Full 2014 BMW Z4 Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the BMW Z4 receives a handful of minor changes. Among them are restyled fender-mounted signal repeaters and a few new options packages including the Hyper Orange package and the Technology package.
A roadster used to be a small, two-seat convertible with adequate power, sporty handling and minimal comfort features. Heck, the really old ones didn't even have roll-down side windows. But what they lacked in frills, they made up for with an engaging driving experience and affordable pricing. Most modern roadsters are different animals entirely, as they're not exactly diminutive, and they boast powerful engines, a wide array of luxury features and, all too often, big price tags. The 2014 BMW Z4 stands proud among the new-era, premium-brand roadsters.
But just because you can get leather upholstery and a heated steering wheel in the Z4 doesn't mean this Bimmer has forgotten how to have fun. It's a BMW, so you'd expect it to be a capable companion on curvy two-lane roads, and it is. Plus, there's plenty of thrust with either of the available turbocharged engines, one a fuel-sipping inline four-cylinder and the other a broad-shouldered inline-6.
Furthermore, the Z4's roomy seating and ample creature comforts make it pretty hospitable for commuting and even road trips. Adding an extra measure of serenity and security is the retractable hardtop. Even the trunk is generously sized, at least when the roof is raised.
So yes, the 2014 BMW Z4 is easy to love, even if it's not a classic, minimalist roadster (if that's what you want, the Mazda Miata is the best current-day equivalent). BMW's two-seat convertible doesn't feel as sharp going around turns as a true sports car like the Porsche Boxster, nor does it have the peerless refinement of the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class. Yet the BMW Z4 finds a happy middle ground between the two, and for everyday use, it's arguably the best pick here.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 BMW Z4 is a two-seat convertible with a retractable hardtop roof. There are three versions that correspond to engine size: sDrive28i, sDrive35i and sDrive35is.
The 28i comes standard with 17-inch wheels, automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and driver memory functions, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, basic BMW Assist service, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a sound system that includes a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Besides its bigger engine, the 35i gets 18-inch wheels, sport seats (with adjustable side bolsters and thigh support) and sun-reflective leather upholstery. These items are optional on the 28i.
The 35is adds an even more powerful engine, unique styling cues, a lowered suspension with adaptive dampers, an upgraded audio system and a sport steering wheel.
Each Z4 offers the following optional packages. The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and retractable headlight washers. The M Sport package adds an adaptive M-tuned suspension, lightweight 18-inch wheels, an increased top speed limiter, an aerodynamic body kit, a thicker sport steering wheel and special interior trim. The Technology package features a navigation system, 12GB of music storage, voice commands, enhanced BMW Assist, enhanced Bluetooth/USB functions and smartphone apps/integration.
Color themed packages are also available. The Canyon Brown package features like-named leather seating, the power sport seats and anthracite wood accents. The Hyper Orange package allows one to select a Valencia Orange exterior color (not mandatory, however) and features a black and orange interior scheme. It also includes faux suede on the headliner, seats and door panels as well as unique "metal weave" cabin accents.
Available for the 28i is a Sport package (18-inch wheels, power sport seats, adaptive M-tuned suspension and an increased top speed limiter). Both the 28i and 35i can be had with a Premium Sound package that includes the 35is's upgraded audio system along with satellite radio.
Stand-alone options include different wheels, front and rear parking sensors, automatic high beams, heated seats and satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 BMW Z4 sDrive28i features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and you can get either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic at no extra cost. Manual-equipped cars include an automatic stop-start function that turns off the engine when the car is stopped to improve efficiency. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped Z4 28i went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, similar to what the V6-powered Mercedes SLK350 runs. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg combined (22 city/34 highway) with the manual, with the automatic coming in at 26 combined (22 city/33 highway).
The Z4 sDrive35i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It gets a standard six-speed manual (no auto stop-start), and a seven-speed automated manual transmission (known as DCT) is an extra-cost option. With the manual, this Z4 hit 60 mph in 5.2 seconds, which is quicker than the SLK and base Porsche Boxster. It ties the Boxster S. EPA mileage stands at 21 combined (19 city/26 highway) with the manual and 20 combined (17 city/24 highway) with DCT.
The Z4 sDrive35is gets a more powerful version of the 3.0-liter turbo-6 good for 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. Fuel economy ratings are 20 combined (17 city/24 highway).
Every BMW Z4 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control and side 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. The BMW Assist eCall system is standard and includes an emergency assistance button and automatic crash notification. This system can be upgraded to include BMW Assist Remote Services that include stolen vehicle recovery and remote door unlock.
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 2014 BMW Z4's cabin is sleek and upscale. High-quality materials abound and combine with diverse shapes to create an undeniably premium environment. Several two-tone color choices add some further pizzazz. Thoughtful touches include 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 roadsters. With the hardtop roof raised, the trunk provides a generous 8 cubic feet and is 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.
Some people might not like the idea of a sports car with a four-cylinder engine. Chances are, many won't like the sound of the 28i's four-cylinder at idle, as it produces an unbecoming clatter. With the manual transmission, it also comes with a fuel-saving engine stop-start feature that can be annoying (at least BMW included a button to disable it). But 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 six-cylinder engines. The 28i also handles a bit better than its six-cylinder siblings thanks to its lighter weight. The 35i and 35is models are quicker of course, but truth be told, you'll be plenty happy with the Z4 28i.
When the road gets twisty, the BMW Z4 doesn't feel as sharp as the Boxster, which remains the class favorite if an engaging driving experience is top priority. That said, the Z4, especially with one of its sport packages, is certainly no slouch around turns. However, its more comfortable ride and less communicative steering make it more of a grand touring car akin to the Mercedes-Benz SLK.