In an era of import-only COTYs, it’s refreshing to see an Australian influence in one of our contenders; the third-gen BMW Z4 was designed by Sydney-born Calvin Luk.
It was the design that was an early topic of contention. Some were attracted to its rotund rump, but others felt things were underdone. Fashionista Carey declared it simply didn’t have the appeal he expects in a sports car.
No complaints with the practicality, though, the Z4’s two-seat space and ergonomically sound cabin a plus. The return of a soft-top roof and its clever packaging that maintains all 281 litres of luggage space with sun or shade was also praised, as was the Bunnings-friendly ski port poking from boot to cabin. Throw in solid structural integrity and it’s clear the core engineering is from fine Bavarian stock.
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Judges were also impressed with the way the rear-driver quelled wind and road noise, while Mathioudakis highlighted the cold-weather comfort of a roadster that cossets its occupants like a cosy blanket, roof up or down.
We’ve spent time in the 30i previously – arguably the sweet spot of the three-tiered range – but for COTY 2020 our Z duet consisted of the bookends: the $84,900 20i and the $124,900 M40i.
From the first prod of the throttle, the M40i’s luscious, rev-hungry 250kW in-line six won fans. The linear torque and way it syncs with its eight-speed auto is just as enticing.
The 20i less so. Judges could almost live with the 145kW/320Nm outputs, but the lack of verve and the strangled top-end of the turbo four-pot isn’t seductive.
Thankfully Apple CarPlay was thrown in for nix right on COTY deadline, but it counted for little given the lack of the Android opposite and an equipment list that’s hardly bulging.
It marked the start of some bumps in the Z4’s COTY journey – literally. Some of its GT goodness faltered on Lang Lang’s rough-road section. Enright thought the vacant passenger seat was going to disintegrate, Mission Impossible-style, in a shaking rage. Carey was kinder, suggesting the combination of torque and lumps were not endearing to that (broad) rear-end.
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Which highlighted a monumental hurdle for the Z4; a Stuttgart-sized mountain in the form of the Porsche Boxster. While BMW may have an M-infused six-pot win over the huffing fours in the Boxster, Porsche returns serve (and some) with dynamic excellence the Z4 can’t match.
There was also the occasional grumble about the Manga Steyr build quality due to some dodgy gaps between bumper and guards deemed more Tesla than BMW.
All of which detracted from the charm elsewhere in what is a vastly improved Z4. It’s by far the best among an often-underwhelming ancestry.
And while it may be as Aussie as a modern COTY gets, patriotism counts for nothing at the year’s biggest test, which is why the Z4’s run came to a bumpy end.
THE JUDGES’ COTY SCORECARD
BMW Z4 SPECS
Type: 2-door convertible, 2 seats
Boot capacity: 281L
Weight: 1405 – 1535kg
Layout: Front-engine (north-south), RWD
Engines: 1998cc 4cyl turbo-petrol (145kW/320Nm); 1998cc 4cyl turbo-petrol (190kW/400Nm); 2998cc 6cyl turbo-petrol (250kW/500Nm)
Transmissions: 6-speed manual; 8-speed automatic
Tyres: 225/50R17 – 275/35R19
ADR81 fuel consumption: 6.5 – 7.4L/100km
CO2 emissions: 148 – 169g/km
Crash rating: 5 stars (NCAP)
$84,900 – $124,900