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2019 BMW Z4: Preserving Endangered Species

Before we begin, we’d like to apologize for the lack of recent activity on this site. What started as a passion project has been put on the backburner for other short-impact life decisions. Mainly, driving cars, fixing them, improving them, then fixing our improvements so we can drive them again.

We missed the recent window on the all-electric Mercedes GLE, the first production electric car by Mercedes. Then we skipped the Audi e-tron, another electric SUV. And we also glanced over the BMW Vision iNEXT because it was hideous.

But if we’re being honest, we didn’t miss writing about them because we were busy. We just couldn’t muster the energy to talk about yet another electric SUV that wishes to enter the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-PACE space. Because as fast and technologically advanced as they are, they’re not built to stir the soul as much as a true sports car. Jaguar I-PACE owners don’t secretly wake up at 4 am to sneak out of the house for a quick romp around the highway. And if a car doesn’t make you feel excited to drive, it’s not very exciting to write about. We make our agendas on this site, even if it cost us a few clicks.

The 2019 BMW Z4 is obviously exciting enough to bring us back for a proper article. It’s pretty, it’s well proportioned, it should (on paper) be plenty fast, and it has a connection to a famous Toyota with an inline-six engine.

So that’s where we’ll start. 2019 Z4s are sold with two engine types. BMW Z4 sDrive 30i models use a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four producing 255 horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60 mph taking 5.2 seconds with a 155 mph limited top speed. European markets have a cheaper sDrive 20i model option with 197 horsepower but you’ll probably want to avoid the Z4 altogether if it comes to that.

Trim up to the Z4 M40i and you’ll get BMW’s beloved 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six. This unit utilizes direct injection, water-cooled exhaust manifolds, and a twin-scrolled turbine to send 382 horsepower (340 hp in EU markets) and 369 lb-ft of torque to the crank. Zero-to-60 mph is accomplished in 4.4 seconds according to BMW, and you can expect the new Z4 to possibly be a little bit quicker than that going by their recent performance history.

Whichever engine you can afford, the BMW Z4 comes with a single-option 8-speed Steptronic transmission. It’s equipped with launch control, wide gears up top, and short gears down low. M40i models gain additional tuning for M-style shifts. The sixth-generation roadster also runs a bespoke double-jointed front strut-style suspension with five-links holding the hub at the rear. BMW blends aluminum into the Z4’s control arms, bearings, and rear axle to lighten its unsprung mass, and additional reinforcements in its front and rear subframes improve its overall rigidity.

Grabbing the M40i trim includes M Sport suspension, brakes, and differential. M Sport suspension brings in electrically controlled adaptive dampers, 0.4-inch (10 mm) ride height drop, and allows the driver to set its damping behavior. M Sport differentials reign in an electric motor which controls torque sent to each rear wheel while simultaneously adjusting its variable locking effect. M Sport brakes are just bigger brakes.

On the outside the Z4 is practically unrecognizable compared to its predecessor. Like many M-Sport and BMW M cars today, the front end is more grille than not. Its signature kidneys stretched, its three-section lower grille spans the width of the entire front clip, and new LED C-motif style headlights hug the corners of the prettied Z4. In the rear, new L-shaped tail lights let others know you’re braking and you have money, and those 18-inch wheels are standard on all trims with different designs available at each level. Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires hold the roadster in the bends.

If you’re want for more headroom, all Z4s will be launching as a soft-top convertible. Opening and closing takes a mere 10 seconds with the press of a button, and it’s able to operate in speeds up to 31 miles per hour. If you plan on taking the Z4 through its paces, you'll want to consider the optional wind deflector which sits just behind each headrest.

The Z4 body has been stretched in all directions to improve its handling. It is now 3.3-inches (85 mm) longer, 2.9-inches (74 mm) wider, and 0.5-inches (13 mm) taller than its E89 predecessor. Its wheelbase has been shortened by 1-inch (26 mm) but its front and rear tracks are now wider by 3.9-inches (98 mm) and 2.2-inches (57 mm) respectively.

The Z4 cabin is simple to look at with a plethora of technologies hidden behind its screens. Sitting over the center console and behind the steering wheel are a pair of 10.25-inch displays. On the left side the driver is privy to BMW’s Live Cockpit operating system featuring 10 pages of user-customizable applications, digital gauges, and navigation. On the right side the center console sports BMW Operating System 7.0 where users can control Bluetooth, Wifi, navigation, radio, message control, and much more through BMW’s center console iDrive rotating disk. An optional head-up display is a supposed first in its segment, according to BMW.

Driver assist systems are plentiful on the Z4. But you have to pay for them. The Driver Assistant pack includes adaptive cruise control with low speed traffic control, speed limit info, lane change warning, rear collision warning, and cross traffic alert. The Parking Assistant pack allows the Z4 to park itself whether perpendicular or parallel, and a Reversing Assistant stores all of the steering operation up to 55 yards (50 m) in memory so it can pull out of spaces using the same inputs you used to park in reverse order.

Old fashioned luxuries in the Z4 involve a standard ambient lighting package, optional adaptive LED headlights, standard M Sport seats with optional memory, Connected Navigation service, smartphone as key with Comfort Access package, and a 10-speaker 205 watt sound system as standard. An optional 12-speaker 464 watt Harman Kardon system is available.

We know a vocal group of sports car enthusiasts will scoff at the Z4’s lack of a manual transmission. They’d say it can’t be a true sports car without one. We say there is some truth to that matter, but the more pressing issue is how there’s fewer and fewer sports cars that aren’t quarter-million dollar plus exotics coming to the global market. It feels like every year a rear-wheel drive car built for fun is replaced by a front wheel drive crossover built for the opposite.

So we have to change our definition of a sports car. We’re loosening the reigns on the word in the hopes that others put their money where their mouth is. And it doesn’t take an unwritten rule book to see the 2019 BMW Z4 is part of a species worth saving.

BMW Z4s are produced in Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik, Austria. Pricing to be announced. Sales begin October 4, 2018. Worldwide deliveries expected to begin March 2019.