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2012 BMW Z4

petrina gentile The Globe and Mail

Overall Rating
A spirited roadster with sporty good looks, a fantastic new engine and an easy-folding hard-top roof. You’ll love this car if: you want a sporty yet fuel-efficient roadster to bask in the sun all year round.
Looks Rating
Elegant lines blend with creases beautifully – top up or down.
Interior Rating
Comfortable and supportive seats with a well-laid out cabin, but it’s short on storage space in the cabin and cargo area.
Ride Rating
A spirited, sporty ride with tight steering and a great new fuel-efficient inline-four.
Safety Rating
Comes with standard safety features such as knee airbags for driver and passenger, side thorax airbags, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and a tire-pressure warning system.
Green Rating
The inline-four is a great addition to the lineup that improves fuel economy and reduces emissions.

Roadsters rule the road in the summer, but some are labelled a "chick" car. Luckily, not all roadsters are created equally. The BMW Z4 is a prime example of a sporty, stylish ride that guys will dig just as much as gals, especially when they discover what's under the hood.

For 2012, the Z4 gets a new 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that delivers 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The small inline-four has an all-aluminum crankcase, direct-injection, Valvetronic, or variable valve timing, and a twin-scroll turbocharger.

The engine offers better performance than the previous normally aspirated 3-litre inline-six that delivered 255 hp and 220 lb-ft. But best of all, the new engine improves fuel economy by 20 per cent. It returns an impressive 8.2 litres/100 km in the city and only 5.3 litres/100 km on the highway. And the numbers were actually on par with what I averaged: 7.9 litres/100 combined highway and city driving.

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You'll find the new engine in the 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i. But if you prefer the familiar 3.0-litre six, you can move up the ladder to the sDrive35i with 300 hp or the sDrive35is with its uprated twin-turbo six and 335 hp.

A new auto stop/start function, paired to the six-speed manual, gives you more fuel savings. It automatically turns off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarts it, improving the fuel economy by 3 per cent.

Personally, I'd stick with the base sDrive28i and its four because you're saving fuel, but not sacrificing performance. It has more than enough power to please – merging on to the highway with faster-moving vehicles proves no issue for the Z4. It'll hit 0-100 in 5.8 seconds, while the top-of-the-line sDrive35is does it in 5 seconds.

This rear-wheel drive roadster hugs the road with precision and accuracy. The steering is tight; the handling agile, nimble and sporty. Sure, it doesn't sound like a typical four-banger or deliver the same punch as the six, but it's still pleasing to drive and the turbocharger is pleasant to the ears.

Top down, there's little turbulence or noise in the cabin thanks largely to a wind blocker, which is part of a $2,600 premium package. Top up, the cabin is well-insulated from wind and road noise, so you could potentially drive it year around.

My tester comes with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that costs $1,700. The automated manual works well – it's paired perfectly to the four and is super smooth with quick shifts. A six-speed manual transmission is standard.

The power-operated hardtop roof is a mechanical masterpiece. It's simple and quick to use. Push a button on the centre console and the top drops, disappearing seamlessly into the trunk. Another button raises the roof equally as fast – taking only about 20 seconds to do so. There are no hooks or buttons to fiddle with to lock it in place thanks to an automatic latching system.

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Top up or down, the Z4's lines look equally sharp. With the roof closed, it resembles a coupe; roof open, it's sexy and stylish with classic roadster proportions – including an elongated hood, short overhangs, powerful wheel arches, striking contours and flowing soft creases. A $1,800 Sports package adds muscular 18-inch star spoke alloy wheels, which fill out the wheel wells nicely.

The interior is clean and uncluttered. Instruments are well-positioned and driver-oriented. Large round HVAC dials make it a cinch to adjust the temperature top up or down. But some buttons, like the volume button, are too small. A push-button start lets you fire up the engine without a key, provided the key fob is nearby.

My tester comes with a cohiba brown merino leather package and sports seats, which are beautiful and soft to the touch, but cost an extra $2,700. The seats are firm and supportive; they're positioned low-to-the-ground and close to the rear axle so you feel every move on the road. A $2,300 Executive Package adds 12-way electrically adjustable seats with driver memory and lumber support. The base model gets six-way manually operated seats.

The cabin is a bit tight with little storage space. If your seat is pushed forward, you'll have some room to store a purse, but if you're taller and the seat is pushed further back there's little room for extras. Likewise, the cargo space is tight, especially when the roof is down. You can barely fit a few grocery bags let alone a set of golf clubs.

The 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i starts at $54,300. But with several options added, the price jumps to $68,200.

Tech Specs: 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i

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Type: Two-door, two-passenger roadster

Base Price: $54,300; as tested, $68,200

Engine: 2.0-litre, turbocharged, inline-four

Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/260 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: Rear-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.2 city/5.3 highway; premium gas

Alternatives: Porsche Boxster, Audi TT, Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, Infiniti G37

Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More


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