Cool Runnings

Convertible cars in Australia really don’t make a lot of sense and I could not think of anything worse than driving a convertible on a hot summer’s day. But in winter this is a different story with lower temperatures and less UV, so driving in a convertible can be a really nice experience. So when the opportunity to review the all-new BMW Z4 came up recently I jumped at the chance. Sydney is currently experiencing a drought, so cool sunny days are abundant and I took the opportunity to drive out to the largest of our water storage dams to see how low it was for myself.

In just 10 seconds the roof drops (at speeds of up to 50km/h) and this enabled me to take in the sights, sounds and smells so much more intensively while driving through the rural outskirts of Sydney. The Z4 cabin stays warm with the roof down even at highway speeds and there is very little buffeting around your head from wind. I also had the heated seats and a heated steering on to keep me extra toasty and warm. And when the roof is up the double fabric construction does a good job of keeping road noise out.

The BMW Z4 is the roof-down cousin of the Toyota Supra and I got to sample the 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine version that has 145kW of power and 320Nm of torque, which completes the 0-100km/h dash in 6.6 seconds. The official combined fuel consumption is 6.5l/100km and for my week I used almost double that at 12.2l/100km.

The driving dynamics of the Z4 make up for the lack zing from the engine and I still had a lot of fun in the car. The 8-speed sport automatic gearbox offers OK gearshifts, but sometimes the gear box did not want to change down from third to second gear when I asked it to, which got a bit frustrating.

The Z4 has four driving modes to choose; Adaptive, Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport. In Sport mode you have further options of Standard, Plus or Individual. With Individual you can select between Sport or Comfort for damping and steering and for the engine and transmission you have three selections Sport Plus, Sport or Comfort.

I was happy with Sport Plus for most of the time; the ride is firm, but still comfortable. It also gives a louder exhaust noise with a nice bark on upshift when I approached 6,300rpm and a cackle on the overrun as I came off the throttle and back through the gears. It also allows a little bit of slip on aggressive turn in, but nothing too scary. And in Sport mode you can also have gear change lights displayed in the head up display.

The interior of the Z4 is to the quality you would expect from BMW and when I sat in it I immediately felt at home. The Z4 seats are firm and held me snuggly into place and they are electrically adjustable with two memory positions. I particularly liked the M colours on the seat belts and the aluminium ‘mesheffect’ surround around the gear selector and at the front of the centre console. The metal look is a pleasant change from gloss black that has become almost ubiquitous in many cars.

The 10.25” touchscreen has a very crisp display and gives you access to the sat nav and media options, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The BMW 7.0 operating system now offers so much more to help you stay connected with your busy life. You can link your car to your Microsoft Office 360 Business account so you can get email and calendar info on the screen in your car. BMW Assistance is also included and offers a concierge service. And you can also check the tyre pressures, engine oil or do general systems check of your Z4 with the push of a button.

Other interior highlights include wireless phone charging for compatible devices, a great sound system, six ambient lighting colours to choose from and a well sorted voice control system. The 10.25” fully digital driver’s dash changes colour depending on the drive mode selected with red for Sport, white for Comfort, blue for Eco.

Storage is at a premium in the Z4 and if you have bulky sunglasses you will struggle to find somewhere to put them. The cubbies in the doors are shallow and really do not offer a secure storage option. There is a narrow storage area behind the seats with a net to stop things moving around, but this is not wide enough for larger handbags, so your only option for your handbag is in the foot well on the passenger side.

The boot is a really good size though for a convertible car and would easily fit your luggage for a weekend away. Under the floor you will not find a spare tyre, just a big battery to power up the car. The run flat kit is located in a neat little door on the driver’s side of the boot. There is also a handy hatch in the centre of the boot that opens and you can store longer items through into the cabin, about the perfect size for a set of skis.

Of course like all modern BMWs there are many configurable driver assistance options including front collision warning, lane departure warning and lane change warning either with or without steering intervention. The Z4 also has park assist with a rear view camera only and 360o sensors and cross traffic alert. The Speed assist flashes on the driver’s dash when you go over the limit and goes red in the head up display.

The BMW Z4 sDrive20i (M Sport Package) starts at $84,900 plus on-road costs and as tested my Z4 cost $94,310 plus on-roads. All new BMWs come with a three year unlimited km warranty and road side assistance.

This may be a lot on money to enjoy convertible driving for a small amount of the time, but I could argue that this driving time is so enjoyable that it’s worth it if that’s what you really like in a car.  Visit your preferred BMW dealer to drive one for yourself.

Pros Cons
Lovely interior and exterior design It’s not the inline six version
Warm cabin with the roof down Disobedient gearbox
Surround sound, sight and smell driving experience Limited cabin storage

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.