2020 BMW Z4 M40i

Even Toyota agrees- this is a very good car

Words by: Adam Allen

What does Toyota have to do with BMW’s revived roadster?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Toyota has brought its Supra flagship sports car back after a 20-year nap. That’s a Big Deal for Toyota who usually concern themselves with eking out a few MPG from their hybrid drivetrains or cooking up another SUV variant for their swelling lineup. This is not a company who lacks the resources to develop a world class sports car, and yet they partnered with BMW to form the basis of the Supra. The Supra and Z4 share engines, transmissions, suspension and various electronic and other random bits. So yeah, if one of the world’s largest automakers gives their thumb up to the donor platform you know it’s gotta be good.

This car will look great cruising slowly through the streets of Yorkville.

It will, because the styling is a home run. Just look at it- it’s snub nosed and compact but also pleasingly wide, and it matters not if the top is up or stowed away. This is a car that will easily turn heads. And while you could putter around at walking speeds basking in the attention of nearby pedestrians and motorists, that would be doing the Z4 a huge disservice. The last generation- the one with the folding hardtop- was more suited to meandering along than dissecting your favourite bit of tarmac. Not this one, though. This Z4 is made to satiate the thirst for driving purity in all of us.

So you prefer the soft top to the folding hardtop?

The Z4 team are big fans of the Carpages Garage- and why wouldn’t they be- because they were clearly attuned to our feedback and thus have given the current Z4 a power soft top. The last time we had a Z4 in our midst, we praised the low noise levels and four-season capability of the folding power hardtop but wished it didn’t weigh so much, and that the weight wouldn’t be concentrated in an area that hurts the centre of gravity. No one is going to miss it, because not only is the new Z4 agreeably quiet when the roof is up but it can also be operated in about 10 seconds while you’re on the move, at speeds up to 50 km/h. Don’t forget about an excellent by-product of the cloth top either- the weight savings it offers while lowering the aforementioned centre of gravity. Another plus: there’s more trunk space.

And that soft top opens to an all-new interior- pretty nice in there, isn’t it?

It’s very nice- rich Vernasca Leather finished in a Cognac hue, all the latest BMW switchgear and a sonically accomplished Harmon Kardon stereo are all present and accounted for. You’d expect a roadster in this price bracket to be outfitted with luxury kit. What surprised us was not the level of standard and optional equipment, but how BMW managed to make a compact two-seater feel airy once buckled in, and that’s even with the top up. BMW’s excellent sport seats providing reassuring lateral support with simultaneous all-day comfort. There’s also a bevy of cubbies and storage nooks- small, yes, but you don’t get that kind of space for life’s detritus in a Porsche Boxster that you do in the Z4. That we mentioned the Z4 in the same sentence as a Porsche is a telling statement: this vintage of Z4 can hang with one of the best sports cars on the planet, never mind providing a donor platform to one of the most anticipated ones over the last 20 years.

OK, this is getting exciting. Tell us how it drives already!

Our M40i tester was a very recent arrival in BMW’s fleet, with the four-cylinder model holding court for first few months of the car landing in the Canadian market. While we have not driven the four banger, we’ve heard from our colleagues who have that it’s good. Know what makes a good car even better? Why, more power of course! And when that power is as smooth and luscious as the finest custard you’ve ever had, all the better. The B58 churns out its typical blend of turbine-esque, broad shouldered power (likely making more than its spec sheet suggests) which is effortlessly able to punt this roadster around with authority and abbreviate the distances of your favourite straightaways in short order. ZF supplies the gearbox, and its 8 cogs are selected with the crispness of an autumn morning, banging home gears with reckless abandon in Sport Plus mode. The other clever bit in the drivetrain is BMW’s M Sport differential which is never more than 150 milliseconds from going to full lock and allows you to just enjoy the Z4 while it expertly divvies up the power to the wheel with the most grip. It’s hard to describe the feeling of driving the Z4 M40i without relying on some very tired automotive clichés, but we’re going to do it anyway- it becomes am extension of your nervous system, responding to inputs exactly how you want. It helps that it boasts perfect 50/50 weight distribution and what is said to be the stiffest convertible platform ever offered from BMW. On a recent warm summer evening, with the wind in our hair and the smell of fresh cut grass in our nostrils while Mother Nature provided a glorious sunset in the background it became nigh on impossible to wipe a wide, satisfied grin off our faces.

What might go wrong?

Like most of us, the Z4 M40i’s curb weight could benefit from a strict diet. Its magnificent engine works wonders on making you forget about all that weight you’re piloting around, but every once is awhile you become aware of the heft. Here’s hoping you like engine noise broadcasted through the speakers, because while a lot of cars today do the same thing, we can’t remember being so surprised as we were after first acclimating ourselves with the Z4- it might just be our ears, but it seems blatantly obvious, and loud. Lastly- how does this car not have a manual? Yes, we know the take rates continue to plunge with DIY transmissions but this thing practically begs for one. It needs one.

Should I buy a Z4 M40i?

For those of you who’ve complained that BMW refuses to build a toothsome roadster, well, you need to check out the Z4. Yes, it’s missing a manual gearbox. It is a fortunate thing that the ZF 8-speed auto is so accomplished, but if someone wants to crowd fund a first class ticket for us to head to Germany and look the engineers in the eye to demand the availability of a manual, that is a duty we will solemnly accept. Perhaps the biggest reason to lure you into a BMW dealer is the huge range of capability this car offers. Want to soothe those jangled nerves after a long day at the salt mines? Throw it in Comfort Mode, and a serene, comfortable commute is yours. Do you feel all fired up watching old Touring car races on YouTube and want to crank the knobs to 11 on your favourite back road? Sport Plus has you covered. It really doesn’t matter what you’re in the mood for because when properly setup the Z4 M40i delivers. It’s perhaps that reason which should compel you the most to look into putting one in your driveway.

2020 BMW Z4 M40i- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $84,895
  • Body Type: 2-door Convertible
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/rear-wheel drive
  • Engine:  3.0-litre inline-6 turbo, DOHC, 24 valves
  • Horsepower: 382 @ 5,500 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 369 @ 1,520 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,562 kg (3,443 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Economy: 11.7/100km (20mpg)