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2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i Hardtop Roadster Review & Test Drive

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This new BMW Z4 is the brand’s first retractable hardtop convertible and is the successor to both the Z4 roadster and Z4 coupe.  At the touch of a button, and in less than 20 seconds, the new Z4 goes from stunning coupe to stunning roadster, giving the car a low-slung rear-end design reflecting the traditional proportions of a roadster as well as a large luggage compartment ranging in capacity from 6.3 to 10.9cu.ft.  The two-piece electrohydraulically retractable top is fabricated from lightweight aluminum shell construction.  The high quality interior lining is finished in an extra-light color as well as hand-cut and sewn leather, large windows, including the heated glass window at the rear; all to ensure an exclusive look and optimized all-around visibility.  This is the perfect two-seat roadster for all four seasons.

The new Z4 exhibits an extra-long front lid, large wheel arches, a long wheelbase and small front and rear overhangs.  The unmistakable look of the car shows with a low-slung front end with a chin spoiler, a striking shoulder line, and the rear end accentuating the sheer width of the car.  The engine compartment lid extends beyond the wheel arches, the large BMW signature kidney grille up front, with Xenon adaptive headlights, intake gills at the side, black A-pillars, the contoured roof, LED rear lights and wide dual exhaust tips   set characteristic highlights.


For such a small two-seat vehicle, I was surprised at 6ft. 3in. at how much room was made available inside for driving comfort and the feeling of space that is quite unique in the growing two-seat, hardtop roadster segment.  Head and elbow room as well as the degree of comfort in entering the car have been significantly enhanced over the former Z4 models.

Extra storage inside include a wide storage crosswise compartment behind the seats.  The optional storage package and through-loading including a transport bag for bulky items of luggage such as skis or a golf bag ensure even greater variability.


The low seating position near the rear axle guarantees the driving experience typical of a BMW roadster.  High-quality materials like the Ivory White Nappa leather, 12-way power-adjustable sport bucket seats, easy to use controls, first-class quality of finish with anthracite wood trim, and the driver-oriented design of both the instrument panel and the center console, make for an emotional driving experience in a particularly refined ambience as only BMW can do.

Optional in the Z4 hardtop roadster is the BMW iDrive control system.  In conjunction with the optional BMW navigation system the new generation of BMW iDrive comprises an ergonomically optimized Controller for the selection and control of functions by tuning, pressing and tipping the Controller, function buttons on the Controller for direct menu entry, freely programmable favorite buttons for even easier operation, as well as a folding 8.8 inch color display with high-resolution graphic presentation and an optimized menu structure.  The enhanced navigation system has an even wider range of functions in entering destinations, planning trips and presenting maps.  An optional audio system comes with a hard disc memory.  My test Z4 didn’t come with this option but the manual set buttons and aluminum climate control dials were easy to operate.


I’m not a real fan of the new high-tech controllers found in BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz as you have to take your eyes off the road to correctly use and find your chosen setting.  The manual set buttons and switches are more ‘hands-on’ and safer when driving the ultimate driving machine at high speed.

The real thrill of the new BMW Z4 hardtop roadster lies beneath the sheet metal as BMW offers three straight-six powerplants to choose ranging from 204hp to 306hp.  All versions offer an optimum combination of acceleration and fuel economy in their respective class.  BMW Efficient Dynamics are featured as standard with specific highlights tailored to each model: variable VALVETRONIC valve management or, respectively, High Precision Injection direct gas injection technology, Brake Energy Regeneration, on-demand management of the map-controlled oil pump, gearshift point indicator, all-aluminum or, respectively, composite magnesium/aluminum crankcase, optimized aerodynamics, intelligent lightweight technology, and all tires with reduced roll resistance.


My test Z4 came with the powerful 3.0 liter dual overhead cam, 24-valve inline turbocharged engine with Direct Injection and Double-VANOS steplessly variable valve timing that makes 306hp at 5,800rpm and 295lb.ft. of torque at 1,300-5,000rpm.  This enables my Z4 to accelerate from a standstill to 60mph in just 5.2 sec.  Power delivery is smooth, consistent, and quiet up front, but with a sporty, growling exhaust note out the rear when you press the pedal to the metal.

Two transmissions are available in the new Z4 hardtop roadster-a close-ratio, smooth shifting, 6-speed manual gearbox that I found exciting to use, and a seven-speed sport automatic with double clutch as an option on the sDrive35i model.  Shifting gears without the slightest interruption of traction, this transmission provides a unique combination of the extra comfort of a BMW automatic transmission with maximum dynamism and performance.  Acceleration and fuel economy are slightly better than the 6-speed manual.  A six-speed sports automatic with optimized gearshift dynamics, direct connection to the engine and minimized converter slip are optional on the BMW Z4 sDrive30i and BMW Z4 sDrive23i models.  All sports automatic transmissions come with gearshift paddles on the tilt/telescoping, 3-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel that feels perfect in your hands.


Also excellent is the Z4’s fully independent suspension system that features an aluminum double-joint tiebar strut axle, displaced castor, small positive steering roll radius, with compensation of lateral forces and anti-dive posture up front, and a central-arm axle with aluminum upper transverse links, separate coil springs and dampers, and anti-squat and anti-dive elements in the rear.

The rear wheel drive Z4 front end bites hard into the turns thanks to a strut tower brace in the engine bay that stiffens the front and gives immediate response to your steering wheel inputs.  With the sturdy strut tower brace in place there was no cowl shake when driving over bumpy road surfaces.

All Z4 hardtop roadsters come with the latest generation of BMW’s Dynamic Drive Control that allows you to set up the car in three stages at the touch of a button.  Dynamic Drive Control acts on the gas pedal control map, engine management, Dynamic Stability Control response, the power steering control map, the dynamic gearshift on the optional sports automatic transmission and on cars fitted with the optional, Adaptive M Suspension, the control map for the electronic damper adjustment.


My Z4 hardtop roadster came equipped with the sport package that features the Adaptive M Suspension providing even more precise, quick-reacting handling thanks to the control map for electronic damper adjustment.  You can set it for comfort or sport.  Just set it for how you want the car to react to your inputs, and depending on how well the road surface is on your trip as the adjustable dampers soak up the bumps on poorly paved roads.  Driving at triple-digit speeds the car was solid and responsive.  When I drove the Z4 in the mountains challenging steep curving roads, it stayed on track like it was on rails.  The vehicle-speed-sensitive, electromechanical SEVOTRONIC power rack & pinion steering system was a perfect match for the Adaptive M Suspension as it reacted quickly to my inputs at the wheel an exhibited a great feel for the road and on center.


Quickly slowing the new Z4 down from speed are unique BMW designed, four-wheel, power-assisted, steel disc brakes.  Up front are 13.9in. vented discs clamped with large, aluminum single-piston swing-calipers, while the rear brakes measure 12.8in. vented discs also clamped with aluminum single-piston swing-calipers.  These fantastic brakes are enhanced with ABS, CBC Cornering Brake Control, Dry Braking, and Brake Fading Compensation.

Also enhancing your driving control are Dynamic Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control safely keeping the Z4 on your chosen path and direction.  You can of course turn the Traction Control and Stability Control system off with the push of a console mounted button to let the rear end slip out then in with a light lifting of the throttle.

The new BMW Z4 sDrive35i rides on wheel-well stuffing,18X8.5in. light alloy aluminum wheels that are wrapped with Bridgestone 225/40R18in. front and 255/35R18in. Potenza high-performance low profile tires that enhances the grip, traction, stability and gives a compliant ride you’ll enjoy when piloting the new Z4 roadster.


Standard systems to keep you safe in the event of a collision include an extremely stiff body structure with defined load paths, specific use of high-strength steel and special deformation elements, head/thorax airbags integrated at the front and at the side in the seat backrests, three-point inertia-reel seat belts with new belt tightening technology, massively reinforced A-pillars and roll bars behind the headrests, tire pressure monitoring system, and steel beams in each door.

Standard features inside but not mentioned above of the Z4 sDrive35i include cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlight control, service interval indicator, on-board trip computer, AM-FM stereo/CD/MP3 player audio system with auxiliary audio, electronic climate control/air-filtration, power windows/door locks, power-remote side mirrors, dual map lamps and thick floor mats..  The base price for the sDrive35i model starts at $51,550.00

My test Z4 sDrive35i came with these options: deep sea blue metallic paint, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto-dimming, heated power-sideview mirrors, power front seats, lumbar support, Premium Surround Sound AM-FM-CD/MP3 Player Audio System with 7-speakers and an 8in. subwoofer, iPod and USB adapter, Adaptive M Suspension, exclusive Ivory White Nappa leather, sport seats, Servotronic power steering, multi-function, leather-wrapped, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic door open when approaching the car with push button start/stop, through-loading system, automatic A/C, and Dynamic Cruise Control.  That’s how

I would outfit my personal Z4.  This nicely loaded test Z4 sDrive35i was priced at $63,095.00 including destination chargers.

The new 2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i is a pure joy to drive top up or down.  It combines the styling, engineering, performance, sportiness, comfort and luxury, as well as one of the safest to be driving in as only BMW can deliver.  This two-seat hardtop roadster is the choice in the segment, the ultimate driving machine.



Price: MSRP $51,560 As-Tested $63,095

Type: Compact Convertible
Where Built: Germany
EPA Class: Two Seaters


Length: 166.9 in.
Width: 70.5 in.
Height: 50.8 in.
Wheel Base: 98.3 in.
Curb Weight: 3450 lbs.
Gross Weight: 4134 lbs.
Front Head Room: 39.1 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 53.3 in.
Front Leg Room: 42.2 in.
Maximum Seating: 2

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Size: 3 liters
Base Engine Type: Inline 6
Horsepower: 300 hp
Max Horsepower: 5800 rpm
Torque: 300 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 1400 rpm
Drive Type: RWD
Turning Circle: 35.1 ft.
0-60mph: 5.2 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 14.5 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Manual: 18 mpg / 25 mpg / 20 mpg
Range in Miles:
Manual: 261 mi. / 362.5 mi. / 290 mi.


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