Used 2016 BMW Z4 Convertible Review
The 2016 BMW Z4 offers sleek styling, a high-class interior and more than enough performance to make it desirable.
When we say there's nothing like motoring along in a convertible with the top down and the wind blowing through your hair, people either knowingly nod their head in agreement or look back with a puzzled stare that seems to say: "Why would I want my hair fussed?" If you find yourself in that first group, we think you'll find a lot to like about the 2016 BMW Z4 roadster.
That's because the German automaker has hit what seems to be a sweet spot in the compact convertible segment. The upscale Z4, with its retractable hardtop roof, lands more or less squarely in the middle of the roadster continuum, which ranges from nimble but cramped traditional sports cars to larger, grand-touring drop tops with big engines and big price tags.
That big grin will be yours if you find yourself in a roofless 2016 BMW Z4 on a warm day.
The Z4 comes in three basic flavors based on engine size, starting with the entry-level sDrive28i model, which is powered by a 240-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder. If it wasn't for its rather uncouth sound at idle, you'd otherwise never suspect its energetic acceleration was produced by something with fewer than six cylinders. But for those who crave that extra dose of excitement (not to mention a more pleasing engine note), BMW stands ready to oblige with the sDrive35i and sDrive35is, propelled by an inline six-cylinder engine that puts out 300 hp and 335 hp, respectively.
The Z4 does have some downsides, including modest roof-down trunk space and a substantial price, especially when you start adding options. In light of that latter point, we'd suggest that you take a long look at the new, substantially improved and massively cheaper 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. It adds some Z4-like, long-hood proportions to the tried-and-true Miata formula that has made it one of the most fun-to-drive cars for decades now.
Of course, there's also the 2016 Porsche Boxster, which is the driver's choice among German roadsters, and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK, which offers grand-touring driving dynamics similar to the Z4. There are also some sporty four-seat convertibles available, such as the Audi A3 and BMW 2 Series and 4 Series. You're not going to go wrong here with any of these picks, but for the good kind of hair fussing, the 2016 BMW Z4 certainly deserves a place on your test-drive list.
trim levels & features
The 2016 BMW Z4 is a two-seat convertible with a retractable-hardtop roof. There are three versions that correspond to engine choice: sDrive28i, sDrive35i and sDrive35is.
The 28i comes standard with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic and adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, automatic wipers, power-folding heated mirrors, a soft-close automatic trunk lid, cruise control, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, "SensaTec" premium vinyl upholstery, eight-way power sport seats (with power-adjustable side bolsters and lumbar and manually adjustable thigh support), driver memory functions, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, basic BMW Assist service, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the iDrive electronics interface and a sound system that includes a CD player, HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
Besides its more powerful six-cylinder engine and obligatory automatic transmission, the 35i gets 18-inch wheels and sun-reflective leather upholstery. If you aren't interested in the larger engine, these items are also available on the 28i.
The 35is adds an even more powerful engine, unique styling cues, special 18-inch wheels, a sport suspension with adaptive dampers, an upgraded audio system, upgraded interior trim and a sport steering wheel.
The Z4 has always been relatively restrained in terms of interior trim, but the current model offers accoutrements like exposed contrast stitching all across the dashboard.
There are several options packages available. The Cold Weather package adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and retractable headlight washers. The M Sport package (28i and 35i) adds the 35is's adaptive suspension, aerodynamic body kit, sport steering wheel, special interior trim and the option of 19-inch wheels on the 35i. The Technology package adds a navigation system, traffic information, voice controls, enhanced BMW Assist and smartphone apps integration. There are also color-themed packages available that include distinctive leather seating, a simulated suede headliner and special interior accents.
Available for the 28i is a Sport package that includes 18-inch wheels, sport seats, the adaptive 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, a contrasting-color hardtop, heated seats and satellite radio.
performance & mpg
The 2016 BMW Z4 sDrive28i features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 240 hp 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 fuel efficiency. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-equipped Z4 28i went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which is similar to what the V6-powered Mercedes SLK350 runs. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 26 mpg combined (22 city/34 highway) with the manual, with a 1 mpg drop in highway mileage for the automatic.
The Z4 sDrive35i gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder that produces 300 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. It's paired exclusively with a seven-speed automated manual transmission known as DCT. BMW estimates that the Z4 will hit 60 mph in 5.0 seconds. EPA estimated mileage is 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway).
The Z4 sDrive35is gets a more powerful version of the 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder good for 335 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. DCT is the only available transmission. In Edmunds testing, the 35is went from zero to 60 in 5 seconds flat. Fuel economy ratings mirror those of the 35i at 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway).
Every BMW Z4 comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control and side airbags. The antilock brakes integrate several features designed to improve braking performance -- one periodically wipes the brake rotors dry when the windshield wipers are in use, while another snugs the brake pads against the rotors if the driver abruptly lifts off the throttle. The BMW Assist eCall system is also standard and includes an emergency assistance button and automatic crash notification. This system can be upgraded to include BMW Assist Remote Services with features like 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.
If the idea of a luxury sports car with a four-cylinder engine puts you off, we'd suggest you drive the 2016 BMW Z4 sDrive28i before you jump to any conclusions. With this engine, the car delivers strong acceleration and an appealing exhaust note, and its lighter weight makes the entire package feel a tad more nimble than the 35i. It does sound a bit agricultural at idle, however, and the standard auto stop-start feature sends uncouth shudders throughout the car (thankfully, you can turn it off).
The 2016 BMW Z4's graceful long-nosed profile and sophisticated ride make it an intriguing alternative to pricier luxury roadsters.
For greater aural appeal, the inline six-cylinder engines in the 35i and 35is models are the way to go. They also make the car quicker, and their smooth power delivery is a pleasure unto itself. That said, neither is available with a traditional manual transmission and we'd caution those eyeing the 35is, as the performance gains are rather negligible.
Tuned for a more relaxed grand-touring style of driving, the Z4's standard suspension delivers a very livable ride quality. It's a sporty and confident-handling car as well. But even with the optional suspension installed, the Z4 is no match for the exemplary Porsche Boxster in regards to exemplary steering feel and driver engagement when going around turns.
Inside the 2016 BMW Z4 you'll find a classy interior done up in high-quality materials, though the standard "SensaTec" vinyl upholstery strikes a discordant note in such a luxury model. If it were us, we'd definitely opt for the sun-reflective "Kansas" leather. Customization possibilities abound, including two-tone color schemes and unique trim that give the cabin a noticeably more eye-catching look. There are some practical details here too, including a handy cargo shelf behind the seats.
Step into the 2016 BMW Z4 and you're greeted by low-slung seats, a high center console and two deeply hooded analog gauges.
Speaking of practicality, the Z4's passenger compartment has an edge on many other two-seat cars by virtue of above-average legroom that gives taller drivers and passengers a chance to stretch out. Another advantage includes the rear quarter windows that go a long way toward eliminating the blind spots commonly found in traditional soft-top convertibles.
Out back, the Z4 offers a decent-sized cargo hold that provides 8 cubic feet of stowage with the roof raised. With it lowered, the two roof panels take up a good bit of that space, but there's still more room here than you'll find on most other retractable-hardtop convertibles. An available trunk pass-through between the seats also makes it possible to transport longer items.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.