While it isn't as agile as the Porsche Boxster it is priced against, the 2016 BMW Z4 balances sportiness with comfort and a comfortable cabin.
Despite being one of the oldest models in the BMW catalog, the Z4 has aged well since its 2009 redesign. Updates have been few since 2012.
Up against rivals like the rebooted Porsche Boxster, the Z4 comes across as rather unathletic thanks to its heft and grand touring positioning. It corners with excellent stability and good balance, but it is ultimately soft for a sporting car if you're headed to a track. In town or on a quiet byway, the suspension delivers a laid back ride and an extra-cost Sport Package turns up the wick a notch or two.
Under the Z4's long hood, you'll discover the same motors and transmissions the car has had for a few years now. The base Z4 sDrive28i uses a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder; the Z4 sDrive35i gets a 300-hp, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6 engine; and the Z4 sDrive35is has an even more potent 335-hp turbocharged inline-6. Transmission options include a 6-speed stick shift and an optional 8-speed automatic on the 4-cylinder sDrive28i models, but the 6-cylinder sDrive35i and sDrive35is models can be ordered only with the 7-speed DCT.
Across all models, acceleration from a stop is pleasantly brisk, with the top-of-the-line sDrive35is dashing out the fastest 0-60 mph figure of the group at 4.8 seconds. The sDrive35i does the job a tick slower at 5.0 seconds, while the sDrive28i takes 5.6 seconds. Though power is readily on tap in all models, the base sDrive28i is a bit more sluggish around town.
On the efficiency front, the 2016 BMW Z4 spans a somewhat wide range. The base turbo four-cylinder rates up to 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined. At the opposite end of the roadster spectrum, the high-zoot sDrive35is model scores just 17/24/20 mpg. Up against its rivals, the six-cylinder Z4's gas mileage is not particularly impressive.
Inside, the BMW Z4 cabin is well-appointed with typically BMW level quality in materials and execution. The retractable hardtop roof gives the Z4 coupe grade levels of silence and insulation from outside elements, folding away neatly and with a quickness when called upon. Supportive sport seats are newly standard on the base model, but unfortunately, faux leather is still the base upholstery.
The Z4 shows its age in its lack of some recent driving assistance and safety tech, although all models are well-equipped from the get-go. A host of connected features link the Z4 to Facebook and Twitter, which aren't really part of the driving experience.
The latest Z4 has not been crash tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS, but the Z4 nonetheless comes with a full complement of airbags and ABS.
The Z4 sDrive28i, which features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4, is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg city, 34 highway, 26 combined with the manual transmission. Opting for the 8-speed auto shaves 1 mpg from the highway rating, but leaves the others untouched.