The Refreshed BMW Z4: Analysis & Gallery

Dec 21 • E89 Z4 Roadster, Opinion12 Comments

The Z4 has always been a favorite of our at BF. And yet it ‘s also been a bit of a disappointment. The look of the thing, inside and out, is nothing less than stunning from many angles. The proportions and the stance are simply bang on for a modern front engined rear wheel drive roadster. Yet not everything is perfect. While the car can be rewarding and fun to drive, there ‘s a lack of connection that the total package promises with it ‘s look and layout. In short it lacks the very thing that should have defined it.

The main culprit is the steering which lacks the last 10-15% of feel and connection you ‘d expect in a two door sporty BMW. Yet BMW has solved this issue in one very special model – the 35is. In many ways the “is ” fortold the formula that the M135i has made so successful. Liberate the engine, tweak the suspension and give it some M inspired styling. But crucially M also dialed back in some feel and subsequently further connection to the driving experience. But the reall crazy thing is that the latter was done entirely with software.

 When we heard that the refresh was coming we were of course hoping that this software would find it ‘s way onto the entire range of the Z4s. It would go a long way in solving the one glaring issue with the car. At this time we simply don ‘t know if that ‘s happened. But we do know there ‘s not a single mention of anything of the like in any of the press releases we ‘ve seen thus far.

Of course that doesn ‘t make the 35is model any less desirable. Equipped with a version of the N54 that shares most its mechanicals with the 1M, the 35is can get out of its own way just fine. In our brief drive with the car a few years back we were shocked to find it faster than an E90 M3 when it came to mid-range power. And with the same 7 speed DCT, it feels like a point and shoot weapon more than a boulevard cruiser that the standard Z4 is. Really the only issues we had with the 35is came down to it still being equipped with the push/pull paddle system found on BMWs of the time. Thankfully that has since been updated.

In all the equation that make up the 35is are more than a little familiar. Finished in Valencia orange with the orange stitched interior and a potent N54 under the hood you ‘d be forgiven for considering the 35is a not too distant cousin of the 1M. Albeit with a DCT and a convertible top.

What of the rumor that the 35is was to be re-branded the MZ435i? Clearly that didn ‘t happen and we ‘re as confused as you are about it. It would have especially made sense with the proliferation of the M Line upon us and all the marketing that will surely be going into it over the next few years. But we expect BMW has their reasoning. They may be holding out for the M235i to be the first official M Line car available in the US. Maybe making a big splash with what will likely be a higher volume car makes more sense.

Either way the Z4 35is still look like one of the unsung heros of the BMW line-up. And now it looks just a little bit better.

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  • les

    I test drove a Z4 30i once, and the steering didn’t feel much different than my E90 328i. It was slightly different, but not something that would have keep me from owning a Z4. To compare, my wife drives a VW Beetle which lacks everything. Get behind the wheel of a Beetle, then step into the Z4, and you’ll never complain about being disconnected again.

    Any idea how much a base 2 series with the N20 would cost?

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      The E89 Z4 has never come in 30i guise so you may be referring to the past generation with what could be the most feel ever dialed into a non-M product.

      The current setup lacks feel outside the IS model. The 2 series will probably be 4-5% more than the current 128i depending on how BMWNA decides to package the car. It should be a great driving car, with much more sport in the chassis than the current 1 coupe is- as it wasn’t originally designed to be sporty as the insane understeer is proof of. Thanks to the required DSC in basically every market the engineers now can make things much more neutral!!

  • Al

    Will the Z4 35is get a manual transmission option?

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Unfortunately no.

      • Kev50027

        That’s a shame. Do they not think there’s enough demand?

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          They know there is not enough demand. Since the DCT and 8 Speed auto have hit the market sales of manuals have decreased significantly and the Z435IS is a low volume model. The previous generation Z4M was an incredibly hard sell in a manual- even though it is probably the most engaging M model in recent memory. People that buy roadsters in general are looking for a softer cruising experience as sales have shown. Unfortunately, people that want more hard core enthusiast offerings rarely show up with their wallets open… there are exceptions but that is the unfortunate reality.

  • herr26

    The upcoming BMW 4er Coupe launches with an all new updated six cylinder engine in which will also come with an M-Performance model to distance it from the M135i/M235i. This will be a tweaked version of the new engine which will sit under the M3/M4 Coupe. The Z4 is also earmarked for this. With the larger SAV and Upcoming X4 Activity Coupe receiving a detuned diesel X4M40d. The 4er Coupe is however the first model to receive this engine as the BMW 440i. Two new Diesel M Performance vehicles are expected to be launched at Geneva in March. The current Tri-Turbo engine is also going to be getting a power boost in the not-so-distant future for some models.

    • Adam

      So it sounds like the M3/4 engine is not a modified existing unit but an all new one then?

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        From what I had heard last spring it is based on the N55 but is significantly changed, like how the N55 was based on the N54. The case has been beefed up on the lower end, the head is a bit different as are some of the internals. There is a post or podcast with all the details… this info came just after the electric power steering news was leaked. I will rehash it shortly.

  • Angela

    Beautiful cars and beautiful scenery can’t get better than that.

  • JRobUSC

    is the top black now on all Z4′s? Or is that an option or part of that orange package? If it’s black on all of them I am glad I got a 2011.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      That’s the optional BMW Individual hardtop – available in the two contrast colors, Jet Black and Titanium Silver metallic. Similar to what occurred with the 3 series convert (at least in other markets), just an option for those that want some extra contrast. I’d bet it will sell well in certain markets. Personally I am with you and like it better as body color. Still think the Z4 is the best looking roadster in the market within certain pricing restraints of course ! Good choice..

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