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BMW 4 series


BMW Z4

Summary

BMW 4 series

Life comes at you fast, especially in the automotive industry, where model lifecycles are becoming shorter as each new generation comes and goes.

Take the BMW 4 Series for instance. It’s been a segment stalwart since 2013, but the current model’s time in the sun is finally coming to an end a little later this year.

And that got us thinking whether or not the old saying rings true in this context. So, we put the flagship 440i coupe to test to find out if the older you get, the wiser you are.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating4 seats

BMW Z4

I remember the first Bond film I ever watched.

I was about eight or nine years old, and it was GoldenEye on VHS. In that film, Pierce Brosnan drove a BMW Z3 convertible, which obviously oozed cool.

I didn’t know at the time that it was just a little bit weird that he wasn’t driving an Aston Martin for the entire duration of the movie, but it didn’t matter, that drop-top Beamer with its radar and missiles imprinted itself on my mind.

As such, I’ve always had a soft spot for BMW’s 'zed' range, so I was quite keen to helm this new one as it came through the CarsGuide office, especially since it shares its underpinnings with the new Toyota Supra.

So, is the new Z4 a case of never meet your heroes? Or did it make me feel a little bit like a secret agent? Read on to find out.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.5L/100km
Seating2 seats

Verdict

BMW 4 series7.5/10

Is now the right time to buy a 4 Series coupe? With the next-generation model a matter of months away, probably not.

That said, those buyers who decide to park a new ‘old’ 4 Series coupe in their driveway will be very pleased with their purchase.

At the end of the day, the current-generation model is still a cracking sports-luxury coupe, and more so when in 440i form. It’s just that good.


BMW Z47.5/10

The Z4 didn’t make me feel like Peirce Brosnan’s 007. It’s way too serious – a proper gritty reboot. Maybe it’s meant for Daniel Craig. Either way, its brave design makes it one of the best-looking BMWs of recent memory, and it’s a tech- and comfort-fest that the Bavarian automaker should be proud of. I just wish it was a smidge more fun behind the wheel.

What do you make of the Z4’s looks - Is it an icon or too far from BMW’s roots? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Design

BMW 4 series7/10

The first-generation 4 Series coupe has aged relatively well, despite sharing most of its design cues with the superseded sixth-generation 3 Series sedan.

Compared to current BMW models, the 4 Series coupe’s signature kidney grille is small, flanked by angry-looking adaptive headlights with hexagonal daytime running lights, all of which are of the LED variety.

The 440i’s standard M Sport body kit adds to the aggressive styling with chunky front bumper with three large air intakes, the outer two of which also contain the LED fog lights.

Around the side, a strong shoulder line stretches from the front wheel arches to beyond their rear counterparts, while BMW’s Air Curtains split the difference between it and the sporty skirts.

The rear end is the 440i’s simplest angle, although its bumper is spruced up with a dark-grey insert and dual exhaust tailpipes. Predictably, L-shaped LED tail-lights punctuate the styling at the rear.

Inside, the 4 Series coupe is holding up well, but it's still clearly a generation behind most other new BMW models.

That said, it’s a throwback we quite like, particularly iDrive6, which is still arguably BMW’s best multimedia system to date. Powering a floating 8.8-inch touchscreen in this instance, it’s just so intuitive, partly thanks to its rotary controller.

An 8.8-inch digital instrument cluster is a late-life addition for the 440i, and while it looks great with its drive mode-specific views, it lacks the breadth of functionality of Audi’s set-up.

The 4 Series coupe’s cabin is otherwise pretty basic despite its apparent emphasis on sportiness, although the selection of luxurious materials used throughout is top-notch.

The entire dashboard, chunky M Sport steering wheel and old-school handbrake lever are trimmed in high-quality leather, while lower-quality Dakota leather covers the sports seats, armrests and door inserts.

Soft-touch plastic is used for the door shoulders and bins, even in the second row, while hard plastic is limited to the centre console, and gloss-black trim is used on the centre stack’s audio and dual-zone climate control surrounds.


BMW Z48/10

The Z4 is a sight to behold. It’s brave, especially for a BMW, it even betrays the brand’s strongest styling pillars, making its own way with its more horizontal grille design, flat body and curved out rear.

It’s more than that, though. In black, this car looks sinister, brooding. The more you look at it, the more you notice tiny details - the scooped-out sides, or the way the entire rear seems to flick up into the integrated spoiler. I couldn’t get enough of staring at it – it manages to look even better with the roof down.

That’s probably when it hit me. To my eyes, at least, this is the most stunning BMW in years. Sure, the X7 is a sight to behold due to its sheer dimensions and borderline offensive grille, but the Z4 is the opposite. It’s subtle, it hides its details away in its silhouette.

It’s designer, Calvin Luk (an Australian no less), was inspired at least in part by the Z8 – another Brosnan bond car – and you can see the Fisker design reflected in the Z4’s low, flat grille and almost bulbous rear.

Inside, sadly, the Z4’s strong design doesn’t quite play out. There’s no wily Fisker touches here, just a standard set of BMW switchgear. While it all works well, it just dumbs down the Z4’s character.

The big, chunky steering wheel in particular is a let-down. It’s the same wheel that sits in the brand’s X5 SUV, and it feels right there, but not here in a convertible where you’re so close to the ground. A smaller wheel would not only suit this car better, it would make it feel just a smidge more alive. I miss the three-spoke M sport wheel from previous-generation BMW cars.

I do like the dash, which is seemly carved from rhomboid shapes - a theme that rolls into the doors, screens, and vents elegantly. I’m normally not a fan of gloss plastics and chrome touches, but in the Z4 they’re all tastefully applied.

The seats, too, are lovely. I’m not sure about the contrast bright-red leather our car came with, but they’re nice and close to the ground and have excellent trim that you seem to sink into just enough to be comfortable and sporty all at once.

It’s a slick place to be, I just wish it felt less like you were at the helm of an SUV and more like you were driving something that looks this damn good.

Practicality

BMW 4 series7/10

Measuring 4640mm long, 1825mm wide and 1377mm tall, the 440i coupe is a true mid-sizer, and that means it’s surprisingly practical – for the most part.

Cargo capacity is more than solid, at 445L, but stow the 60/40 split-fold rear bench via a pair of manual latches located in the boot and more storage space is quickly liberated.

To make matters even better, the boot has two bag hooks and four tie-down points, making securing a load a cinch. That said, the high load lip means bulkier items can require a little more effort to accommodate.

Up front, the door bins are large enough for a regular bottle each, while a pair of cupholders separate the gear selector from a seriously shallow storage tray.

The central storage bin is on the shallow side, too, albeit not to the same degree as the dedicated storage tray. That said, much of its space can be taken up by the optional wireless smartphone charger ($200), which was fitted to our test car.

The glovebox tries its best to make up for the lack of genuine in-cabin storage options by being quite large, while storage nets are attached to the backs of the front seats.

Rear occupants can also make use of a large storage tray that resides where a middle seat would otherwise go. They also have access to a fold-down central armrest that incorporates two more cupholders.

Speaking of armrests, the rear side ones are incredibly narrow, leaving tired elbows in a bit of a pickle.

It’s not all bad news in the second row, though, as legroom and toe-room behind our 184cm driving position are very generous, with the former offering several inches of wriggle room.

We’d go as far as to say the rear quarters are comfortable, but that would require ignoring the fact that headroom is seriously compromised with the optional power-operated sunroof ($3000) fitted, with our head pressed firmly against the 440i coupe’s Anthracite roofliner.

Either way, child seats can be fitted in the second row, with ISOFIX anchorage points available for the outer seats. Speaking of which, it’s worth noting ingress and egress to the rear bench isn’t too bad, with the front seats folding forward via manual latches.

Connectivity-wise, two USB-A ports are found in the first row, split between the centre stack and the central storage bin, while three 12V power outlets are spread across the front and rear of the centre console, and the boot.


BMW Z48/10

The Z4 is a convertible, so it’s naturally compromised on space. As far as convertibles go though, you’ll be hard pressed to find one you can fit more stuff into.

The Z4 is wide - the same width, in fact, as a 5 Series - and this carries into the cabin. There are only two seats, but those seats are wide, and occupants will find themselves with luxurious amounts of airspace for their arms, as well as excellent leather-trimmed and padded surfaces for landing elbows on.

Legroom is also great, as the seats have a surprising amount of rail-travel on them, so that even taller folk won’t struggle to fit their limbs in.

A genuinely impressive characteristic of the Z4 is much head room there it is. Despite its low-slung looks from the outside, the roof towers over my 182cm tall head when I’m inside, so this isn’t one of those convertibles that feels like braking too hard might simply decapitate those above six-foot tall.

In terms of storage areas you get some long but shallow trenches in the doors, a bay with connection ports and a Qi wireless charging pad under the air-conditioning controls, a glovebox (hey, not all convertibles have them) and a trick centre console that houses two deep cupholders inside.

There’s also a netted shelf behind the seats that could fit small bags, and given the length of the cabin, you could even fit laptops and the like behind the seats provided you haven’t used the full extent of the seat’s rearward movement.

The boot is deep, wide and long for a drop-top, and offers a total of 281-litres which is more than some popular hatchbacks. It even offers tie-down points and netting either side. To top it off, the fabric roof folds away into its own compartment, so the boot space is unaffected if you choose to drop the lid.

For a convertible – the Z4 is a practicality wizard.

Price and features

BMW 4 series7/10

The 440i coupe is priced from $103,200 plus on-road costs, positioning it as a more affordable alternative to its main rivals, the Audi S5 coupe ($105,400) and Mercedes-AMG C43 coupe ($116,500), although it’s not as fully featured.

Standard equipment not already mentioned in the 440i coupe includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, a mixed set of run-flat tyres (front: 225/40, rear: 255/35) and power-folding side mirrors with heating.

Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio, a 600W Harman/Kardon sound system with 16 speakers, a windshield-projected head-up display, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and ambient lighting feature.


BMW Z47/10

The Z4 isn’t cheap, but it plays in a field of expensive Deutsche drop-tops. Our car was the mid-spec 30i which comes in at an MSRP of $104,900 (before on-road costs).

For that you’ll get a more highly tuned version of the base 20i’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine, producing 190kW/400Nm, 19-inch alloy wheels, M Sport brakes, Adaptive M suspension, and adaptive LED headlights.

That’s on top of the already impressively-specified 20i’s kit which includes dual 10.25-inch screens – one for the multimedia functions, the other as a digital dashboard, a head-up display, full Vernasca leather interior trim, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power adjustable and heated front seats with memory function, dual-zone climate control, 10-speaker 205W stereo, a Qi wireless charging pad, and adaptive cruise control as part of a marginally upgraded safety package (more on that in the safety section).

It’s a pretty plush set of equipment, although a challenging value proposition as the almost-as-well-equipped 20i starts from $84,900, a full $20k cheaper.

Rivals for this 30i model? You’ve got the soon-to-be-discontinued Mercedes-Benz SLC300 ($102,500), all-wheel drive Audi TT S quattro ($105,661), and, at a stretch, the entry-level Porsche Boxster ($122,960).

Of course, being a premium European car, there is an extensive options list. Our car was fitted with the excellent and probably-worth-the-money M Sport differential ($2400), as well as the rudely priced M seat belts (literally just the M pattern embroidered in - $560!) and interior ambient lighting package (lovely, perhaps not worth $550).

The Z4 is only offered in five colours, three of which – including our car’s Black Sapphire – come at a cost of $2000. The red interior, surprisingly, is a no-cost option.

If you’re keeping track that brings the car you’re looking at here to $110,410. Not cheap, and it doesn’t have six-cylinders - but given its other attributes explored later in this review, the fact that it still manages to undercut an entry-level Boxster is actually reasonable.

Engine & trans

BMW 4 series9/10

The 440i coupe is motivated by a silky smooth 3.0-litre turbo-petrol in-line six-cylinder engine that punches out 240kW of power at 5500rpm and 450Nm of torque from 1380-5000rpm.

An equally silky smooth eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission exclusively sends drive to the rear wheels – a characteristic that has become a rarity in this segment.

This combination helps the 440i coupe sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a scant five seconds flat with launch control engaged, according to BMW. Its top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.


BMW Z48/10

Welcome to the age of ridiculously powered four-cylinder turbo engines. Despite a capacity of just 2.0-litres, the engine in the Z4 30i produces a whopping 190kW/400Nm.

That’s probably enough for a car this size. I’m keen to drive the six-cylinder, but surprisingly it seems to offer diminishing returns for extra cylinders offering a 60kW/100Nm power boost for an extra $20,000. Perhaps a six-cylinder is the way to go in a BMW, and given this car’s other seriously sporty attributes, it might be the only way to make it a bit more… fun. More on that in the driving section.

All Z4s are rear-wheel drive, using an eight-speed torque converter automatic. Sorry, no option for a manual this time around.

Fuel consumption

BMW 4 series8/10

The 440i coupe will drink a claimed 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, while its carbon dioxide emissions are 159 grams per kilometre.

Our week of testing skewed towards city driving over highway stints, and we averaged 8.6L/100km, which is impressive given the six-cylinder performance on offer. And yes, we did put it to use...

The 440i coupe's 60L fuel tank takes 95RON petrol at minimum.


BMW Z47/10

It’s claimed that the Z4 will drink just 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the official combined cycle test, but I found that sticking my foot in occasionally resulted in a slightly more realistic sounding figure of 8.4L/100km.

That’s still a great fuel consumption number for a car like this, and perhaps one of the strongest benefits of having just four cylinders.

A discerning vehicle, the Z4 will drink nothing less than the best-quality 98RON unleaded to fill its 52-litre tank.

Driving

BMW 4 series8/10

The 440i coupe toe the line between sports car and luxury vehicle very, very well.

The straight-line performance is definitely there thanks to its in-line six-cylinder unit, which is one of our favourite engines in any vehicle – period.

From top to bottom, the 3.0-litre unit is absolutely delicious. Maximum torque kicks in just above idle and remains on tap deep into the top end, at which point a fleeting moment of peak power is just 500rpm away. Needless to say, acceleration is strong.

Remarkably, the engine’s twin-scroll turbo exhibits next to no lag, making for a unit that you truly want to wring out. That said, don’t expect aural pleasure when you do so, as the sound it generates is lacklustre. Yep, no enticing crackles or pops are heard here.

The automatic transmission ties everything together beautifully, providing timely, quick and smooth gear changes on the regular, even without its Sport mode engaged. And, of course, there are paddle-shifters on hand if you want to take matters into your own hands – literally.

Given the 440i coupe’s apparent performance bent, you’d be forgiven for thinking it rides like an unforgiving sports car. Well, the good news is it doesn’t.

Consisting of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with adaptive dampers, its independent suspension set-up stands up really well to Australian roads.

While potholes and coarse-chip roads would usually be met with hesitation, the 440i coupe silences the doubters with its composed ride. Can you feel them? Yes, but they’re relatively muted, especially in a car with sporty aspirations, like this one. 

Cornering is a lot of fun, too, thanks to excellent body control. Tip its 1555kg kerb weight into a corner with intent and you’re quickly reminded why SUVs are nowhere near this fun to drive.

Simply put, the 440i coupe loves a twisty stretch of road, where its M Sport brakes (front: four-piston fixed callipers, rear: two-pot floating stoppers) and traditional rear-wheel-drive dynamics come out to play.

This experience is enhanced by its superb electric power steering, which is speed-sensitive, meaning it’s quick at low speed, for improved manoeuvrability, and ‘slow’ at high speed, for improved stability.

We absolutely adore this particular system, mainly because of its perfect weighting and surprising amount of feel. And in a surprise to no-one, it also turns in really well, too.

Of course, if you want to take the 440i coupe’s handling to the next level, you can engage its Sport drive mode, which stiffens up the adaptive dampers for even flatter cornering and adds more heft to the electric power steering. But we’d say both are unnecessary.


BMW Z48/10

A car that looks this good better live up to the promise behind the wheel, right?

For the most part, the 30i does, but it’s a victim of its own performance credentials and luxuriousness.

See, a drop-top should be fun-packed, you should feel close to the road, connected. Sadly, a combination Z4’s excellent suspension and not-so-excellent SUV-like interior separates you too much from the surface below.

An advantage, of course, is the refinement on offer. The Z4 is easily one of the quietest, most refined convertibles I’ve ever driven, but it’s a little too insulated.

I can’t help but feel like it’s all business and no pleasure. It feels a little more like I should be cruising to work on the autobahn and a little less like I should be flinging it around corners on a tight B-road.

It feels almost wrong to drive it in a T-shirt. It’s serious and doesn’t want you to mess around, it wants you to wear a suit and tie.

This grand-tourer style feel is one that will keep a lot of buyers in the premium space happy, but I’m of the opinion that BMW will have that segment well and truly covered by the new 8 Series. If the budget allows.

Regardless, the 30i’s four-cyl engine feels like any six-cylinder would have a few years ago. It’s got a surge to it in the straights that’s quite satisfying, and it responds via the exhaust with an angry tone that makes it feel a little more alive, especially with the roof down.

This feeling was all helped along by our car’s M active differential which simply won’t let the fat tyres at the rear slide unless you’ve got high-speeds and loads of tarmac to play with – for better or worse.

The Z4 also has ‘variable sport steering’ which reacts to the car’s speed and position of the wheels to adjust the input ratio. It’s good when you’re at speed, but the weight and response of the steering can make the Z4 feel bigger than it actually is at lower speeds. 

The suspension is firm, and can be a little bouncy over rough surfaces, but seems well suited to the Z4’s chassis.

Other than those notable characteristics you’ll find that the Z4 is wonderfully tuned in terms of its inputs, everything is slick and smooth, suited perfectly for long meandering drives.

Safety

BMW 4 series7/10

Advanced driver-assist systems in the 440i coupe extend to low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, a manual speed limiter, speed-sign recognition, high-beam assist, park assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, hill-start assist and tyre pressure monitoring.

Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and brake assist, among others.

That said, high-speed AEB, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert are among the notable exclusions.

Neither ANCAP nor its European sibling, Euro NCAP, have awarded the 4 Series a safety rating yet.


BMW Z48/10

Convertibles and safety don’t often fall in the same sentence, unless its one where a concerned relative is trying to convince you not to buy one.

In any case, the Z4 benefits from four airbags (dual front and dual side), as well as the expected electronic stability controls. That optional M Sport differential will have the added bonus of preventing any unexpected slip and slide at the rear.

On the active side the Z4 gets ‘Driving Assistant’ which includes forward collision warning (FCW), lane departure warning (LDW), rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), and rear collision warning. The 30i grade also gets 'active cruise control with stop & go' which allows for full auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection. Not on the spec sheet, but apparently present in the car I drove was some form of traffic sign recognition (TSR) and lane keep assist (LKAS).

A nice high-res reversing camera displayed on the massive touchscreen is a welcome standard addition.

Considering the meagre safety specification of most convertible cars, the Z4 30i shines with a half-way decent active safety suite. But you can forget ISOFIX child-seat anchor points. There aren't any. 

Ownership

BMW 4 series7/10

As with all BMW models, the 4 Series comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with three years of roadside assistance, both of which are two years short of the premium standard now set by Mercedes-Benz.

The 440i coupe’s service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Owners can opt for a $1650 five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plan, which is well-priced.


BMW Z46/10

If recent quotes are anything to go by BMW is set to stick by its lacklustre three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, as it says its customers simply aren’t interested in five years (or longer) when it comes to warranty coverage.

It’s a shame, as even Volkswagen has upped its warranty to five years, and Mercedes has considered a 10-year coverage plan in the past.

In terms of servicing, there are two fixed-price plans available – the suspiciously cheap ‘Basic’ plan which comes at a cost of $1373 for five years (or $274.60 per year) and the more realistic-sounding ‘Plus’ which costs $3934 over five years (or $786.80 per year).

Like every other BMW, the Z4’s computer tells you when its service time: how often it needs maintenance will depend on how often – and how hard – you drive it.