New Car Review: 2012 BMW Z4 2.8i

Front 3/4 view of white 2012 BMW Z4 parked with top down in country setting
The 2012 BMW Z4 2.8i.

Pundits have been predicting the end of our second golden age of performance for quite a while now...and reason tells you they're probably right...that a combination of increasing mandated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and just plain old pain at the pump will someday result in liters and horsepower taking a back seat to efficiency and economy.

That being the case, the news that BMW, maker of the sweetest six-cylinders on this or any other planet, was shifting to four-cylinders in some variants of some of its models, was especially worrying.

Well, stop it. Now. The BMW Z4 2.8i, the four-cylinder that this year replaces the 3.0-liter 6, is soooo good.

Remember how much we loved the Z4 3.5i last year?  We love the 2.8i more.

Rear 3/4 view of white 2012 BMW Z4 roadster parked with top down in rural setting
The 2012 BMW Z4 2.8i.

First of all, it's lost none of its looks. The Z4, long an ugly duckling, is now drop-dead gorgeous. If you can resist those curves, see a doctor.

Secondly, while the 2.8 packs 60 fewer horsepower than the 3.5, it's a still-serious 240 horses, it's 231 pounds lighter and that peak power comes up 800 rpms earlier. And that lighter weight means a lighter nose...the 2.8 is much more tossable than the 3.5. Plus, BMW engineers have managed to make the four feel almost as silky as their legendary sixes.

Third, there's some serious fuel economy involved here. The EPA estimate for the Z4 2.8i is 22 city/34 highway, and what we saw in our week at the wheel suggests that's a realistic number.

The 2012 BMW Z4 2.8i interior.

And the interior...my Lord, the interior. The Z4 is one of the few cars on the market today where the inside looks as good as the outside and vice-versa. Everything's right where it should be and it all looks and feels very special...never, ever, giving you the feeling you're in an ordinary car. And you're not.

$49.525 with delivery and handling gets you a fully equipped car that will impress the neighbors, attract admiring looks from strangers, entertain you in motion and save you money at the gas station.

The 2.8 secures its place on TireKicker's Top Ten Cars list for all those reasons. I drive 104 cars a year. There's something new every week. I want this one back.