The first generation BMW Z4 Roadster (E85) is often compared favorably to the older Z3 and it is true to say that this is much more of a driver’s car. The Z4 is everything that a BMW promises to be – it is excellent to drive with ample power and precise handling. It is also well thought out and superbly engineered. The Z4 holds its own in an increasingly competitive field of performance roadsters and boasted the fastest fully automatic power hood of any convertible on the market. The only down-side is rather firm suspension which can become trying on long runs.
The styling was challenging when the Z4 was first released, dividing opinion, but the bold move paid off and the roadster sold well despite challenging competition. The snug cabin is well equipped and elegantly designed. The fabric roof folds away quickly from a single button press with no clips to undo.
This Z4 was replaced in 2009 by an all-new hardtop convertible.
Added to the range later in the car's lifespan in 2005, the 2-litre engine is lively if not all that powerful. The four-cylinder unit is lightweight which made the most of the BMW Z4's nimble handling. It also made an excellent entry point to the range with a lower price and friendly running costs.
Two different 2.5 litre engines were put into the BMW Z4. This one was the first and was available from launch. With six inline cylinders it offers the classic BMW smooth power delivery along with a lovely engine note. Performance is respectable and handling great although the added weight up-front means that steering responce isn't quite as fast as with the smaller engines.
With a brand new engine the BMW Z4 2.5si Roadster became perhaps the most appealing car in the range. The considerable increase in power meant the BMW Z4 2.5 went from pleasant roadster to one that can challenge the Porsche Boxster. Quick yet refined, particularly in SE spec, this Z4 has a great balance of performance and useablity without the constant need to refill its rather small fuel tank. Many drivers chose the Sport model over the SE, tempted by the attractive big wheels and sports suspension which make the car very firm and less planted on uneven surfaces.
With the full-blooded six cylinder engine the BMW Z4 3.0i Roadster is a serious performance car. It makes all the right noises and the figures confirm that it can challenge some very seroius machinery with much higher price tags. The Z4 has the handling to match and while it lacks the suspension and steering upgrades of the Z4M it is an easier car to live with when you are travelling rather than racing. The SE spec gives a more comfortable ride that sticks to the road so well that it makes the harder Sport seem unnecessary.