Comfortable and stylish, the 2020 BMW Z4 M40i might not be a pure sports car, but it’s an excellent open-top tourer, and that’s OK. Those looking for a more focussed performance experience will want to keep shopping, while the rest of the fun-in-the-sun roadster crowd should find plenty to love about the mightiest Z4.
Unlike the polarizing blobs and cuts of the Z4’s platform sister, the Toyota Supra, BMW has afforded its roadster a much more pleasing mix of traditional and modern sheet-metal cues. In fact, to my eyes it’s the most satisfying BMW roadster of the modern era (don’t @ me, Z8 lovers), thanks to well-judged proportions, a minimum of extraneous plastic, and a fender cut that works well in conjunction with the Z4’s door scallop. The car attracted significant attention out on the road, with some drivers even pulling up specifically to comment on and ask questions about the car – no doubt attracted in some part by its optional blue metallic paint.
Once you’ve stepped into the M40i trim level, BMW doesn’t punish your wallet by making its advanced safety equipment à la carte. There’s a fair amount of gear standard with the car, including a forward collision warning system that avoids the over-sensitivity that can plague such setups, as well as automatic braking and an equally subtle lane-departure warning feature. My tester also came with adaptive cruise control (as part of the Driving Assistance Package), as well as parking sensors and a head-up display.
Rating the usefulness of a two-seat roadster is roughly equivalent to evaluating how dry one can stay on a new set of water skis. That being said, even a pair of weekend getaway-seekers will want to bring a change of underwear with them, and in this area the BMW Z4 satisfies with sufficient trunk space for a set of overnight bags (and a centre pass-through for the aforementioned tow-behind toothpicks). Groceries are an easy fit, too, as long as your sacks aren’t too tall, and there’s reasonable room in the cabin for stowing phones, cameras, and even coats and jackets behind the seats.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Everything inside the BMW Z4’s cockpit is a direct port from the brand’s standard playbook. This means a rotary controller for the iDrive infotainment screen (which also responds to touch), an LCD gauge cluster, and power adjustments for the seats (but not the steering wheel). It’s intuitive, it’s familiar, and it works well enough that you’ll never think twice about using any of it while you’re out on the road.
My test vehicle was outfitted with the Premium Package, which added a number of nice-to-have, but not completely necessary features (louder stereo, interior lighting customization, wireless charging, Wi-Fi), as well as upgraded leather seats. I could have lived without those and been happy with what the Z4 M40i already had on offer, which is a good space to be in for BMW when going up against the similarly priced Porsche Boxster and its seemingly endless list of extra-cost options.
BMW has long mastered the art of squeezing out the smoothest of powerbands from straight-six turbocharged engines, and the M40i is the latest in an impressive run of cars that are imperceptibly quick. There are 381 horses lurking under the hood of the Z4, but the 3.0-litre engine doesn’t explode out of the gate so much as press forward, in a constant and steady movement by way of its standard eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s an unusual experience that’s no doubt tied in to the weight of the roadster – nearly a Ford Mustang GT on the scales, but in a smaller package – but as a cruiser that can dart in and out of traffic at will, I was pleased to not have to mitigate wheel spin at nearly every throttle application as in other beefy sports cars.
Even with the pop-in wind deflector removed from between the rear rollover bars (where it interferes with sightlines while reversing), the cabin of the Z4 remains conversation-friendly at highway speeds. Roll the windows up and you’ll have no issues enjoying both the sun and the bon mots of your travelling companion. The optional leather buckets were supportive enough to encourage spirited driving, without asking you to sacrifice your tailbone by the end of the day, and there’s a surprising amount of legroom available on both sides of the vehicle.
Driving Feel: 8/10
That weight I mentioned earlier? The BMW Z4 has been engineered to erase as much of it from its handling envelope by way of its 275/35/R19 rear and 255/35/R19 front tires, as well as a stability control program that maintains neutrality right up until the last minute, when it swiftly counteracts any tail-waggle. Featuring the stiffest open-air chassis ever developed by the automaker, the M40i is fun to drive without being razor-focussed, putting a step above the previous-generation Z while at the same time delivering the kind of daily friendly, road-trip-worthy comfort most roadster buyers are expecting from a BMW.
Fuel Economy: 8/10
Canadian fuel efficiency figures have yet to be released for the BMW Z4 M40i, and my heavy foot during our week together isn’t an accurate representation of what most owners will see. American EPA estimates of 9.0 L/100 km combined (9.8/7.6 city/highway), however, suggest a relatively conservative thirst for premium fuel – when operated with a relatively conservative application of the gas pedal.
It’s hard to quantify where the Z4 sits on the value spectrum of European drop-tops. Those who need a back seat will no doubt look to BMW’s own 2 Series convertible instead, which is nearly $20K cheaper. Seen against rivals like the Jaguar F-Type, the Porsche 718 Boxster, and the Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class, however, and the top-flight M40i represents a good mix of features and performance for the money.
If you’re looking to spend more than $80,000 on a two-seater and don’t mind blunter performance than what you would receive from a cut-throat sports car, then the 2020 BMW M40i roadster is a comfortable, stylish, and – most importantly – fun choice.
|Peak Horsepower||381 hp @ 6,600 rpm|
|Peak Torque||368 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||9.8/7.6/9.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (US EPA)|
|Cargo Space||281 L|
|Model Tested||2020 BMW Z4 M40i|
|Price as Tested||$87,240|
$8,795 – Premium Package (ambient lighting, parking assistance, head-up display, Harman/Kardon sound system, wireless charging, Wi-Fi hotspot) $4,000; Driver Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, additional parking assistance) $1,650; Vernasca leather $1,500; Metallic paint $895; 19-inch M Light alloy wheels $500; High gloss black kidney grille $250 A/C Tax