BMW changed its formula for the Z4 when it introduced a new generation in the spring of 2009. Gone was the popular roadster’s low weight and bare essentials design, replaced instead with a more luxurious grand tourer look and feel as well as an automated folding metal roof.
It’s clear that BMW was targeting buyers of the Mercedes-Benz SLK, which has always come with such a roof, but at the same time the automaker hasn’t forgotten what made the Z4, and the Z3 before it, so popular in the first place.
The proportions over the years has remained much the same since the original Z3, with a long, rakish hood, very short overhangs and a wide tight two-seat cabin distinguishing the line. The other feature that’s remained is the availability of the automaker’s beloved straight-six engines.
In fact, the 2011 BMW Z4 debuts a brand new sDrive35is model
, which packs a potent twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six engine with no less than 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque on tap.
The rest of the range is not too far off on the performance ladder, with sDrive30i and sDrive35i models delivering 255 and 300 horsepower, respectively, from their straight-six engines.
Note, for 2012 BMW is introducing a new Z4 sDrive28i model
, which will come packing a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. This will be the new base model and will deliver a healthy 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
As for the current range, there’s the choice of manual six-speed manual transmissions or six-speed automatics. However, the sDrive35i is available with a sweet seven-speed dual clutch unit with steering column mounted paddle shifters. The dual-clutch gearbox lets drivers choose gears and then reverts to an automatic shift mode, or it can be locked in Manual mode for all-paddle control.
Pricing of the Z4 is a bit steep, especially once you start ticking some of the options. The entry price point is $47,450 but this can easily reach close to $70k for a fully loaded model.
The handling in the 2011 BMW Z4 is some of the best in the business, with a quick and accurate feel that remains very predictable. The ride is also good, though a bit firm for those looking for a gentle cruiser. We suggest you get the optional Adaptive M Suspension with Electronic Damping Control, which is offered with the Sport Package. It lets you adjust the stiffness of the suspension.
For an in-depth look at the 2011 BMW Z4’s styling, performance, quality and safety, check out our report over at TheCarConnection