Review: BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016)

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Stylish and refined roadster coupe with folding hard top. Strong performance from six-cylinder engines. Much improved steering feel came as part of 2013 revamp.

Top sDrive 35i 340PS engine is expensive.

BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016): At A Glance

BMW’s second generation Z4 is a very different beast from the original. Where the first Z4 was very much a gruff, up and at ’em sports car, the current car is a more refined sportscar with a broader customer appeal.

Much of the wider appeal comes from the folding metal roof, which follows the trend set by the Mercedes SLK. While some might feel the Z4 has gone soft and grown heavy with this approach, it undoubtedly means the Z4 is an easier car to live with day in, day out.

The metal roof makes the Z4 quieter at motorway speeds, so it is better suited to long distance journeys in the UK where the weather will not always play ball. When the sun does poke out, the metal roof drops more quickly than the Mercedes SLK’s and scissors away under the boot panel to leave uncluttered lines with the characteristic long bonnet, short boot looks of the previous Z4.

A downside is the roof and its mechanism take up more space than a fabric hood, so the Z4 has to make do with a 180-litre boot. This means squashy bags are the order of the day for any sort of weekend away and access is not brilliant when the roof is lowered.

Still, the Z4’s cabin provides even taller drivers with plenty of space and seat adjustment, while the dash is one of the least fussy and stylish in this sector. As well as the excellent driving position, cars with satellite navigation also benefit from BMW’s superb iDrive system that is also one of the easiest infotainment set-ups to operate.

Just as good to use as the infotainment is the entertainment under the bonnet as all of the Z4’s engines are great to use. This includes the twin-turbo 2.0-litre petrol in the sDrive18i and 20i models.

For those wanting more speed and growl, the sDrive28i takes the four-cylinder turbo engine to its maximum with 245PS or you can opt for the six-cylinder 35i with its potent 306PS. For those looking for the most performance from the Z4, the sDrive35is ups the ante to 340PS for 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds to be the spiritual successor the previous Z4M.

BMW Z4 sDrive 23i manual and 35i DCT auto Road Test

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What does a BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016) cost?

Contract hire from £442.98 per month

BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4239–4244 mm
Width 1790 mm
Height 1284–1291 mm
Wheelbase 2495–2496 mm

Full specifications

With the folding metal roof in the raised position, the Z4 is as quiet and capable of long drives without tiring the driver as any of its coupe competition. It’s more refined than the Audi TT coupe and easily on a par with the Mercedes SLK.

There is some rumble audible from the wide tyres fitted as standard to all Z4 models, varying in width depending on which engine you choose. Even so, the Z4 is surprisingly hushed for this type of car and suffers very little wind noise at higher speeds.

Drop the roof down, which is actioned at the touch of a button and completed in 22 seconds, which is not nearly as quick as the previous Z4’s fabric roof would stow away. However, the greater weather protection and security of the retractable hard-top compensate for this. You can also operate the folding metal roof at up to 25mph, so there is no need to pull over, stop and fold or raise the roof.

Pop the roof down and the Z4 enjoys the same open air sensations as any of its competition. What you won’t experience is too much wind buffeting at higher speeds as the driver and passenger sit low and snug in the supportive seats.

An optional Comfort Package includes a wind deflector, as well as active cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and additional storage with two cupholders and nets in the footwells. The added storage will be welcome as the Z4’s boot offers only 180-litres of space with the roof stowed away, which is less than most rivals’. Roof up, there’s 310-litres of space and you can add an optional load-through facility to carry longer items such as golf clubs or skis.

Space inside the cabin is good for both the driver and passenger. The driver has height and reach adjustment in the steering column to help tailor the driving position, but only the 35i models have standard electric seat adjustment. This is worth noting as the manual seat adjustment in the Z4 is awkward to use, so if you share the car with a partner it is well worth investing in the optional electric operation.

If you choose the Z4 sDrive18i, you will also most likely want to spend the extra to upgrade from its standard cloth seats to park your posterior on leather upholstery. The 18i does come with air conditioning and the electric roof operation included in its price, as well as four airbags for safety and DAB digital radio that became standard in 2013.

Regardless of what seat upholstery you sit on, the Z4’s interior is clearly driver-focused on the way the centre console guides the eye and the layout of the controls. The main dials are clear and simple, while the ventilation and stereo control are also unfussy and easy to navigate. Behind the gear lever sits the easy to use iDrive controller on cars fitted with Media Package that includes satellite navigation and uprated Bluetooth and voice control.

BMW also offers two packs to upgrade the interior trim called Design Pure Fusion and Design Pure Traction. Each has its own unique interior trim panel finishes. The Fusion has Nappa leather upholstery, while the Traction offers black or black and orange Alcantara and leather for the seats.

Child seats that fit a BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016)

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What's the BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016) like to drive?

A mild refresh for the BMW Z4 in 2013 saw the addition of the 156PS sDrive18i model to the range. Not only does this offer a more affordable way into Z4 ownership, it also acquits itself very well as a fun and frugal sports car.

BMW does not offer a diesel-engined version of the Z4 to compete with its Audi TT and Mercedes SLK competitors, so the 18i’s as cost-effective as it gets. Even so, the 18i’s 41.5mpg and 159g/km carbon dioxide emissions are matched by its four-cylinder sister models, the 20i and 28i.

From rest to 62mph, the 18i takes 7.9 seconds, so it’s no slouch without being overly enthusiastic. The engine can sound a little plain at lower revs, but takes on a throatier tenor when pressed harder. It’s a lot of fun to push this model hard as you can make the most of the engine’s power while still remaining within safe, legal speeds on twisty roads.

The 20i and 28i, with 184PS and 245PS respectively, serve up greater performance, with the 20i dashing off 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds and the 28i in just 5.7 seconds. This makes them far more compelling choices for keen drivers while still sharing the same lightness of feel across unruly British tarmac.

With less weight up front than the six-cylinder sDrive35i models, the four-cylinder cars turn into corners with vigour and hold their line tenaciously. Even with more power from the 20i and 28i engines and rear-wheel drive, these Z4 models show no untoward tendency for the rear wheels to step out of line unexpectedly.

All Z4s come with ESP and BMW’s Dynamic Drive Control, so the driver can choose between Normal, Sport and Sport+ settings. The Sport+ option increases the threshold at which the ESP will come into play to quell any slip from the wheel, which lets more able drivers enjoy more feel and control while still having the safety net of the car’s electronics on side.

The rear wheels are more taxed in spirited driving in the sDrive35i and its more potent35is sibling, which boasts 340PS to the 35i’s 306PS. Both are quick off the mark, recording 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and 4.8 seconds for the 35i and 35is respectively.

With six-cylinders and turbocharging, these engines provide more than ample overtaking urge when required. However, they are also happy cruisers when required, especially with the standard seven-speed automatic gearbox of the 35is. All other Z4 models have a slick six-speed manual gearbox and the option of the seven-speeder auto.

While the pace of the 35i models is impressive, they do feel a little heavier as you position the car into a bend due to the extra weight of the engine. This is only really apparent when pushing towards the car’s limits, so is not an issue in daily driving. More importantly, the Z4 rides well over lump-strewn roads, though we’d avoid the M Sport models with their firmer suspension that makes them too harsh and does nothing to improve the driving experience.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
sDrive 18i 42 mpg 7.9 s 159 g/km
sDrive 18i Automatic 42 mpg 8.1 s 159 g/km
sDrive 20i 42 mpg 6.9 s 159 g/km
sDrive 20i Automatic 42 mpg 6.9–7.2 s 159 g/km
sDrive 23i 33–34 mpg 6.6–7.3 s 192–199 g/km
sDrive 23i Automatic 34 mpg 7.3 s 192 g/km
sDrive 28i 42 mpg 5.7 s 159 g/km
sDrive 28i Automatic 42 mpg 5.5 s 159 g/km
sDrive 30i 33 mpg 5.8 s 199 g/km
sDrive 30i Automatic 34 mpg 6.1 s 195 g/km
sDrive 35i 30–31 mpg 4.8–5.2 s 210–219 g/km
sDrive 35i Automatic 31–31 mpg 5.1 s 210 g/km

Real MPG average for a BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

20–42 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Which sports car with a folding or detachable hard top would you recommend?

I have a budget of £10,000. Which sports car, with a folding or detachable hard top would you recommend? A soft top is not an option as I have nowhere to garage the vehicle.
I'd be looking for a BMW Z4. It has a folding electric metal roof which is easy to operate and it's a very easy car to live with day-to-day. Your budget will get you a 2011 model with the 2.5-litre engine.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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What Cars Are Similar To The BMW Z4 (2009 – 2016)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Sporty and Convertible.

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