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Review: 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive35is

Sunday October 6th, 2013 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: “is” is German For Mega-Mover, Trick Folding Hardtop
Gripes: Tiny Rear Windows Don’t Auto-Erect When Top Is Raised

Bob Lutz, the storied car executive who helped remake Chrysler and GM, originally worked at BMW. Back in 1970, BMW wanted to change the way they named vehicles. Instead of the incredibly complicated system proposed by his boss, Lutz and his staff came up with the simplified “3 Series/5 Series/7 Series” nomenclature that survives to this day. Unfortunately, that clarity seems to have deserted BMW in the case of this fine sports roadster.

What we have here is the 4th iteration of BMW’s 2 seat sports car, hence Z4. So far, so good, but the appended “sDrive35is” muddies that clarity. Rear-wheel-drive BMW’s fitted with sporting accoutrements like special seats and aerokit styling qualify for “sDrive” status. Although you might assume that the “35is” designation describes a 3.5 liter motor, what you in fact get here is a 3.0 liter inline 6, with sport calibrated fuel injection (hence,“is” for injected sport). But the “is” tag doesn’t tell you that this Bimmer is also twin turbocharged. Time to bring back Bob Lutz.

Nameplate mysteries aside, this is one great sports car, built in Regensburg, Germany with traditional Bavarian craftsmanship. The cockpit is tight but accommodating. Flip-out door pockets and a narrow fenced shelf behind the seats ease oddment storage. In order to retain drink bottles between the seats, you need to flip up the lid of the shallow central storage bin, which is a bit inconvenient. The power sports seats, upholstered in glove soft, fancifully named “Canberra Beige Kansas Leather,” will treat you with the adulation you expect from your Barcalounger. Although the chunky “M” emblazoned steering wheel is equipped with sizeable paddle shifts, it lacks the nice perforated leather hand grips that distinguish “M” wheels in the X1 and X3. Still, there’s no mistaking the stripped purposefulness of this Z4’s décor. Simulated silver carbon surfaces on the dash face and door panels relieve the tedium of the matte black plastic dash top.

The interior’s sporting promise is signed, sealed and delivered by the Z4’s exceptional performance envelope. The keystone element is the seamless torque curve of the twin turbo 6, which maximizes intelligent intake and exhaust valve behavior through steplessly variable timing called “Double-VANOS.” Remember that “is” designator? In “is” trim, output of BMW’s 3.0 liter turbo 6 jumps from 300hp to 335hp, while torque peaks at 332 lb.-ft. (versus 300 lb.-ft. for the base 6). Coupled to a standard 7-speed double-clutch transmission, the traditional BMW straight 6 is never lacking for an appropriate gear ratio. You can leave the transmission in “D” range and forget about swapping cogs while the gearbox does all your work for you. On a 40 mile jaunt from Mill Valley to Point Reyes Station, I did just that, and found tackling the challenging road to be much more relaxing than if I had manually selected gears for each curve. Premium grade Bridgestone RE 050A tires (225/35R19 front, 255/30R19 rear) mounted on optional twin spoke alloys (a bargain at $1,200) made negotiating the twisties even more pleasurable. Of course, if you do choose to play racer, then the paddle shifters will make your trip even more swift and precise.

You can drop or erect the folding hardtop roof of the Z4 at speeds up to 35mph. This bit of latitude makes feasible open air motoring at the drop of a hat. And wind protection inside the seat-heated cabin is so good you won’t even need that hat. For complete mummification, BMW even provides a trunk-stored windblocker to snap into place behind your head. The trunk itself is reasonably large when the hardtop is up, but shrinks to a tiny slot-accessed bin when you drop the roof. If you pack according to the constraints of this tiny bin, you’ll never be caught out by storage woes on an overnight trip.

The Z4 iDrive35is is an attractive package. Visually, it’s flame-surfaced looks are appealingly different from anything else on the road. Its engine, gearbox, and suspension uphold the premise of those good looks. If you can stay away from the extensive, expensive option list, the Z4’s base price of $64,200 is more than reasonable for such a Bavarian built bomber.

2013 BMW Z4 sDrive35is

  • Engine: 3.0 Liter Inline 6, twin turbocharged Double-VANOShp
  • Horsepower: 335 hp
  • Torque: 332 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 17 MPG City/24 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $69,745
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is Review – The perfect solo getaway car

Thursday August 26th, 2010 at 12:88 PM
Posted by: berrichondanny

By Danny Chang

Pros

  • Awesome acceleration in Sport+ mode
  • Lenient traction control that allows a little cornering fun
  • Retractable drop top cool factor
  • No room for baby

Cons

  • Tight luggage room with top down
  • Improved styling still lacking in some ways
  • Marathon name – takes forever to say but you want to make sure everyone knows it’s not just the pedestrian Z4 sDrive30i because you spent $15k more

I have come to expect family-friendly test cars from my editor lately now that I have a baby and diaper changing has become a fact of life, so when the Z4 sDrive35is (Warning: I will make every effort to call the car by its full name throughout this review, BMW Marketing guys would be proud) showed up instead of the BMW 550is Gran Turismo, I was, shall we say, pleasantly surprised. It was most unfortunate that the two-seater is not so useful in carrying the entire family around, so our weekend plans of driving the wife, the baby, and the mother-in –law around town visiting other parents with babies and mother-in-laws had to be postponed. Bummer, I was so looking forward to it too. But hey, duty calls, I must test drive the Bimmer this weekend. “What, hon? Oh no, the baby seat can’t go in the front seat, so you will have to drive the baby separately in your Passat. And yeah, the trunk is useless on the Z4, so I won’t be able to pick up milk on the way home either. You want me to do what? I’m sorry, hon, I can’t hear you with the top down, there’s too much wind noise, I’ll have to call you back later.”

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First Impressions Review: 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is

Thursday July 15th, 2010 at 3:77 PM
Posted by: Derek

2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is

Things That Make You Smile:

  • Sling-shot performance and slot-car handling without the go-kart suspension
  • Beautifully balanced proportions and elegant design silhouette
  • Retractable hardtop insulates you from the elements and road noise better than a ragtop
  • Intelligent dual-clutch automatic is fast and silky smooth
  • The new interior is more visually pleasing, and includes a slew of comfort and usability improvements

Things That Turn Your Smile Up-side Down:

  • Melbourne Red paint attracts more attention than Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco spotting the General Lee
  • I know it’s a roadster, but where do I put my golf clubs?

Bada bing, bada boom! Last year we drove the 2010 Z4 sDrive35i powered by BMW’s silky-smooth turbocharged, inline-6 engine and a double-clutch transmission that can change gears faster than Quick-Draw McGraw on speed. Performance was impressive, handling was sharp as a razor, and driving dynamics were more engaging than Betty Davis’ eyes. This year BMW has added a new range-topping Z4, one with a massaged engine that produces 335 hp and a load of M Sport touches. Not that the Z4 needed any more power, but we were surprised the company didn’t call it a Z4 M.

The 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35is wants to play with the big boys and take its place next to the Audi TT-RS, Mercedes-Benz SLK and Porsche Boxster S/Cayman S. BMW has given the 3.0L engine better intake breathing and higher boost pressure for a new output of 335 hp at 5900 rpm and 332 lb-ft from 1500 rpm, with overboost providing quick bursts of 369 lb-ft. A specifically tuned exhaust system provides a deep rumble with a focus on the low-frequency sound range.

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2010 BMW Z4 sDrive35i Review – Roadster 2.0

Friday March 12th, 2010 at 8:33 AM
Posted by: Kurt Gensheimer

By Kurt Gensheimer

Blings:

  • 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

Dings:

  • 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.

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New BMW Z4 Roadster showing at 2009 NAIAS

Monday December 15th, 2008 at 6:1212 AM
Posted by: goofshow

2009 BMW Z4

In the beginning there was the BMW Z4 Coupe. From its automotive loins has spawned its successor: the BMW Z4 Roadster. With a big, fancy coming out party scheduled on January 11th at the 2009 North American International Auto Show, the vehicle’s mantra, “More power, more efficiency, and more comfort.“ (As opposed to BMW’s second mantra choice, “Less power, less efficiency, and less comfort.“)

(more photos of the new Z4 after the jump)

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2008 BMW Z4 Roadster 3.0si Review – The Perfect Second Car

Tuesday September 2nd, 2008 at 7:99 AM
Posted by: AKramer

Review by Alex Kramer | Photos by Derek Mau

Pros:

  • Potent 6-cylinder engine
  • Superb Steptronic transmission
  • Phenomenal handling precision
  • Easy to use automatic convertible top
  • Fantastic premium audio system

Cons:

  • Harsh ride quality
  • Hard to use Navigation system
  • Seats could use a bit more cush
  • Love it or hate it exterior design

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