BMW Z4 Hardtop Convertible - What Makes A Car This Special? (An Owner's Review)

One drive and we were hooked. Sadly, my beloved Alfa Romeo is going to the great car auction rooms somewhere up North. I'm in love... with the new BMW Z4 Hardtop Convertible. As BMW say, "An Expression of Joy"...

Enter the BMW Z4

When the first BMW z4 debuted in 2002, it quickly took its rightful place alongside the rest of the BMW series as being one of those cars that proves that they didn’t stop making sweet rides back in the seventies.

Now, this car is a BMW, and BMW proudly produces cars by the motto of “Form must follow function”, so it stands to reason that what you’ll notice first about the z4 series will, of course, be its cool, sleek design, suggesting power, comfort and cool. BMW has always been known for combining luxury, power and speed with that certain iconic style, as integral to the brand as the curvaceous glass bottle has been to Coca-Cola. There’s a reason they call it the Land Shark. If you’ve had your fill of modern cars that all look like electric shavers, you can always depend on BMW to offer up something a little cooler. The z4’s fierce, almost predatorial appearance makes entirely clear why it won Automobile Magazine’s Design of the Year award back in ‘02.

There’s a reason they call it the Land Shark

Unlike a number of luxury car manufacturers, BMW handles the majority of their design work in-house rather than through a third party design firm. This ensures that when you buy a BMW, you’re buying a BMW through and through, from the high-performance engine to every detail of the body design.

But enough gushing over what the z4 looks like, all BMWs carry the distinctive BMW look, and you already know that a BMW drives like a BMW, so what makes this one so special?

Sorry guys - it really was TOTALLY designed by women... Exterior designer Juliane Blasi Interior designer Nadya Arnaout

The Z4 is the car designed by women (yes, really)

The car’s current look was put together by the in-house design duo of Juliane Blasi and Nadya Arnaout, with Blasi designing the body and Arnaout the interior.

Now, living in an enlightened society as we are, you might be thinking “Wow, two women designed one of the hottest luxury cars around?" I mean, of course, who says women can’t make cool cars?” But let’s be honest here: There is something of a gender barrier in place in the automotive industry and the “boy’s club” culture surrounding it, so this is actually a pretty significant detail of the car’s design, because let’s face it, some people do think women can’t design cool cars.

In fact, showing the boys they meant business was part of what got the two going in the first place. When Blasi was hired at BMW’s DesignworksUSA in 2005, there was already an internal competition going on within the design firm to come up with the new Z4 coupe design, and her own entry would prove to be her first major project with BMW.

To be clear, Blasi and Arnaout weren’t simply hired for the job, they had to fight for it. Then-design boss Chris Bangle encouraged Blasi and Arnaout to “Go do a car and out-sex the guys, fight it out on the floor. No reservations.”

That aggressive, no-prisoners approach to design may have something to do with its shark-like appearance.

Arnaout’s contribution of the interior design is considered a masterpiece of both form and function, with an asymmetrical center console and a U shaped wood trim section on the dash housing all functional controls for the car. In short, the second you take a seat in the driver’s side, before you even turn the key, you’ll know you’ve never driven anything quite like this before.

I've gone for Black on Black. Black metallic paint and Black interior leather.

The Heart of the Z4...

The core of the z4 is in its engine, of course. Depending on which model you’re looking at, the z4 might have an engine from the M54, N46, N52, or S54 series. If we wanted to get into full detail on every one of these, we’d be here all day, so we’ll focus on the 190kw N52B30 engine housed in the flagship E85/E86 3.0si roadster and coupe models to give you an overall idea of what the z4 is packing under the hood. Yes, that's the engine I've gone for. 0-60 mph in not a lot. Vroom vroom indeed.

Be warned, we’re about to throw some petrolhead talk at you that probably won’t make any sense if you’re not a serious engine geek, so if this is all Greek to you, then just trust us; the z4 roadster’s engine is the second most powerful in the N52 series.

The N52 series debuted in 2004 in the BMW E63 630Ci before being implemented in the z4 coupes and roadsters. Maybe the most innovative feature of the engine would be the crankcase, which is comprised entirely of magnesium and aluminum, something which has never been done before. The cylinder sleeves are made from Alusil aluminum, offering incredibly high heat conductivity, and housed in a block made of lightweight magnesium. This was a major component in bringing the engine’s weight down to a minuscule 161 kg, or 354 lb, making for one of the world’s lightest mass produced engines within its size class, not to mention, the lightest six cylinder engine in the world, and, it sets a record for horsepower vs. weight for a six cylinder engine at 85.5 hp per liter of displacement.

Besides simply being light on its feet, it offers further fuel efficiency by way of BMW’s second generation Valvetronic and Double-VANOS systems. All in all, the engine marks a 12% fuel efficiency improvement over the M54 series. The Z4 roadster carries the most common version of the N52, running at 2500-4000 rpm.

Not only is the entire industry wondering how to compete with this engine, BMW is, too. After being placed in Ward’s 10 Best Engines of the Year in both 2006 and 2007, BMW tried to top it with the N54B30 bi-turbo, based on the older M54 series, but found that the original still beat out the bi-turbo version in nearly every single way, and is even more technologically advanced, in spite of having been designed years earlier. Simply put, the N52 is a masterpiece of efficient, high powered engine design, and one of BMW’s current flagship engine series.

Top Gear's BMW Z4 Review

The BMW Z4 Drive

Even so, we haven’t answered the question of how it drives. So how does it drive?

Well, put it this way: Have you ever driven a sports car that was, truth be told, really designed for the tracks, and not the streets? As fun as that can be, a car that’s just this close to being an F-1 racer isn’t a set of wheels you want to be using as your day-to-day automobile. The z4 on the other hand offers that same power, that speed, that thrust and responsiveness, but it is very much an
automobile designed for the road, and not just the quarter-mile.

Reviewers have universally praised the car for its quick response time and ease of handling, its smooth ride, graceful turning and sheer power. In other words, it’s exactly what you’ve come to expect of a BMW and nothing less, a “luxury” car in the truest sense of the word. It gives you all the power, speed and perfectly tuned suspension and steering you want without ever giving you more than you can handle, and that’s truly where the line is drawn between a roadster and a vehicle that has no place outside of the Grand Prix.

But still - What's Sp Special About The BMW Z4

We’ve said all this, and what you’re probably thinking is “So it’s a BMW, I already knew that!”

To a certain extent, that’s a fair opinion of the z4. But even so, how many people do you know who own a BMW coupe or roadster who regret the purchase? When it comes to BMW, you could throw a dart at their catalog and be happy with whatever car it lands on, so what makes the z4 series in particular the car of choice for certain drivers?

The truth is that it comes down to the individual buyer’s tastes. Maybe you want power and speed, or perhaps you prioritize comfort and responsiveness, well, what the z4 offers is a perfect cross between a luxury car and a sports car.

To be clear, it’s not just a sports car with leather seats, nor is it merely a luxury car with an over-powered engine. It really is the best of both worlds, giving you major horsepower, split-second responsiveness, and incredible comfort, all with a supercool 2 door design.

Drive Time's BMW Z4 Review

The Hire is a series of BMW short films made by some of the worlds best directors. Season 2 starred the BMW Z4. Just for fun, watch and enjoy.

In 3 parts, the Z4 plays a starring role in these films!

Hostage - starring Clive Owen and the BMW Z4. Directed by John Woo.

Ticker - starring Clive Owen and the BMW Z4. Directed by Joe Carnahan.

The Hire is a series of short films made by BMW together with some of the worlds best directors. Beat the Devil - starring Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, James Brown

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Comments 15 comments

Cindy Leggett 7 years ago

Fantastic reading! If I'm up that way some time, can I have a ride? ;)


Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 7 years ago

Big fan of the BMW and Top Gear my son and husband never miss an episode. I loved it when Richard Hammond says, " you can put a BMW tag on a cat and people will buy it".

Enjoyed this story!


judydianne profile image

judydianne 7 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

Beautiful car and story! Thanks for a good hub on the BMW!


johnnyfr profile image

johnnyfr 7 years ago from Ormskirk, Lancashire

What a great hub!

I'm reading it on my phone on my way to pick up my new bmw - a relatively boring one series though. I'll graduate to a z4 hopefully soon!


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 7 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

Oddly enough we went to look at a 3 series hardtop convertible (just for kicks) and preferred the little 1 series - but we were always looking at Porsche, Jaguar, Audi etc to replace my Alfa Romeo, and the Z4 is just amazing.


J  Rosewater profile image

J Rosewater 7 years ago from Australia

I can't say I can see myself with my hair in the air! But this certainly speaks oodles of style.


sord87 6 years ago

It is really special,I just wonder what are the difference between the old bmw 7 series and this model!


thecoachhouse profile image

thecoachhouse 6 years ago from Aberdeen

really well thought out review of the Z4. Love the Top Gear video too


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 6 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

I wouldn't be without it now! Love it to bits!


Hailey Connor - BMW 6 years ago

Always a big BMW fan. I always watch this on discovery channel and Topgear. BMW makes the finest luxury cars. The Z4 is so impressive.


RoseGardenAdvice profile image

RoseGardenAdvice 6 years ago from San Francisco

Well-written hub .. a lot of cool info on bimmers. Thanks for sharing.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

What is missing in this hub is the list of design faults found in the Z4 from the beginning, such as a weak clutch for starters.

Top gear is fine entertainment, but I am yet to see any decent analysis of the obvious design faults that bring about major mechanical failure in much of what they test.

I am writing a hub on BMW design faults at the moment.


Julie-Ann Amos profile image

Julie-Ann Amos 6 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK Author

Maybe you struck unlucky - I've never had a problem with the Z4 from the day I got it almost a year ago! It's been 100% reliable and a pleasure to own.


Silver2010 6 years ago

Had no idea this great looking car was designed by two women...very interesting hub :)


Steven J. Misch profile image

Steven J. Misch 5 years ago from SF Bay Area

You may want to note that the photo of the black over red z4 is actually an e85 M Roadster, which is an example from the first generation design.

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