What's New for 2005
Light Poplar Grain wood trim is available as a no-charge option on all Z4s. White indicator lights are standard across the board, and foglights and cruise control are now standard on the 2.5i. The 3.0i includes automatic climate control as standard equipment this year. Leather seating is no longer part of the 2.5i's Premium Package and is a stand-alone option, while all models receive additional black accents for the interior. The Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) is only available on the 3.0i, and requires the Sport Package. Last year's Convenience Package is history, though its contents are now either standard or part of the Premium Package.
The Z4 is the successor to the much loved Z3, which saw unfaltering popularity among young and old upon its introduction in 1996. Its successor is only offered as a roadster and has dropped its predecessor's sleek, scantily clad version of BMW's corporate styling in favor of a "flame surfaced" exterior design. The styling is certainly a break with tradition, but even if you don't like the car's sheet metal, there is plenty to appreciate on the Z4. In terms of overall length and width, the Z4 is slightly bigger than the Z3. The body is stiffer, and measures were taken to reduce weight without sacrificing rigidity. Handling is sharper than before, and the electrically assisted steering rack delivers solid road feel. For power, the Z4 offers either a 184-horsepower, 2.5-liter straight six or a 225-hp, 3.0-liter straight six. For transmissions, there is a five-speed manual (standard on the 2.5), a six-speed manual (standard on the 3.0), a five-speed automatic or, as previously seen on the M3, a six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG). The power-operated top (which can go up or down in 15 seconds) has a special folding mechanism that allows extra storage space. BMW claims that the trunk can hold two golf bags. When the top is opened, the front-most section of the roof folds over the soft top like a cover and rests flush on the body when fastened in position, thereby eliminating the need for a tonneau cover. The rear window is glass rather than plastic, and a wind deflector and hardtop are also available. Sport Package-equipped roadsters feature Dynamic Drive Control (DDC) technology, which delivers quicker throttle and steering response at the press of a button. Although we still can't warm up to the exterior styling, in just about every other respect, the Z4 is a seriously capable driver's car -- and one of our favorite roadsters in this price range. If you've got $35,000 to $45,000 to spend on a two-seater, this BMW is definitely worth checking out.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
BMW offers the Z4 roadster in two trim levels -- 2.5i and 3.0i. The 2.5i includes 16-inch wheels with run-flat tires, a manually operated soft top (with rear glass), height-adjustable sport seats with leatherette upholstery (or rather, vinyl), cruise control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel, a CD player and power windows, mirrors and locks. The 3.0i adds 17-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a center armrest, aluminum interior trim, a premium audio system, automatic climate control and heated mirrors. Any of these features can be added to a 2.5i. Note that wheel-tire upgrades are part of the Sport Package, which also includes a lowered sport suspension, Dynamic Drive Control (a feature that quickens throttle and steering response), and on the 3.0i, 18-inch wheels. Other options include a power-operated top, bi-HID headlights, seat heaters, power seats, a DVD-based navigation system and wood interior trim. Dealer-installed items include a hardtop, a wind deflector, a CD changer, satellite radio and an alarm system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2.5i model is powered by a 2.5-liter, inline six-cylinder engine that makes 184 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.0i uses a 3.0-liter straight six that generates 225 hp and 214 lb-ft of torque. BMW gets a lot out of its engines, and most drivers will be satisfied with the 2.5, which starts to feel winded only at very high speeds. Enthusiasts, of course, will want to go with the 3.0 and its smooth, continuous power supply. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on 2.5s, while 3.0s get a six-speed. If you don't want to deal with a clutch, you can opt for a five-speed automatic (with a Steptronic automanual gate) or, on the 3.0 only, a Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG).
Every model comes with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, run-flat tires and a sophisticated stability control system. Passive safety features include rollover protection, side airbags, active knee protection and child-seat anchor points for the passenger seat.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Z4's simple cockpit features a sweeping dash with a clean set of analog gauges, bolstered sport seats and little else to distract you from the road. Plenty of metallic trim comes standard, but wood trim is available for those who want to dress up their roadster a bit. Both the manual and power-operated convertible tops are easy to use, and the trunk has a generous 9-cubic-foot capacity (made possible by the elimination of the spare tire in favor of run-flat tires).
With its stiff chassis, large brakes and multiple transmission options, the Z4 provides great driving pleasure -- easily managed when driven near the limit on twisty roads. Ride quality is smooth, but commuters may find Sport Package-equipped Z4s too firm for comfort. Wind and road noise can also be bothersome at highway speeds, but once you turn off onto your favorite back road, it becomes a distant memory.