Automotive

Review: 2019 BMW Z4 returns as one of the best driver’s cars so far

Review: 2019 BMW Z4 returns as...
Few things make a middle-aged guy in cargo shorts (like the author) happier than a red convertible
Few things make a middle-aged guy in cargo shorts (like the author) happier than a red convertible
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The surprise in the 2019 BMW Z4 is in the daily ergonomics
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The surprise in the 2019 BMW Z4 is in the daily ergonomics
There will be a six-cylinder Z4 in the 2020 model year
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There will be a six-cylinder Z4 in the 2020 model year
Driving the Z4, one never feels underwhelmed by the little two liter turbo
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Driving the Z4, one never feels underwhelmed by the little two liter turbo
The BMW Z4 one of the only convertibles we’ve driven that has a pass-through from the trunk to the front cabin
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The BMW Z4 one of the only convertibles we’ve driven that has a pass-through from the trunk to the front cabin
The Z4 is remarkably smooth, agile, and engaging – without being overwhelming or impractical to the point of uselessness
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The Z4 is remarkably smooth, agile, and engaging – without being overwhelming or impractical to the point of uselessness
This BMW lives up to the "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline BMW promotes
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This BMW lives up to the "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline BMW promotes
Few things make a middle-aged guy in cargo shorts (like the author) happier than a red convertible
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Few things make a middle-aged guy in cargo shorts (like the author) happier than a red convertible
The greatness of the 2019 Z4  is not really in its comfort or practicality, which are unusual but great additions to the core
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The greatness of the 2019 Z4  is not really in its comfort or practicality, which are unusual but great additions to the core
Few things can compete with a well-made convertible in the summertime on an open road
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Few things can compete with a well-made convertible in the summertime on an open road
The soft top retracts into a space directly behind the seats, folding flat into a space ahead of and above the deck lid
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The soft top retracts into a space directly behind the seats, folding flat into a space ahead of and above the deck lid
A big upside to the Z4 is its large trunk, which can easily hold three or more carry-on bags
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A big upside to the Z4 is its large trunk, which can easily hold three or more carry-on bags
Ergonomic touches in the 2019 Z4 include things like the drink holders, allowing the driver's side arm rest to close on the center bin
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Ergonomic touches in the 2019 Z4 include things like the drink holders, allowing the driver's side arm rest to close on the center bin
The 2019 BMW Z4 30i has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 255 horsepower (190 kW)
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The 2019 BMW Z4 30i has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 255 horsepower (190 kW)
It was disappointing to find out that no manual transmission is available for the Z4, but the eight-speed automatic is very well-tuned
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It was disappointing to find out that no manual transmission is available for the Z4, but the eight-speed automatic is very well-tuned
Part of the great appeal of the 2019 Z4 is in its accommodating seats, the smartly-designed cabin with well-placed details, and an unusually quiet ride for a convertible
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Part of the great appeal of the 2019 Z4 is in its accommodating seats, the smartly-designed cabin with well-placed details, and an unusually quiet ride for a convertible
Seating in the BMW Z4 is very adjustable, which puts it above many of the drop-tops in this segment
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Seating in the BMW Z4 is very adjustable, which puts it above many of the drop-tops in this segment
Being a driver's car, the cabin in the 2019 BMW Z4 is very driver-centric
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Being a driver's car, the cabin in the 2019 BMW Z4 is very driver-centric
Closest to the Z4 is the Toyota Supra, which shares its platform, but doesn’t enter the market until 2020 and will not likely be quite as luxurious
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Closest to the Z4 is the Toyota Supra, which shares its platform, but doesn’t enter the market until 2020 and will not likely be quite as luxurious

Three years ago, the BMW Z4 was discontinued and we feared the fun little driver's car would never return. Luckily, we aren't good at predictions, and BWM brought back the Z4 as an all-new design. It's little, it's a drop-top, and it's still fun to drive. Now it's also comfortable.

Everyone can agree that driving along in a convertible sports car is fun on a level not matched by anything else – perhaps more so for middle-aged guys in cargo shorts and sandals. When that convertible is not much of a convenience sacrifice, life is even better.

When the 2019 BMW Z4 sDrive 30i came to our driveway, the surprise came in the daily ergonomics of this little car. It's powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 255 horsepower (190 kW). It was disappointing to find out that no manual transmission is available for the Z4, but the eight-speed automatic is very well-tuned and allows full driver control of gearing when asked.

Few things can compete with a well-made convertible in the summertime on an open road
Few things can compete with a well-made convertible in the summertime on an open road

There will be a six-cylinder Z4 in the 2020 model year, which some may believe to be a better option. The 382-horsepower (285 kW) turbo-six will certainly add a lot more oomph to the little Bimmer, but it's worth questioning whether that will be over-juicing what is already a very well-balanced athlete. Driving the Z4, one never feels underwhelmed by the little two liter turbo.

Part of the great appeal of the 2019 Z4 is its accommodating seats, the smartly-designed cabin with well-placed details, and an unusually quiet ride for a convertible. One point of conflict, though, is in the infotainment. BMW's iDrive system is fairly well-done, for a luxury make, but there is no Android Auto option at all, and the Apple CarPlay option requires a subscription. This means doing many things the hard way, which results in not doing most things at all and leaving the crisp screen mostly idle.

A big upside to the Z4, though, is its large trunk, which can easily hold three or more carry-on bags (even with the top down). That's more on par with a midsize sedan than it is with a tiny drop-top sports car. The trunk space comes courtesy of the way the roof folds when it's stowed.

The soft top retracts into a space directly behind the seats, folding flat into a space ahead of and above the deck lid, allowing the trunk to extend underneath and through. This feature makes the BMW Z4 one of the only convertibles we've driven that has a pass-through from the trunk to the front cabin. Interestingly, the pass-through space is deep, since it also passes between the rollover pillars behind the headrests.

So from the Z4's seats, the double doors of the passthrough create a sort of extra storage box between the seats. That's over and above the space between and behind the seats, which themselves have space to slide forward and back as well as tilt. It's that allowance for adjustment that makes the 2019 BMW Z4 so comfortable compared to other two-seat coupes and convertibles.

It was disappointing to find out that no manual transmission is available for the Z4, but the eight-speed automatic is very well-tuned
It was disappointing to find out that no manual transmission is available for the Z4, but the eight-speed automatic is very well-tuned

Not that there are many others to compare the Z4 to. The realm of two-seat, luxury convertibles is slim nowadays, but closest to this Bimmer are the Porsche 718 Boxster and the Audi TT Roadster. The Porsche is far more expensive than is the Z4, and the Audi is a bit lower in price, with the BMW fitting just between in terms of both price and performance. Closest to the Z4 is the Toyota Supra, which shares its platform, but doesn't enter the market until 2020 and will not likely be quite as luxurious.

The greatness of the 2019 Z4, however, is not really in its comfort or practicality. The core of the Z4 is in its drive quality. This BMW lives up to the "Ultimate Driving Machine" tagline BMW promotes. It is, if not the ultimate in driving machines, at least in the top three picks for them. The Z4 is remarkably smooth, agile, and engaging – without being overwhelming or impractical to the point of uselessness.

A close comparison, in terms of engagement on the road, would be to another driver's car, the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which we drove not too long ago. That car drives very well and feels really good on the road, yet it's not nearly as smooth or casually engaging as is the Z4. It's fun (and cheaper) clearly, but it's also a lot less refined. Where the Mazda jangles and bounces to get its feel to the driver, the BMW hones and smooths for more precision.

Few things can compete with a well-made convertible in the summertime on an open road. In that regard, few options on today's market can compare to the BMW Z4 for the sheer joy it brings in that scenario. Add in its incredible usefulness as an everyday car, and this might be the best driver's car yet.

Pricing for the 2019 BMW Z4 starts at US$49,700 plus delivery. With options, our test model rang in at $63,845, delivered.

Product Page: 2019 BMW Z4

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