2021 BMW Z4 SDrive30i: A Bringer of Sunlight in a Rather Gray Context

BMW Z4 sDrive 30i 20 photos
Photo: Alexandru Sincan
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Luckily, during our shooting day with the BMW Z4 sDrive30i, a BMW 507 also came into the camera’s field. It made it a lot easier for us to tell you what the Z4 is about; that’s why they say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Long story short: the actual Z4 is the latest in a venerable tradition. Let's see if this BMW Z4 lives up to the implicit expectations for such a model.


The third generation of the BMW Z4 series refreshed the brand's offering in the roadster segment. Because the current market conditions are not exactly prosperous and the interest in convertibles and coupes is declining, BMW decided to share with Toyota the creative effort that led to the materialization of the BMW Z4 roadster (2019) and Toyota Supra coupe (2020).

By the way, both cars are assembled in the same Magna Steyr plant, in Graz, Austria. The modern era of the BMW roadsters started with the BMW Z3 in 1995 as an act of retaliation against the worldwide impetuous offensive of the Mazda MX-5 Miata (launched in 1989).

BMW Z4 sDrive 30i
Photo: Alexandru Sincan
Then, the subsequent BMW Z4 roadsters went hunting for their clientele somewhere between the Mercedes SLK and the Mercedes SL. The Z4/E89 (2009-2017) even got a metallic retractable roof, like the Mercs. The current BMW Z4 (G29) comes with a traditional soft top, though, and a restructured engine range.


The latest BMW Z4 arrived just in time to escape the newest and weirdest design trends recently promoted by the Bavarians. Thank goodness! And
nobody should think about this car as a kind of German-Japanese cultural compromise because its tech comes 100% from BMW (Toyota brought only the necessary financial resources in this project).

100% BMW: this is how the interior design can also be described. It is not the case to talk about space in excess, yet no sensation of claustrophobia occurs, and the seating corresponds to the idea of sportiness. Everything around the driver’s seat comes easily to your hand, confirming the ergonomic concept has been carefully elaborated.

BMW Z4 sDrive 30i
Photo: Alexandru Sincan
There are quite a lot of conventional buttons, and they are easy to find and identify. Fans of the digital era might not appreciate this, yet let me remind you of something: the dashboards of airplanes also have a lot of buttons because they still represent the shortest way between intention and command input.

No pilot has to swipe through screens and menus for lowering the wheels or retracting the flaps. Another nice surprise: the trunk’s volume is unexpectedly generous: 281 liters (9.9 cu ft). As our photo shows, it can swallow a couple of big “hand luggage” pieces and two light backpacks.

I can’t remember right now any typical sports roadster being able to do this better. So, the car looks like a BMW (a nice one), it has a complete BMW technical content, and its interior breathes the original BMW atmosphere. Time to see how it drives.


Despite what its name suggests, the Z4 sDrive30i doesn’t have a 3.0-liter straight-six engine under the hood but a 4-cylinder turbocharged Bavarian mill of 2.0 liters, able to deliver 258 PS (255 hp). It has plenty of nerve and it can hardly be taken to its upper limits on public roads.

It takes only 5.4 seconds to reach the speed of 100 kph (62 mph) after a standing start. The only missing detail here would be the naturally profound and refined sound of an aspirated straight-six configuration. At a lower level, the Z4 sDrive 20i has the same kind of engine yet it delivers only 197 PS (194 hp)—neither feels weak, anyhow.

BMW Z4 sDrive 30i
Photo: Alexandru Sincan
At the top of the range, there is the Z4 M40i. Finally, here's something equipped with a Bavarian straight-six engine (also turbocharged) providing 340 PS (335 hp) in European-spec and boosting 500 Nm (369 lb-ft) of torque on a wide rev range, from 1,600 to 4,500 rpm.

This one can do the 0 to 100 kph sprint in 4.5 seconds, but also costs a lot more. About that, the Z4 sDrive30i starts at €42,500 in Europe and has a starting MSRP of $49,700 in the U.S.


In the case of the Z4 sDrive30i version, there are four drive modes and four corresponding buttons for selecting them: Sport, Comfort, Eco Pro, and Adaptive. While the Eco Pro mode feels like some medical software was programmed in there to calm down the person behind the wheel in a compulsory manner, Comfort mode allows you to move relatively easily through the traffic flow.

It has a certain sporty note, I can say, but there is no explicit incisiveness in its response. Of course, the Z4 sDrive30i gives all it can when Sport mode is engaged. The car then becomes really crisp, with an obviously firmer suspension behavior and a different, more feedback-oriented, steering assistance setting.

When driving in Sport mode, the temptation to change gears manually appears. In any case, the automatic transmission program will not show hesitations to determine you to do so.

BMW Z4 sDrive 30i
Photo: Alexandru Sincan
The low center of gravity and the even mass distribution on the front/rear axles contribute to agile and safe road-holding, with intuitive reactions. Also, the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) function can be activated to enable the drift skills of the Z4 sDrive30i to be observed, within decent limits, of course

Before going further with a complete deactivation of the electronic stability functions, remember that the Z4 sDrive30i sends up to 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) of torque only to the rear wheels! Literally, this should be called “driving off the grid,” something not to be attempted on public roads.


Is it absolutely necessary to have doubts of any kind regarding the BMW Z4? It is a car with which you can interact with flawlessly, so it becomes difficult to question anything about it.

Nevertheless, there is a detail that needs special attention: the button for the parking brake is situated too close to the one that operates the roof, and both of them are out of the driver’s normal sight line, behind the transmission’s selector.

BMW Z4 sDrive 30i
Photo: Alexandru Sincan
They say it is possible to operate the roof while driving at speeds under 50 kph (31 mph). That means you have to look at the road while doing it. In that case, using the wrong button will be a significant risk: it’s not funny at all to pull the parking brake at about 50 kph.


Will anybody still feel tempted by the Mazda MX-5 after driving the Z4? Well, those who insist their roadster should come from a European brand might go for the Fiat 124 Spider (yes, that's another kind of Mazda MX-5).

Some less pretentious versions of the Mercedes SLK or SLC are also still around on the used-car market. What about a Porsche 718 Boxster or a Jaguar F-Type? Those play in a different league, yet they can trigger unpredictable passion attacks. However, BMW has the Z4 M40i to fight those.
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