These days, open-air roadsters are rare, but the 2023 BMW Z4 has its market segment. It is a traditional rear-wheel drive, open-topped, two-seat sports vehicle, but it also sells on comfort and elegance. Although it isn’t “affordable,” it is also less expensive than almost all of its droptop rivals from premium brands. Its goal is to enjoy driving for the sheer fun of it, and it excels at that. However, while going, one feels that one would prefer to spend weekends cruising the Grand Corniche or the Pacific Coast Highway instead of attending local track days.
That’s okay since the Z4 excels in both usability and performance. It’s livable, comfortable, and practical by sports car standards. The wealthy enthusiasts who purchased Mercedes-Benz SLKs and BMW Z3s during the DotCom boom are now more interested in off-roading, electric sports sedans, and high-performance SUVs that can serve as family cars. Due to the low sales of sports vehicles, BMW could only bring the Z4 back in 2019 (after a two-year break) by splitting the expenses with Toyota.
Although they don’t look identical and drive differently, the Z4 and Toyota GR-Supra are remarkably similar under the skin. The Z4 is a comfortable, spacious roadster, whereas the Supra is only offered as a coupe with a practical and slightly constricting interior. The Z4 has essentially eclipsed the Supra because of its cheaper cost, more narrowly focused performance, and marginally better speeds, and that trend will continue in 2023. Toyota offered a much-needed manual gearbox this year, highlighting its appeal to enthusiasts. In contrast, the automatic-only Z4 receives minor equipment updates and a new grille.
If there wasn’t a link here, the Z4 could be compared to more fitting vehicles like the Porsche 718 Boxster, Jaguar F-Type, and Lexus LC. The Supra delivers better performance for less money. Even while its convertible design results in a little bit more weight and slower acceleration, the Z4 is just as competent as the Supra, and in its six-cylinder, 382-horsepower M40i configuration, it offers a respectable low-cost alternative to those more expensive vehicles. The Jaguar and the LC are more luxurious and carry V8 engines, while the Porsche is lighter and more of an actual sports vehicle.
The Z4 succeeds at giving its passengers spaciousness and convenience while also being a genuinely entertaining performer and pleasurable to drive. With the top up, the inside still seems spacious and peaceful, making even drivers who are six feet five inches tall comfortable all day. They won’t wear you out as some sports car seats would. The trunk’s 9.9 cubic feet is significant for a roadster, and there is enough space for little items. The Z4s with four and six-cylinders both achieve a respectable gas economy.
The interior is filled with attractive materials and straightforward controls. Z4 makes use of iDrive 7. Although it isn’t the newest from BMW, the system functions well, and the two 10.3-inch monitors’ images are vivid and clear. The exterior style is divisive, but that is typical for BMW. Despite these advantages, the Z4 is a flop, and BMW has no plans to keep producing it beyond 2025. Although the Z4 may have a niche that is too specific for modern tastes, it is nevertheless a joy to drive and is well worth trying before it becomes obsolete.
The previously available M Sport package, which features more aggressive suspension tuning and aerodynamic front and rear bumpers, is now standard on the base-model sDrive30i.
The grill inserts have been somewhat updated.
The available colors now include three more hues: Portimao Blue metallic, Skyscraper Grey metallic, and Thundernight metallic.
For 2023, the Z4 receives brand-new 19-inch wheels that are exclusive to BMW.
Performance: BMW Z4
One of two superior engines is at the core of every Z4. The M40i’s thunderous “B58” inline-six engine produces 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, while the base-model sDrive30i’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine produces 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Both vehicles have a rear-only drivetrain, an eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters, and a manual mode.
The Z4 balances between being a soft-edged grand tourer and an actual sports car, yet both engines work well with a chassis eager to tackle curves. Although it has a short wheelbase, oversized rims, and wide Michelin Pilot Super Sports tires, the Z4 rides smoothly. In contrast to the Supra and Boxster, which seem edgier and more performance-focused, the Z4 is lively yet refined.
This is not to imply that the Z4 isn’t quick or responsive because it is. An actual sports vehicle, it has a highly balanced feel and accurate driving and will take the path you pick through the curves. Additionally, there is a respectable degree of steering feel, but not as much as a Miata or Boxster. The sDrive30i’s 5.2-second 0-60 mph sprint is no longer very noteworthy, but the M40i will do it in 4.4 seconds. Additionally, the physical power of the six makes it simpler to release the rear end.
Although there isn’t a manual, the gearbox shifts smoothly and fast. BMW’s driving modes, especially Comfort, Sport, and Sport+, which stiffen the suspension damping and sharpen the throttle response, produce a noticeable personality change. But even Sport+ won’t exhaust you like other sports vehicles might, especially if you drive them daily in traffic.
Many drivers would choose a roadster with sports car maneuvers and sedan-like decency, while track day enthusiasts and sports car purists might want something more aggressive.
The Z4’s convertible body makes it somewhat heavier and less rigid than the closely similar Supra, which is a slightly quicker model for the model and much less expensive. However, this body is ideal for the sensory enjoyment of open-air driving. The six-cylinder M40i is the direct rival to the four-cylinder Porsche due to the Boxster’s additional advantages of being lighter and quicker. However, the Z4 M40i is much more affordable and slightly slower than the V8 F-Type convertible.
Fuel efficiency: BMW Z4
Both the four-cylinder and six-cylinder Z4s get decent gas mileage—unless, of course, you drive constantly in Sport+. It is possible. According to the EPA, the six-cylinder M40i gets 26 mpg combined (23 city, 31 highway), while the four-cylinder sDrive30i gets 28 mpg combined (25 city, 33 motorway). However, the M40i got closer to 24 mpg in our real-world test. However, several of the Z4’s immediate rivals benefit from a terrible MPG day.
The closest counterpart to the Z4 is the GR-Supra, which deviates from it by around one mpg for each measurement. While the four-cylinder Boxster achieves 24 mpg combined (21 cities, 27 highways), the four-cylinder Audi TT Roadster comes close at 25 mpg incorporated (23 cities, 30 routes). Although it is substantially quicker, the six-cylinder Boxster can only get 21 mpg combined. Although both have an elegant advantage, the V8 Jaguar F-Type and Lexus LC Convertible won’t contact more than 19 mpg combined.
Safety & Driver Support
The BMW Z4 hasn’t been put through its paces by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP), a European Union organization that conducts comparable assessments, awards it five out of five stars. It also stands out for doing better on critical EuroNCAP system ratings than other bigger BMWs, such as the X5, that IIHS and NHTSA evaluate.
While most of the Z4’s rivals lack active safety measures, BMW at least offers front collision warnings and forward automated emergency braking. A $700 Driver Assistance package includes lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts (all features handy with the top-down). At the same time, parking sensors are an additional extra ($200), and adaptive cruise control is a further ($550, without lane centering) extra.
Comfort & Room: BMW Z4
Most sports car newcomers inquire first, “Can I fit?” The answer is often yes—and comfortably—in the case of the Z4. Even with the top-up, the Z4’s interior seems enormous compared to the similarly sized but closely connected Supra cabin, which feels cramped. Although not all rivals provide an official metric, BMW has managed to cram an SUV-like 38.9 inches of headroom with the top on, which is likely the best in class. The Z4 has 42.2 inches of average legroom.
Two adults who are 6’5″ tall may easily travel in this vehicle for the whole day. The steering wheel and seats offer a broad range of adjustability and are supportive, cozy, and grippy without being too bolstered as in some other performance vehicles. With its thick rim, gripping surface, and weight, the wheel is ideal for a car of this kind.
Infotainment: BMW Z4
A 10.3-inch digital instrument panel and a screen for the infotainment system are standard on every Z4. BMW’s iDrive seven software powers the system, which voice commands, the touchscreen, steering wheel controls, the sizeable iDrive click wheel on the center console, or the steering wheel controls may operate. Although iDrive7 is progressively being replaced by iDrive 8 and there is a learning curve for those new to BMW, we believe this older system is more user-friendly and intuitive, especially in a sports vehicle where large touchscreens are distracting. I am happy to say most functions have physical controls.
Most of BMW’s features are simple, and the displays look fantastic. Standard navigation, which shows areas of interest and often recognizes voice inputs, is one of these features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are normal if you don’t like the BMW user interface. Bluetooth, a USB-A connector, and Sirius XM satellite functionality exist. However, you must purchase a subscription to utilize it.
Storage & Cargo Space:
Roadsters are seldom purchased for their baggage capacity, but by the norms of such vehicles, the Z4 is very useful. The 9.9 cubic foot trunk is far more practical than the 7.3 cubic foot trunk in the Jaguar F-Type convertible or the 4.4 cubic foot trunk in the Porsche Boxster. It is even more significant than other much larger droptops, such as the 7.3 cubic foot trunk in the Chevrolet Camaro convertible. Even if the aperture is modest, the Supra’s 10.2-cube hatchback or BMW’s own 4 Series Convertible’s (10.6 cubic feet) luggage space is more practical.
Additionally, there are several storage options within the cabin. There is a small luggage net in front of the pass-through to the trunk, decently sized door pockets, some space behind and below the seats, and an intelligent center console bin that keeps the driver’s armrest while creating space for cupholders. The Glovebox isn’t enormous, but neither are the majority of its rivals.
Design: BMW Z4
The style of the Z4 is polarizing, much like that of many recent BMW models and most definitely that of the two generations before it. However, this version is much more conservative than the original “land shark” Z4 and its 2008 update, with much more traditional but still wedge-shaped lines. The large headlights are a little overdone, but the sizeable twin-kidney grille seems appropriate, and the whole vehicle exudes strength and purpose.
Inside, the interior has a more opulent feel than a Porsche or Toyota, thanks to the choice of appealing, high-touch materials. It has an upscale appearance and feel, and the computerized technologies complement the style nicely. Even with that option selected, the Z4 is still less costly than some competitors. The basic upholstery is BMW’s high-quality, leather-like SensaTec, although many shades of Vernasca leather are available, occasionally with excellent contrast stitching (for $1,250 or $1,500).
Is the 2023 BMW Z4 Worth it?
When taken as a whole, the Z4 is a great package. While it costs more than the Supra model, it is less costly than the Boxster and much less expensive than the F-Type or LC. Its most significant issue is that several other performance vehicles aren’t roadsters but perform comparably, including BMW’s own 2 Series and the convertible 4 Series versions. These vehicles are more useful and share several systems and engines with the Supra and the Z4.
The starting price for the basic Z4 sDrive30i is $53,795 (plus a $995 destination charge), and it now comes equipped with everything that was formerly part of the M Sport package, including the M Sport suspension, more aggressive bumpers, and other performance and interior features that are shared with the M40i. The sDrive30i is still fun, even if it isn’t as quick as the six-cylinder version. The primary criticism is that the six-cylinder Supra’s starting price is $54,095. Although not quite as plentiful, speed is essential.
The $66,295 M40i is what we consider to be the Z4 lineup’s most excellent bargain. Even if there is a significant price increase, spending much money on this is wiser. This costs substantially less than the similar Boxster T ($76,050), F-Type P450 Convertible ($75,650), or LC Convertible ($103,650) but is about on par with an entry-level Boxster ($66,950). Although it is less sporty than the Porsche or the Jaguar, it is more entertaining and valuable than any of them.
Even with the driver assistance equipment and stylish color, you could be able to drive away for less than $70,000 in total, even if BMW’s typically extensive options list is a touch more restrained on the M40i.
Editor’s note: Some images in this review show a Misano Blue Z4 M40i, which won’t be available in 2023. Other photos show a Thundernight (purple) M40i with European specifications. The color selection options and front grille styles are the only modifications made to the M40i between 2022 and 2023.
How Much Does the BMW Z4 Cost to Insure?
The Z4’s insurance is considerably less costly than you’d anticipate. The average yearly premium for a 30-year-old female driver with a clean driving record starts at $2,655 for the sDrive30i and $2,957 for the M40i, albeit these figures are averages for all 50 states. A Lexus LC would cost $4,167, a Porsche 718 Boxster T would cost $3,079, and a Jaguar F-Type P450 Convertible would cost $3,311.
Versions of the BMW Z4
2019 to Present
BMW fans continued to be interested in the Z4 despite the second-generation vehicle’s lackluster sales, and the carmaker chose to join with Toyota to bring the model back to life. The collaboration, which gave rise to the third-generation Z4 and the Toyota GR-Supra (another rebirth of a dormant enthusiast moniker), is reminiscent of the one between Toyota and Subaru, which gave rise to the reasonably priced GR86 and BRZ sports cars. While the Supra is only offered as a coupe, the Z4 is only offered as a roadster. Magna-Steyr produces both vehicles in Graz, Austria, with four and six-cylinder engines, but the Z4 is more abundant.
2009 to 2016
The second-generation Z4 was released during the Great Recession, with a North American debut in January 2009. It was poorly timed and had a significantly different personality. The second-generation “E89” Z4 was built with a retractable hardtop to combine the benefits of a roadster and a coupe. However, this increased weight and reduced the car’s already constrained storage capacity. Additionally, there was no M variant for the first time; nonetheless, up to 335 horsepower was still available from four and six-cylinder engines. Although worldwide sales weren’t too bad, in the United States, the Z4 never recovered from the effects of the Great Recession. Sales there never exceeded 3,800 units, and they continuously declined until the model was discontinued at the end of 2016.
2003 to 2008
BMW’s fourth “Z car” was the first-generation “E85” Z4. With a distinctive wedge form, drop-down doors, and a ton of contemporary technology, the original Z1 debuted in 1989 but wasn’t made available in North America. Following the popularity of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, BMW decided to create a more traditional roadster. This resulted in the 1995 Z3, which was marketed all over the globe and became renowned for its appearance in the James Bond movie Goldeneye. The very popular Z3 gave rise to an M variant and a coupe before being superseded by the more experienced Z4 in 2003.
The original Z4 had a striking appearance and resulted from BMW’s “flamed surfacing” phase, which designer Chris Bangle headed. However, design employee Anders Warming is credited with creating the actual vehicle. In 2005, an extremely unusual-looking coupe (codenamed “E86” inside BMW) was released. Inline-four or six-cylinder engines with up to 338 horsepower were available in both models in Z4 M configuration. The original Z4 sold quite well despite not being as popular as the Z3, giving rise to a second iteration in 2009.
The BMW Z4 is one of the few remaining conventional two-seat roadsters on the market, and it is more affordable than many high-end rivals while still being elegant, spacious, and practical by such vehicles’ standards. However, it isn’t “affordable,” has a more reserved attitude, and moves at a somewhat slower clip than many of its immediate competitors, notably its raging coupe cousin, the Toyota GR-Supra. The Z4 is tremendous fun if that’s what you want and you like the looks since it’s more about having fun on good days and being livable the rest of the time than being a track day warrior.