Z4 concept harks return of BMW roadster

Pebble Beach BMW concept heralds a long-awaited return of the Z4 roadster

Z4 concept harks return of BMW roadster

BMW’S long-awaited Z4 Concept, unveiled at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, marks a welcome return to a more elegant aesthetic for the company’s open-topped sports model.

It also represents a decisive end to the residual styling influences of the Chris Bangle era, mirroring the clean lines of the latest 8 Series Concept. The Z4 debuted in 2003, featuring then-radical ‘flame surfaced’ flanks and jarring body detailing. The softer-edged 2009 replacement was the work of 32-year old Juliane Blasi, who attempted to introduce a more classical roadster profile and won an internal design competition.

The latest Z4 Concept, designed under the auspices of Adrian van Hooydonk, opts for a slightly more cab-forward look, with stacked headlamps, an aggressively undershot front grille, deeply sculpted flanks, broad rear haunches, and a complex, squared-off tail. Naturally many of the details will be toned down for production, but the fundamentals – to be shared with Toyota’s forthcoming Supra – have received almost universal acclaim.

“The sophistication in our mind comes from reduction,” claimed van Hooydonk. “We have fewer and very crisp lines for the exterior, and reductions in the interior as well, with fewer knobs and buttons. The ones we do have are neatly grouped in a couple of islands.”

BMW plans to ditch the outgoing Z4’s folding hardtop and return to a simpler and lighter fabric hood, helping to keep weight in the region of 1400kg, to realise a saving of at least 50kg. Internal BMW documentation seems to suggest three powertrains: a 2.0-litre turbo four with 147kW/320Nm for the sDrive 20i entry-level model and a 195kW/380Nm tune for the 30i variant. The range topper is likely to be a 3.0-litre turbo-six-equipped 250kW/450Nm sDrive M40i. No Z4 M model has yet been announced.

BMW’s rationale for leaving us short of a real fire-breathing version was that this would require re-engineering that would make the car unprofitable if it was targeted as a Boxster S or TT RS Roadster rival. Still, it’s hard to see how a circa-1600kg roadster packaged with the M3 Competition’s 331kW engine wouldn’t have market appeal. Jaguar’s F-Type V6 S would seem to be the proof that there’s a niche for exactly this sort of car.

The cabin gets a digital instrument cluster and head-up display. Production of the Z4 commences next year and BMW is looking to see the car priced at a similar level to the outgoing model which starts at around $80K.


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