In its initial years, my driving career consisted greatly of four-door sedans, a few SUVs, and a minivan that my dad had leased at the time. Despite having read about them, I had no real experience with convertibles or two-seat roadsters at the time. There was something about them that fascinated me though; the thought of cruising down the highway in the sunset or a cool summer night in a ragtop BMW or Mercedes-Benz seemed very appealing to me. As I started driving more and more cars, I realized that this teenaged fantasy of mine was actually just as awesome as I had dreamt it. My week with the 2014 BMW Z4 sDrive35i only proved it further.
BMW sent over a Valencia Orange Metallic model with a Jet Black hardtop. While I like roadsters, I’m not such a huge fan of such attention-grabbing colours. The local fuzz are already attracted to the sight of both BMWs and sports cars, so a bright orange BMW sports car is essentially gold to them. I am pleased to say that even after a very enthusiastic and heavy-footed few days with the car, I received no police attention with the Z4.
My test car came with BMW’s sweet-spot motor, the twin-turbocharged 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine. With a thundering 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, the Z4 seriously flies. Although a proper three-pedal model is available, this model came with the optional 7-speed double clutch transmission. The sound of this motor is absolute perfection, and naturally, it drives power to the rear wheels. I drive a BMW 328i with the new turbocharged 4-cylinder, and though it’s a wonderful car, I miss the sound and smoothness of a proper inline six. The Z4’s transmission can be shifted via paddle shifters on the steering wheel, and I found myself using them quite a bit. It’s a sports car – I definitely feel as though leaving it in “D” and letting it do its thing defeats the purpose. Although, when left to shift itself, the transmission is a very good unit and shifts predictably.
The Z4 sDrive35i is a whole different animal than the 28i model. The car has three drive modes – Comfort, Sport, and Sport with DSC Off. When piloting a sports car, I like my driving experience to be as pure as possible. The gearshift can also be tilted to the left when in “Drive” to engage “Sport” mode, which holds gears longer and changes shift points to make for a far sportier drive. I chose to drive the car in full manual and Sport modes, with all assists off. With this setup, the Z4 creates what I like to refer to as “car guy nirvana”. I was able to barrel up some of my favourite rural roads at night with the top down. The stars were shining brightly above my head, and my favourite driving music was playing in the background. My right foot was behaving rather spiritedly, and I had this grin on my face that depicted nothing but sheer enjoyment. Of course, this enjoyment led to a combined average of 10.9L/100km on premium fuel.
This pricier engine setup on the Z4 starts at a pricey $63,900. After adding on all the toys my test car came with, the price shoots up to just under $75,000. Now granted, BMW loaded this one up with an extended Alcantara interior, the Premium Package (heated wheel, alarm, better audio), the M Sport Package (bigger wheels, aerodynamics package, “M” trim everywhere), and a few other gizmos, but that’s still some serious dough. Three-quarters of a hundred grand can buy you a relatively base Jaguar F-Type, and that car sounds seriously evil. The sDrive35i came with a pretty beastly exhaust tacked onto it that created some nice sounds, but if opting for a roadster that will turn heads every time you stomp on the pedal, the F-Type is unbeatable.
I have a love/hate relationship with BMW’s iDrive system. The screen sizes are great, and the menus are always intuitive and easy to navigate, but I still find myself wanting more. Then I sit down and think about who offers a better system with a more modern feel to it, and I come up empty every single time. Pairing my phone with the car’s Bluetooth connectivity is seamless, and I actually had great call quality even with the top down at city speeds.
Fortunate enough to have the car over a beautiful, sunny week, I had the opportunity to put the retractable hardtop down every single time I drove the car. Though I wish the top retraction speed were a little bit faster (ahem, Mazda MX-5), the mechanism is cool and definitely fascinating to watch. As a driver over six feet tall with particularly long legs, I do think the car is a bit cramped inside with the top up. The swooping roofline actually cuts into my eye line and makes it feel like the windshield is little more than a slit to peek through. I’m not exactly complaining though; if I owned a car in this class, I would have a cheap beater for days when top-down motoring isn’t possible.
The BMW Z4 is a very, very good car. One of our writers here at Double Clutch actually paid a serious amount of money to rent a (base model) automatic Z4 for a week-long exploration trip through California. After my week with the sDrive35i, I am extremely envious of that trip. This car may be expensive and seriously thirsty for its size, but there’s one thing it does amazingly well. It has charisma – it just begs you to keep driving and driving until there isn’t any road left, and I haven’t experienced another car yet that does that.
2014 BMW Z4 sDrive35i Gallery