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.