2012 BMW Z4 Convertible Review | Edmunds.com

2012 BMW Z4 Convertible

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BMW Z4 Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.0 L Inline 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Rear Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 300 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 19/26 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2012 BMW Z4

  • Sleek styling, a high-class interior and plenty of performance combine to make the 2012 BMW Z4 a highly desirable roadster. Its new base engine for this year makes it even better.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Powerful six-cylinder and efficient four-cylinder engines; quick-folding hardtop; comfortable ride; big trunk (with the top raised); excellent visibility for a roadster.

  • Cons

    Not as invigorating and involving as Porsche rival; four-cylinder is clattery at idle; very pricey.

  • What's New for 2012

    The 2012 BMW Z4 introduces a new entry-level model. Replacing the sDrive30i and its normally aspirated six-cylinder engine is the new sDrive28i with a turbocharged four-cylinder. The new engine produces more torque than the former six-cylinder, and when it's paired with the standard six-speed manual transmission, a stop/start system delivers surprising fuel efficiency.

Full 2012 BMW Z4 Review

What's New for 2012

The 2012 BMW Z4 introduces a new entry-level model. Replacing the sDrive30i and its normally aspirated six-cylinder engine is the new sDrive28i with a turbocharged four-cylinder. The new engine produces more torque than the former six-cylinder, and when it's paired with the standard six-speed manual transmission, a stop/start system delivers surprising fuel efficiency.


James Bond once drove a BMW roadster with a four-cylinder engine, apparently content with the firepower provided by the Stinger missiles behind the car's headlights. Non-spy buyers were a different story, however, and BMW eventually did away with the Z3's four-banger in favor of a traditional straight-6. That was more than a decade ago, and now an inline-4 engine has returned to a two-passenger BMW convertible, this time as the base engine in the 2012 BMW Z4.

This may seem like a downgrade, but a lot has changed since 007 drove that humbly powered BMW roadster. The new turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter inline-4 found in the 2012 Z4 sDrive28i produces 100 horsepower more than the old Z3. More important, the new four-cylinder delivers 35 pound-feet of torque more than the base Z4's outgoing naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-6. The result is an engine that matches the straight-line acceleration of last year's base Z4, while actually feeling more robust thanks to its low-end grunt. Even more important than that, the 28i achieves an impressive 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. That's economy car territory.

The turbocharged six-cylinder engines found in the sDrive35i and sDrive35is models carry over. Despite their significant power advantage over the 28i, they deliver 0-60 times that are less than a second quicker. Yes, you get even more of that low-end grunt with the six, but the 28i carries around less weight, making it feel more nimble around corners. If it sounds as if we're smitten with the new engine, you'd be right.

In fact, the 2012 BMW Z4 as a whole is easy to love. While not possessing the perfectly balanced nature of the Porsche Boxster or the peerless refinement of the new Mercedes-Benz SLK, the Z4 manages to strike a middle ground between the two. It handles well (especially with one of its must-have sport packages), offers a comfortable ride and cossets its passengers with a spacious cabin. Sure, it's expensive, but so are its competitors. With its new engine for 2012, the Z4 definitely won't need Stinger missiles to get itself noticed.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 BMW Z4 is a two-seat convertible with a retractable hardtop, available in three trim levels that correspond to engine choice: sDrive28i, sDrive35i and sDrive35is.

Standard equipment on the 28i includes 17-inch wheels, automatic and adaptive xenon headlights, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, adjustable drive settings (alter steering, throttle, automatic transmission response), cruise control, air-conditioning, height-adjustable seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and a sound system that includes a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The 35i adds an inline-6 engine, dual-zone automatic climate control and eight-way power seats with driver memory functions and leather upholstery. Besides the engine, these features are all available in the 28i's Premium package.

The 35is adds a more powerful engine, unique styling cues, a lowered suspension with adaptive dampers, a sport steering wheel and 10-way sport seats with adjustable bolsters and a manual thigh adjustment. These latter items are included in a Sport package available on the other two Z4 models.

Every Z4 is eligible for several options. The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and headlight washers. There are also several bigger wheels to choose from, along with parking sensors, automatic high beams, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system (includes BMW's iDrive electronics interface), BMW Assist emergency communications, satellite radio, a six-CD/DVD changer and a premium sound system.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission are standard, while an eight-speed automatic is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped 28i went from zero to 60 mph in a respectably quick 5.8 seconds. Manual-equipped cars include an automatic stop/start function that turns off the engine when the car is stopped to improve efficiency. EPA-estimated fuel economy is an excellent 22 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined with the manual and 24/33/27 with the automatic.

The Z4 sDrive35i is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 good for 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed manual is standard and a seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual known as DCT is optional. With the six-speed in place, the Z4 goes from zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19/26/21 with the manual and 17/24/19 with the DCT.

The Z4 sDrive35is gets a revised version of the 3.0-liter inline-6 that produces 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. At full throttle, an overboost function increases torque to 369 lb-ft. The DCT is the only available transmission. In Edmunds testing, the 35is went from zero to 60 in 5 seconds flat. Its fuel economy is 17/24/19.


Every 2012 BMW Z4 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, side airbags and knee airbags. The antilock brakes also integrate several features designed to improve braking performance, such as periodically wiping the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are in use and snugging the brake pads against the rotors if the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. Parking sensors and BMW Assist emergency communications are optional.

In Edmunds brake testing, the 28i came to a stop from 60 mph in an outstanding 103 feet. The other two models were essentially identical.

Interior Design and Special Features

The 2012 BMW Z4's cabin is sleek and upscale. High-quality materials abound and combine with diverse shapes to create an undeniably premium environment. The addition of several new two-tone color choices for 2012 adds some further pizzazz. There are also a few thoughtful touches inside, including secondary knee-level air vents and a small cargo shelf behind the seats.

The Z4 is also arguably the most practical two-passenger sports car on the market. Legroom is plentiful, which is something you don't hear often about small convertibles. Visibility is also unmatched thanks to large rear quarter windows that eliminate the typical blind spots in most convertibles. With the hardtop roof raised, the trunk is quite large, measuring 8 cubic feet and capable of holding two sets of golf clubs and a carry-on suitcase. You'll have to ditch those clubs when you lower the two-piece hardtop, but the suitcase can remain, which is more than you can say for some other hardtop convertibles. There's also an available trunk pass-through that can accommodate longer items.

Driving Impressions

Some people might not like the idea of buying a sports car with a four-cylinder engine. Most won't like the sound of the 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i's four-cylinder at idle, as it produces an unbecoming rough clatter. But slot the manual transmission's slick shifter into 1st and lay into the throttle and we're pretty sure you won't have anything to complain about. This torque-rich engine pulls hard and has a sharp, warbling exhaust note reminiscent of BMW's past inline-6s. The 28i also handles a bit better than its six-cylinder siblings thanks to its lighter weight. The 35i and 35is are quicker, but truth be told, you'll be plenty happy with the 28i.

The Porsche Boxster remains the hands-down favorite when it comes to providing an engaging top-down driving experience. The Z4, especially with one of its sport packages, is certainly no slouch around corners, but its more comfortable ride, more spacious cabin and less communicative steering make it more of a grand touring car akin to the Mercedes-Benz SLK. We should note that we've found the top-of-the-line 35is doesn't really provide much of a performance or handling advantage over the regular 35i with a Sport package, while suffering from a rougher ride. We'd save money and go with one of the cheaper models.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

My dream car

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW Z4

I've always wanted a BMW Z roadster ever since I test drove a Z3 in San Diego. At the time, I had just started working full time. I have always been an Engineer, but at the time I had a mountain of debt. When I finally had the means to purchase my dream car, Chris Bangle (Germany's answer to Sir Mix-a-Lot) violated the Z3's successor, the first generation Z4. So, I had to wait 7 long years for that abomination to leave the stage. The E89 Z4 was worth the wait. Strangers and acquaintences alike come up to me all the time to tell me that I have a beautiful car. I don't need a car that costs any more money, has any more performance, or looks any better (if possible).

13 of 28 people found this review helpful

In shop 5 weeks out

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW Z4

Purchased in April 2011: Running board fell off! 2 days in shop (of all things, they cant get this right?!) Engine stalls at low rpms. 4 days in shop Roof leaks. 21 days in shop Creak in rear suspension. 6 days in shop and still counting...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

The perfect roadster

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW Z4

I recently got the 2011 z435i with the 7 speed automatic, premium package, sport package, premium sound. It combines luxury, style, and performance better than any other car out on the road. It has a distinguished look and gets a lot of attention on the road. You can drive it like a true sports car with its high performance options, large horse power, and great handling. Or you can take it for a luxurious lazy sunday drive for hours with the top down, nice sound system and comfortable spacious seating for a 2 seat car. It wont beat the Porshe Boxter on a track but I feel the interior comfort, comparable unique style, and price difference make up for it. It is a very sexy fun car to drive

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

Drive them all and you'll

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW Z4

Purchased this vehicle coming from M6 through E63 AMG. Although M6 is very fast, SMG tranny is HORRIBLE in real life. AMG is an absolute MB service dream (8 weeks in service out of 6 months of ownership). So after browsing 911, SLK and boxter - I decided to go with the Z4. Hardtop convertible is awesome. Features, although very pricey (base $52k, mine $66K) are all there. Handling, although criticized, is very adequate. This car is not built to be driven on track only, it is a very comfortable sports car adaptation to real life conditions. Highway cruising feels like a 7. Thumbs up, BMW, can't wipe the smile off my face every time I drive it! Bi turbo is a mast, base model lacks power, etc.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful


by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW Z4

This is the second Z4 that my wife and I have owned.Had the first one 7 years and not one problem.This Z4IS is more comfortable. It has much more power. I drive pretty sporty and it gets 29 MPG.Get lots of thumbs up.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Near-perfect roadster

by on
Vehicle: 2011 BMW Z4

After several 3-series coupes this is my first ever roadster. Although inherently impractical, it is much fun to drive - I love the throaty growl and sharp steering turn-in.

Talk About The 2012 Z4

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Gas Mileage


  • 19
  • cty
  • 26
  • highway
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