2012 BMW Z4 sDrive2.8i Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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I didn't mean to stare, but that's the effect a car like the Z4 has on people. Most people, so I'm not alone in my voyeurism. Fortunately this time around, duplicating an experience I had with the car three years ago, BMW supplied me with my very own, for a week, and I was able to get up close and personal instead of leering from the sidewalk.

The big difference compared to the 2009 model I drove previously was something I wasn't prepared for, the sound of a four-cylinder engine. It's got a throaty meaningful exhaust note. There's nothing anemic about it, it was just strange, as I haven't driven a Bimmer with a four-pot mill since the '90s. Then again, no BMW factory four-cylinder has ever produced 241-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque; the latter number available at a mere 1,250-rpm.

You know there's a turbo involved when twist is so strong in the low revs. Mixed with BMW's variable camshaft timing and variable valve timing, the result is an entertaining romp through its six forward gears with every press of the go pedal. I wouldn't say it's a stormer off the line, as the new Z4 is quite substantial at 1,500 kilos (170 kg more than the first Z4 I drove in '04), but BMW's twin-scroll turbocharger makes the most of the 2.0-litre engine for a truly entertaining package.

Some of that weight-gain needs to be attributed to the retractable hardtop, a two-piece aluminum wonder that transforms the car from roadster to coupe with a flick of a switch. It's ideal for colder, wetter climes like we experience north of the 49th, with the drawback of needing to be parked before deploying instead of lowering at a stoplight or even while driving, as is possible with many fabric roof convertibles. Unlike some folding hardtops, the Z4 actually looks good when closed, and as an added bonus in this state you can fit more gear into its sizable trunk. There's a divider that needs to be lowered before dropping the top, but you can still fit a weekend's worth of (fitted) luggage underneath if you plan to drive to your destination al fresco.

That drive will be fun, I can attest to that. Not only is the engine lively, but the Z4's handling is responsive. The usual MacPherson front struts and multi-link rear setup gets hidden behind standard 17-inch rims on 225/45R17 run-flats, with coil springs and stabilizer bars at each end and BMW's Dynamic Driving Control feature allowing the choice of Normal, Sport, and Sport+ settings, not to mention myriad electronic safety features, all combining for the expected BMW magic.

The unexpected magic will be the cost of your trip. My tester included the optional 8-speed automatic with paddle-shifters, and while an engaging gearbox it was highly efficient at a claimed 8.2 L/100km city and 5.3 highway! Even with my regular throttle stomps off the line and occasional memory lapses of the posted limit I managed to eke out about eight and a half litres per 100 kilometre, which is enviable mileage amongst premium roadsters.

Another reason you'll enjoy that vacation, not to mention the everyday commute, is the care and attention BMW has paid to every detail inside. The first Z4 was, dare a say, a bit cheap. There were more hard plastics than premium buyers were used to and therefore it received some negativity from the press and owners alike. My 2012 tester was rich, with no skimping on soft-touch surfaces, or authentic feeling leatherette for that matter. The features list is strong too, with some highlights being proximity sensing keyless entry with pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, HID headlamps, dynamic cruise control, and an 11-speaker stereo with a CD, iPod connectivity, an aux input, and Bluetooth. There's a lot more, but I'll let you discover the car on your own at the risk of this review sounding like a Z4 brochure.

The cost? You can get into a new 2012 BMW Z4 for $56,295 including destination, or my automatic tester for $1,700 more. There are plenty of options you can add too, like real leather sport seats with power adjustment, a heated steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, front and rear parking beepers, a wind deflector, and a Logic7 audio upgrade with iDrive, navigation, etcetera, not to mention 300-plus horsepower six-cylinder engines that add even more features.

No matter how you dress it up, I'm willing to bet you'll fall for the new Z4. Just try not to stare.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Roadster, BMW, 2012, Z4, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: BMW

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