2010 BMW Z4 sDrive35i Review – Roadster 2.0

BMW Expert Reviews

By Kurt Gensheimer


  • Most attractive modern BMW roadster design yet
  • Exhilarating, more powerful twin-turbo inline 6
  • Lightning-fast shifts from the 7-speed dual clutch tranny
  • Retractable hard top delivers best of both motoring worlds


  • Too much technology for the inherent simplicity of a roadster
  • Too much weight for the inherent svelteness of a roadster
  • For the price of one Z4, you can buy both a hard and soft top Miata

Ruling: Not quite the ultimate driving machine, but most definitely the ultimate luxury and technology machine which strays from the traditional characteristics of a roadster.

Wind in your hair, bugs in your teeth, a sore back, ears that ring for days, the fiercest case of sunburn you’ve ever had, a heater with less ferocity than an asthmatic 90-year-old; these are the experiences most people associate with 2-seat roadsters. And despite what some of these may seem as uncomfortable, that’s exactly what the experience in a classic roadster is supposed to be; uncomfortable but real as a heart attack.

Think Austin-Healey, MG, Datsun 1600 and the Porsche Speedster; these are cars which helped define the uncomfortable-yet-endearing persona the 2-seat roadster. Mazda understood this concept and in 1990 released the Miata, which went on to sell more than 850,000 units, the highest-selling 2-seat roadster in history. Why was it so wildly popular? Because Mazda took the visceral road feel, light weight and deft handling of a classic 4-cylinder roadster and modernized it with more safety features, accouterments and a heater with the ferocity of an asthmatic 60-year-old.

2010 BMW Z4

Now of course the Bavarians could not take the success of Mazda without developing a roadster of their own guise. After all, BMW was one of the early pioneers of the roadster, putting their blue and white propeller badge on one of the most beautiful roadsters ever designed; the 507. The same car which inspired the über-roadster Z8 and the model we’re discussing today, the Z4.


Since it’s introduction in 1996 as BMW’s first modern roadster, the Z3 took Mazda’s formula of mixing visceral road feel with modern amenities and upscaled it with German luxury, engineering and the addition of a 6-cylinder engine – a step Mazda still has never taken. The car was reasonably attractive and sporting, and sold well. But when the Z4 was introduced in late 2002, many enthusiasts rubbed their eyes with double, triple and quadruple takes while gasping in horror.  To put it as nicely as possible, the Z4 did not inherit the awe-striking beauty of it’s forebear, the 507.

What a difference a redesign makes.

2010 BMW Z4

In its first year, the second generation Z4 already garnered the praise and respect of automotive designers around the world. Automobile Magazine awarded the Z4 2009 “Design of the Year Award” as well as earning the coveted “Red Dot Design Award”. But you don’t need trophies and accolades to know that the new Z4 is a gorgeous car; you can see that with your own two eyes, assuming they function properly.

And you can thank the two…ahem…women team for designing an interior and exterior which exudes luxury, sophistication, sportiness and above all, the visceral beauty of a roadster much like the 507. Women really do know what men like; not that women won’t buy the Z4. Quite the contrary. They’re probably more likely than ever to now buy it because it no longer resembles a horribly deformed shark dressed in sheet metal.

2010 BMW Z4 power retractable hardtop

Of course, the big news with the new Z4 is the retractable hardtop – a feature which suddenly tips the traditional notion of a 2-seat roadster on its proverbial lid. Yes, with the Z4 you can now have both the freeway serenity of a coupe coupled with the raging windstorm of a open top roadster, and you can have it in only 20 seconds – the paltry time it takes for the near silent top to retract into the trunk.

With the new Z4, the complete impracticality of a 2-seat roadster becomes ever-so slightly less impractical. Even with the top in the trunk, you can still get 6 cubic feet of storage space. Hey, it’s better than zero. And despite the maximum capacity of 11 cubic feet with top up, it’s clear BMW is trying really hard to make the Z4 appear as practical as possible, as evidenced by the ‘pass-through’ door from the trunk so one can fit golf clubs and…skis? Really? What kind of skis would these be? Skis for dwarfs?

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  • Kurt Gensheimer says:

    I should add this one too. Just came out today. An even better perspective on the dubious path of BMW:


    Kurt G.

  • Kurt Gensheimer says:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for sharing your sentiments. You’re not alone in your musings on the future of BMW. Here’s a great commentary by the masterful Peter De Lorenzo on what he sees in BMW’s future, and this guy is rarely (if ever) off the mark:


    Kurt G.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    This is what the Z4 should been on introduction a few years ago .Not that Orogami mess with such bizarre lines we got first.This a what it should have been a 1/2 price SL to give the aspirational buyer a bone.If BMW did not drive so well the company would be in trouble.Because BMW has a whole lot of ugly in there line up.Come down to it the 3 series and Z4 is about all that looks good now .The new retro looks coming up over the next 2 years from BMW are a huge mistake from the style standpoint.On my way home this evening saw a gold 2010 7 series that just spelled out Euro trash .Is BMW going to wear out it’s welcome like Toyota is doing but with the ugly stick all over it models.

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