4.12.2011

2011 BMW Z4 Review

Front 3/4 view of white 2011 BMW Z4

Welcome to the gotta-have-it car of 2011. Men, women, kids....doesn't matter. Pull up in this and get ready for the questions:

Is it as wonderful to drive as it is to look at?

How fast is it?

Can you toss me the keys for an afternoon?

Here are the answers:

Yes.

Plenty.

I promised the folks at Chapman BMW in Chandler, Arizona that I wouldn't do that. 

Longtime TireKicker followers know that I believe in BMW magic. TireKicker's first review (complete with the story of my first teenage encounter with a 2002tii) was of a BMW convertible (the 128i).


Rear 3/4 view of white 2011 BMW Z4

Well, the BMW magic has never been stronger than it is in the Z4. The styling re-defines the concept of animal magnetism (something like this can't possibly be just metal). The retractable hardtop gives you the best of both worlds...the practicality and security of a fixed-roof coupe and the wind in your hair and sun on your skin of a convertible.

And it's a magnificent melding of the contemporary and the relatively recent past, grabbing styling cues from the limited-production 2000-2003 Z8.

The Z4 comes in three levels, the sDrive30i, with 255 horsepower and a base price of $47,450; the sDrive35i at 300 horsepower and a base price of $51,900 and the sDrive35is...335 horsepower and a starting price of $62,500.  Our week was in the middle of the line sDrive35i.

If there is a more balanced driving machine, I can't remember driving it. The car is light and nimble, steering responses are rightnowquick and, despite a short wheelbase and overall length, the ride is smooth while still giving great feedback from the road.

Instrument panel shot of 2011 BMW Z4

And inside, where the driving gets done? Well, the Z4 is every good thing about BMW. Phenomenal ergonomics, top-quality materials, an unflinching devotion to quality workmanship. And an integrated group of electronics that actually help get distractions out of the driver's way rather than adding to them. It's all (even the more complex functions) simple, direct and intuitive.

Even optionless, the Z4 sDrive35i would be a fantastic car, but our tester had several key option boxes checked: Titanium Silver Metallic paint (which everyone we encountered remarked on as the most beautiful shade of silver they'd seen), $550; the Premium Package (universal garage door opener, power front seats, lumbar support and BMW Assist with Bluetooth), $2,500; the Premium Sound Package, which upgrades the audio system while adding an iPod and USB adapter and a 1-year satellite radio subscription; the Sport Package (an increased top-speed limiter, sport seats and adaptive M suspension) for $2,300 and a further bump-up to 19-inch alloy V-spoke wheels for $1,200.

But that's not all. The 7-speed double clutch transmission (which includes a sport steering wheel with paddles, Servotronic and a multi-function steering wheel) was also on the list for $1,575. Those extra gears pay off in improved fuel economy...EPA estimates 17 city/ 24 highway.

$400 for the anti-theft alarm system, $500 for Comfort Access keyless entry, $500 for heated front seats, $2,100 for an excellent navigation system and an $875 destination charge brought ours to a bottom line of $66,200.

And you know what? It's worth it. It's three things: A brilliant car for driving, a work of art to look at, and over the long haul, an investment. Mark my words...this is a classic in our time. A car that 30 years from now and beyond you'll look at and say "I wish I'd bought one".  Any one of those things would be enough to secure the Z4 a slot on TireKicker's Top 10 Cars (So Far). All three? It's a lock.

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