heated front seats, and more are available as standalone or package upgrade options.
The BMW Z4 hasn’t been crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS in recent years. It should be noted that, BMW has reputation for chassis engineering, a solid standard safety equipment package, and the innate obstacle-avoidance properties of the Z4’s sporty design should make it as secure as any roadster.
The Z4 sDrive28i, which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined with the manual transmission. Opting for the 8-speed auto shaves 1 mpg from the highway rating, but leaves the others untouched.
2016 BMW Z4 Styling
A long hood and short deck give the Z4 classic roadster proportions wrapped in graceful, fluid bodywork.
The BMW Z4 has classic roadster proportions, thanks to its short rear and long, low hood. Look closely, though, and you’ll find that aerodynamics and sporty bits are 100 percent modern German.
Converging arcs, smooth swells, and raised character lines give the Z4 a still-fresh feel even though it’s been more than five years since its last major redesign. Both sporty and conservative, the Z4 rides a fine balance, offering a persona not found elsewhere in the luxury roadster segment.
Inside the Z4’s cabin, the layout is more cockpit-like and driver-oriented than larger BMW vehicles. The general look is one of modern sophistication, giving an upscale feel that rivals may equal, but rarely surpass. The center stack can look somewhat cluttered, but high-end trim materials and the iDrive system’s sleek control layout balance the busy feel.
Materials and upholstery have a quality feel and are pleasing to the eye, and while there’s not an abundance of room to spare, the not-so-minimalist-take is a nod to the classic roadsters of the past.
2016 BMW Z4 Performance
All Z4 models are quick and nimble, but the sDrive35is is the most engaging to drive.
The 2016 Z4 artfully blends the sportiness of a roadster and the comfort for of a compact luxury car into one handsome package. It may not be quite as sharp as some of its competitors, but it also doesn’t make the compromises that other cars must in order to be fun behind the wheel. In short, it’s quick, pleasant, and civilized.
Three main flavors of the 2015 BMW Z4 are available: sDrive28i, sDrive35i, and sDrive35is. The first gets a turbocharged, 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The second rates 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque from a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6. The sportiest version is the third, extracting 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.
As you’d expect, performance matches the engines. The base model is quick and fun, managing the sprint to 60 mph in as little as 5.6 seconds, per BMW, but it lacks the ultimate force and vigor of the two six-cylinder models. Moving up to the sDrive35i cuts 0-60 mph times to 5.0 seconds, but also brings a significant improvement in in-gear acceleration at any speed. The sDrive35is takes performance up yet another notch, hitting 60 mph from a stop in just 4.8 seconds and delivering even more responsive acceleration.
For the sDrive28i, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard, and it’s a great choice if you like to do your own gear changes. It has a slick, low-effort shifter that never gets in your way. An optional 8-speed automatic also provides quick and smooth shifts, though it leaves the car feeling somewhat less spirited. In the Z4 sDrive35i, the 8-speed auto is replaced by a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, and no manual transmission is offered. Quick-shifting and easy to use with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles (or left to its own devices in automatic mode), the dual-clutch gearbox offers the best of both manual and automatic worlds. However, this dual-clutch doesn’t match the race-inspired crispness or near-telepathic logic you’ll find in Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch, offered in the Z4-rival Boxster. The sDrive35is is also only available with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Handling is good across the Z4 range, particularly when equipped with the optional M Sport Package (which is standard on the sDrive35is). Cornering is confident and quick, with direct, if not intuitive steering, and BMW’s typical sense of feel is only slightly muted from its more hardcore M Division vehicles. With the M Sport Package, the Z4 looks and feels much more like its M cousins, with the Adaptive M Suspension doing the bulk of the work in improving handling. Upgraded 18-inch alloy wheels with performance run-flat tires also improve grip, though the choice of run-flat tires does nothing for ride quality.
Whichever Z4 model you choose, you’ll get a balanced, controlled chassis riding on an adjustable Driving Dynamics Control suspension system that offers Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ settings. Dynamic stability control with traction control, brake fade compensation, start-off assist, brake drying, and brake stand-by features are all high-tech aids to improve driving safety and consistency.
2016 BMW Z4 Comfort & Quality
The quality materials are highlighted by a sun-reflecting leather, but space is tight as per the roadster norm.
The 2016 BMW Z4 is one of the best-balanced sports cars in the business, but it’s not without its compromises.
Cabin and trunk space are tight in the Z4. Planning a weekend trip will involve a careful selection of what you really need to bring along, as there’s just no room for much more than two small carry-ons and a few personal items. The cabin itself has numerous pockets and trays, but they’re small. Don’t expect to securely stash a laptop with two people in the car.
Despite these shortcomings, the Z4’s construction and materials are very good throughout the cabin.The available leather upholstery is soft and supple, and can be expanded to the dash, door caps, and visors with an extended leather package. Unlike many convertibles, the Z4 exhibits very few squeaks, rattles, and vibrations, further indicating its build quality.
One particularly welcome feature is one you can’t even see is BMW’s unique Sun Reflective Technology leather. Rather than soaking up the sun to then scorch your exposed skin, the seats do an admirable job of staying merely warm to the touch, greatly increasing comfort in summer top-down driving.
The Z4’s power retractable hard top is another strength, stowing or deploying quickly and smoothly. When the top is up, the Z4 is effectively transformed into a coupe, with all of the security, weather protection, and noise reduction that entails.
The seats, now sport buckets in all models, are comfortable and adjustable to suit a wide range of body sizes and types, but they’re mounted rather high in the cabin, compromising head room for drivers over six feet tall when the top is up (or putting the top of the windshield near eye-level even with the top down).
2016 BMW Z4 Safety
The Z4 hasn’t been crash tested but it comes with a compeititive list of safety features.
Standard safety features include front and side airbags, adaptive brake lights, and multi-setting stability and brake control systems. The Z4 can even cut fuel flow, turn on the hazard lights, and unlock the doors in the event of an accident.
For those seeking even greater safety, optional upgrades include automatic headlamps, park distance control, and BMW Assist service with Bluetooth. More advanced features, such as a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning systems aren’t available in the Z4, however.
The BMW Z4 is sold in too low a volume to be evaluated by the major U.S. agencies that crash-test cars.
Visibility is never much of an issue in the Z4, even with the folding hardtop raised. The side windows are quite large, the rear window opening is well-shaped, and forward visibility is expansive.
2016 BMW Z4 Features
Even the base Z4 is well equipped but performance and technology option packages can send the price skyward.
With prices starting around $50,000 and climbing above $70,000 for a loaded model, you’d expect to find a long list of standard and available features. Fortunately, that’s the case.
The Z4 is offered in three models, sDrive28i, sDrive35i, and sDrive35is. Standard equipment for all Z4s includes Bluetooth, audio with iPod/USB support, HD radio, heated mirrors, adaptive xenon headlights, keyless entry, automatic climate control, BMW Ambiance lighting, rain-sensing wipers, and more. Unfortunately, faux leather upholstery is standard on the base model. However, for 2016, the base Z4 sDrive28i gets standard sport seats.
The upgrades list is where things get more interesting. A la carte items include heated front seats, park distance control, automatic high beams, and BMW Concierge services.
Most of the best upgrades are bundled into packages. The M Sport Package (non-sDrive35is models) brings many performance-themed upgrades, including an M steering wheel, anthracite headliner, Adaptive M Suspension, M interior trim in Aluminum Carbon Shadow, anthracite wood trim, and a range of wheel and exterior paint options. The Premium Sound package adds premium hi-fi audio and a one-year subscription to satellite radio. The Technology Package adds navigation with voice-command, real-time traffic information, BMW Online access, BMW Apps functions, enhanced USB and Bluetooth smartphone integration, and more. A number of appearance packages can bring extended leather, and unique Hyper Orange accents, among other ways to personalize your Z4.
BMW Apps is particularly interesting, bringing streaming radio services like Pandora and Stitcher as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Wiki Local access on-the-go.
2016 BMW Z4 Fuel Economy
The four-cylinder model makes the BMW Z4 one of the most efficient sports cars.
BMW offers both efficient and fast versions of the Z4 roadster, so you can choose your flavor of fuel economy.
Those looking to save some cash at the pump will choose the Z4 sDrive28i, which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. It is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined with the manual transmission. Opting for the 8-speed auto shaves 1 mpg from the highway rating, but leaves the others untouched. In our experience, real-world gas mileage easily matches, and occasionally exceeds, the EPA ratings.
The sportiest model, the Z4 sDrive35is, scores 17/24/20 mpg, according to the EPA. It comes only with a dual-clutch 7-speed gearbox. The sDrive35i rates the same 17/24/20 mpg, also with the dual-clutch transmission.