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BMW Z4 sDrive 18i Roadster

Click to view picture gallery“BMWs iconic muscular two-seater
  Z4 Roadster line-up has a new
  addition
a range-starter 2.0-litre,
  151bhp sDrive 18i priced from
  27,610
...


TEMPTED? The engine line-up remains all-petrol
the mid-life-refreshed Z4 range still offers the 184hp 20i, 245hp 28i, 306hp 35i and the 340hp 35is. Standard across the range is BMW's award-winning EfficientDynamics technology (improves fuel economy and provides braking energy regeneration). Z4 prices top out at just under 46K.

All Z4's also make use of a six-speed manual gearbox' with power put down through the rear wheels. Customers can also order an eight-speed automatic with gear-shift paddles or, for the 35is, a seven-speed double clutch auto also with paddle-shifters.

As usual BMW offers a wide range of other extra-cost options including their multi-media navigation, adaptive M Sport suspension, adaptive headlights, cruise control, heated seats, larger 18-inch wheels and automatic AirCon.

“The latest Z4 retains
BMW’s classically
curvaceous but muscular
roadster styling: a long
bonnet with the two-
seater cabin set aft but
just ahead of the rear
driving wheels
...”
Mainstay base and M Sport derivatives continue to be available, now joined by a new special edition option called Pure Design Traction — depending on which engine and spec combo is chosen, it adds between 550 and 2,240 to the price. This styling pack has the option of Valencia Orange body colour with optional black roof; it also includes sports seats with Alcantara and leather upholstery with contrasting stitching, Anthracite headlining and a unique metal weave interior trim.

In the revamped Z4's first full year of UK sales, BMW says they expect to sell in the region of 1,700, most of them to retail customers. The new price-led 137mph 18i is expected to show a 20% take-up but, even in this specialist fashion-led muscle-sports car sector, this could be higher due to its attractive lower pricing.

The latest Z4 retains BMW's classically curvaceous but muscular roadster styling: a long bonnet with the two-seater cabin set aft but just ahead of the rear driving wheels. As before, it has a folding metal roof and — just in case — pop-up roll-over hoops.

Standard kit includes 17-inch alloys, manual AirCon, multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, DAB radio, Drive Performance control, a 'soft-close' tailgate and Xenon headlights. All but the new 18i entry-level model have leather upholstery fitted as standard.

The option most customers should go for (which adds just a dash more practical easy-to-live-with refinement) is the 1,495 Comfort Package. This includes the all-important wind deflector for less gusty top-down motoring, folding door mirrors, front and rear parking distance sensors (needed for the long bonnet and stumpy rear-end's restricted visibility), and cruise control.

The latest styling tweaks are minimal but noteworthy: LED corona rings for the signature BMW headlights; white 'eyebrow' lights; and chrome detailing and LED lights in the side vents in the upper part of the front wings. Overall the Z4's long, low, and wide muscular stance continues, leaving nobody in any doubt as to its thoroughbred roadster performance intent.

“The 151bhp 18i
powerplant is a detuned
version of the best-
selling 2.0-litre, four-
cylinder twin-turbo petrol
unit and is good for a top
speed of 137mph
...”
With 151bhp (154hp), the 18i powerplant is a detuned version of the best-selling 2.0-litre, four-cylinder twin-turbo petrol unit used to power the 20i, 184hp model. In the 18i state of tune top speed is still a more than adequate (137mph instead of 146mph). The zero to 62mph acceleration time is 7.9 seconds, just one second slower than the 20i.

The 18i manages to return the same fuel economy of 41.5mpg in the official Combined Cycle, and its CO2 emissions are also the same as the 184hp model at 159g/km. Given the minimal performance differential, the saving of 2,100 for the 18i over the 20i will be welcomed.

On paper the 18i's fuel economy looks good. In practise on the winding and hilly routes used for the media launch in Tuscany, the consumption suffered — and in view of the wet and slippery road surfaces, not through any unrealistic driving. We achieved only 26.9mpg and I cannot see it improving much on our more traffic cluttered UK roads.

Despite its drop in power and torque, the engine supplies just about enough turbo-boosted performance in terms of speed and response with its 177lb ft of torque. It's enough to be respectable and safe when overtaking slower traffic although the reduction in power and torque over the 184hp 'donor' unit is definitely noticeable; and no worries about the rear-wheel-drive roadster becoming tail-happy during hard acceleration and on damp roads. But then, for some customers, the Z4's aggressive and sporty styling and fresh-air cruising ability will appeal more than outright tyre-shredding performance.

With its 50:50 weight distribution and rear-wheel-drive the Z4 remains well balanced with taut handling and precise responses, although the energy-saving electronic power steering does not give perfect feedback to the driver. On the plus is BMW's Drive Dynamic Control — it's standard on every Z4 and allows the driver to fine tune the roadster to their preferred characteristics: Normal, Sport or Sport+. The chosen mode affects the throttle and steering responses as well as the Stability Control. These features are more than 'toys' although for most drivers leaving the settings in Normal works best most of the time.

“The metal roof lowers in
20 seconds and with
it folded away, the side
windows up, wind
deflector in place and
the heater set to hot, the
cockpit remains a
welcoming place
...”
Our test car had the larger 18-inch alloy wheel option, fitted with the run-flat tyres that are standard on all versions — the ride was firm but it wasn't uncomfortable or tiring even though the two seats are positioned just in front of the rear axle. The cockpit is, of course, sporty in design and relatively cosy but that's all part of the Z4's sporting pedigree.

Fresh-air fiends can lower the metal roof in 20 seconds and, even though it rained, we tried top-up and top-down modes. With the roof folded away, side windows up, wind deflector in place and the heater set to hot, the cockpit remains a welcoming place.

With the roof automatically 'parking' in the boot, the 310-litre load space is significantly reduced (to 180 litres) so some forethought needs to be given not only to the size of luggage to be carried but also to its shape. A handy load-through facility is optional.

Okay, the 18i lacks the performance and driving fun of the more expensive and notably more powerful Z4s (and there's limited steering feedback) but it does serve up roadster-style street-cred. On the move it delivers good handling and balance, and easily copes with its lesser-powered engine. It's also solid and well made, and the relatively low purchase price lets new-to-the-sector owners join 'club' BMW.
David Miles

BMW Z4 sDrive 18i Roadster | 27,610
Maximum speed: 137mph | 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds | Average test MPG: 26.9mpg
Power: 151bhp | Torque: 177lb ft | CO2 159g/km