BMW’s classy Z4 Sports Car has been completely redesigned for 2009. But, now as a hardtop droptop, it really knocks out two birds with one stone. It replaces both the previous Z4 Coupe and Z4 Roadster. The goal, of course, is to combine serious driving excitement with outrageous open-air exhilaration. So, let’s see if the new Z4 is a mix made in heaven - or not.

With production now moved from South Carolina to Germany, the 2nd generation 2009 BMW Z4 takes the modern interpretation of the classic sports car to an aggressive new level.  It’s also BMW’s first roadster with a folding hardtop.

Larger in all directions, mainly to create a larger interior, the new Z4 now measures 166.9 inches in length, an increase of 5.  That’s still about a half a foot shorter than the 1-series.

With all new sheet metal from front to back, styling continues to evolve from the vaulted Z8.  The Z4 dons even more of the Z8’s unmistakable presence, defined by a low-slung front-end and long hood, but with ever sharper shoulder and rocker lines, and a wide, sculpted rear-view. 

Which leads us to a new highlight for the Z4: its lightweight aluminum top.  BMW calls the retractable top “a piece of art in motion.”  The hydraulically powered two-piece design can be opened or closed in a mere 20 seconds.

Top up or down, this Z4 is ready to take to the roads.  Power for US-bound models copies the 3-Series, with the sDrive30i’s naturally aspirated 3.0-liter inline-six with 255 horsepower and 220 pound-feet of torque, or our SDrive35i tester’s twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six with 300 horses and 300 pound-feet.

Both cars come standard with a 6-speed manual.  While a 6-speed automatic is optional on the 30i, our test 35i had the M3-style seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

We got a chance to drive the Z4 sDrive35i on the gorgeous roads of Alicante, Spain. With the Mediterranean as the backdrop, a mix of long sweepers and tight twisties made up our picture-perfect route where our 35i pulled like a V8 from idle all the way to the 7,000 rpm redline.  The twin-turbos spooled up quickly and very smoothly.  There was absolutely no dips or gaps in the power band.  This car knows not the definition of “turbo lag.”

The fast-shifting 7-speed glides seamlessly from gear-to-gear, and with Launch Control, the Z4 can get to 60 in 5 seconds flat, all with a near-symphonic exhaust note that will stay with you long after you’re parked.

With the top down, wind buffeting is well controlled, more so with the wind screen in use, and with the top up, road noise is virtually non-existent.

The Z4’s precise handling is the result of an almost perfectly balanced chassis. There was a slight touch of understeer as we sliced through the devilish switchbacks, but the car was otherwise subservient to driver input.

BMW’s latest Dynamic Stability Control system has three-modes: normal for the softest ride, with sport, and sport-plus providing two levels of stiffness.  DSC also modifies steering response, engine management, and shift points to offer distinctly different driving setups.  Our car had an optional M-suspension which controlled the damping rate.

The Z4’s 17-inch alloys also help to keep it glued to the pavement during higher-speed acrobatics, as the high-performance lightweight brakes stopped our 3,500 pound Z4 with rock solid stability, all leaving our staffer on sight suitably impressed.

BRIAN ROBERTS:  There’s no doubt with the relaunch of the 2009 Z4, the classic roadster is back.  Not only is it more powerful, but it is also more stylish than ever before.

Within, the new Z4’s upscale and well-equipped two-seat cockpit is larger and far more useable than before.  There’s noticeably more leg and shoulder room, and the new hardtop results in a slight increase of headroom.

The leather seat and steering wheel surfaces have been treated with a reflective technology that keeps things cooler in the open sun, and the latest iDrive system, which BMW finally appears to have nailed, offers an 80 gigabyte hard drive that allows you to upload songs via a USB port.

Safety is provided by stout steel roll bars and standard front, side, and knee airbags.

In terms of cargo, top up, space is up by 2 cubic feet to 11. Top down it’s still a weekend getaway acceptable 6.3 cubic feet.

Pricing for the Z4 sDrive30i starts at $46,575, while the sDrive 35i begins at $52,475. Sounds steep but the 35i is still less expensive then the Porsche Boxster S and the Mercedes Benz SLK55 AMG.

With its retractable hardtop, the 2009 BMW Z4 is a successful fusion of coupe and convertible sports car.  Having captured the best of both worlds, this new roadster is, no doubt, a masterpiece in its own right.


  • Engine: Sdrive35i Twin-turbo 3.0-Liter Inline-six
  • Horsepower: 300
  • Torque: 300 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 5.0 Seconds