By Clive Funizwe
I was 10 years old, it had a blue-ish exterior and tan seats when I first saw it. James Bond drove one in a film called Golden Eye. Come to think of it, it was a PG 13 movie and it’s not like it had any exciting scenes that needed some guidance from my parents – but I digress. Back then the car in question was called a Z3 and now a 3rd generation Z4, which incidentally came in a blue-ish colour and tan seats. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw it – even though I knew it did not have some James Bondy bits like shooting missiles or amphibious capabilities.
The official colour is Misano Blue and the starting price into the range is R755,900. Our test car had the Sport line package that bumps the car up to a starting price of R769,592. What you get extra with this package is the V-Spoke Sport line wheels, and kit options to choose from without paying extra for each. As an example – the trim finishes, upholstery, mirror caps, exterior ‘line’ (these are the covers behind the head rests that you see when the roof is down) colours can be changed to any of the available options without adding to the price tag. Very neat and easy way of customizing without a bank balance headache this!
Design, exterior and interior
Another activity that prevents headaches is piloting this car. Before I jumped in for what was going to many kilometers of fun… I took my time in admiring its looks. I couldn’t find a bad angle. Every angle and design cues had just the right level of aggression, style, refinement and sophistication – with the top up or down. Whether you choose the de-chromed package or otherwise – the car looks good regardless. The theme continues inside. BMW’s do not usually get as high praise as Audi interiors. The new generation models are however a cut above the rest. This is both from a quality and design point of view. BMW master the ergonomics and this Z4 is no different. The infotainment is intuitive even though this update takes a day or two to get used to but once you have the hang of things – you literally start reaching out for controls with just a glance of the buttons. There’s no doubt that the usability of the system is amongst the very best.
One of the things that some people complain about is how the rev counter is located far right of the screen so it starts at the bottom right and when you accelerate the movement is outward and goes up. This for me negates the need for the digital instrument cluster to have different modes to change in-between information you want to see. In short – it’s limiting. So this is the best way to keep on seeing everything at the same time. Can the resolution be better? In my view (if you will excuse the pun) yes but there is no need. I found that even though the graphics were less punchy than in the Audi models – it was less fatiguing – especially for night time driving. When it comes to practicality – the car is more than adequate for a 2 seater convertible and I will leave the practicality at that for that reason.
So how does it drive? Boy oh boy is this a fun car. In short – it drives like a sports car that has luxuries added to it, not a luxury car that was hammered and bludgeoned into being a sports car. This car is so much fun I was convinced that the power rating was more than its stated 145 kW. It feels like it’s close to 170 kW or there about. The power delivery is very good and immediate, especially on sport mode. Even though the exhaust note is slightly synthesized – it really adds to the excitement coupled to the snap crackles and pops of the exhausts. One thing I would recommend to be buyers do – is to test the car with the steering set to comfort as I felt that it sharped way more progressively and occasionally disturbs the driving rhythm. I also liked how the tail would have a slight tail slide… just enough to turbo-charge your blood flow and not get you into trouble. When you’re in the mood to feel the air in your hair, you can rest assured that with the top down you won’t experience any hectic buffeting until around 130 km/h. Even phone calls were clear and audible with the top down without the person on the other end of the call noticing much noise. What was also impressive is the ventilation – particularly with the heating when the top was down.
The Z4 has a lot going for it. The seats are genuinely amongst the best I have sat on. Very comfortable and supportive. The driving position is precise and comprehensively adjustable. A friend who is 1.9 m tall – found that it had enough headroom with the top down. When you drive it on comfort – you can, with a bit of effort – get it below 7.0l/100km.
Has the Z4 finally become a proper rival for the Porsche Boxster? I have not driven one – but I can say that it better be damn good to beat this at its starting price! Your move Porsche.
The Z4 comes with BMW’s 5 Year or 100,000 km warranty, motorplan and maintenance contract.
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