BMW Z4 Performance
Test drivers report that the 2011 BMW Z4 is powerful and handles like a pro. Its only fault is uncommunicative steering. Drivers seeking a deeper connection with the road should check out the new Z4 sDrive35is trim. But keep in mind that it’s still no Boxster.
- "Those in search of maximal thrills may want to look elsewhere, but the Z4 is plenty capable for most tastes, and adds a level of sophistication that few small convertibles can match." -- Edmunds
- "From a balance and feel and driving intangibles perspective, the mid-engine Boxster remains the category's gold standard. But throw power and style into the mix and the new Z4 just may take the crown." -- Kelley Blue Book
Acceleration and Power
The 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive30i is equipped with 3.0-liter I6 engine that produces 255 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 220 pound-feet of torque at 2,600 rpm. The more powerful Z4 sDrive35i features a 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 engine that generates 300 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 1,400 to 5,000 rpm. Standard on both trims is a six-speed manual transmission. However, a sport automatic transmission with shift paddles is optional. Only available for the sDrive35i is an optional seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
New for 2011 is the Z4 sDrive35is trim. It features the same 3.0-liter I6 engine as the sDrive30i and sDrive35i, but makes 335 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 332 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm. Standard on the Z4 sDrive35is is the same seven-speed double-clutch transmission that’s optional for the Z4 sDrive35i. Also standard on the new Z4 sDrive35is is a high-output turbocharger system and electronically-controlled overboost to briefly increase torque.
According to BMW, the 2011 Z4 has a top speed of 130 mph. While the sDrive30i can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, the Z4 sDrive35i can do it in 5.1 seconds. The Z4 sDrive35is, however, does it in just 4.8 seconds.
The EPA has not yet reported the 2011 BMW Z4’s city/highway estimated fuel economy. But since the sDrive30i and sDrive35i are carryovers from the 2010 model year, shoppers can assume that their figures haven’t changed. The 2010 Z4 netted an estimated 17/24 mpg to 18/28 mpg, depending on trim and transmission. According to BMW, the new Z4 sDrive35is should net 17/24 mpg.
While the 2011 BMW Z4 sDrive30i and sDrive35i drive perform similarly to last year’s model, the sDrive35is has yet to be extensively tested.
- "Even the base 2010 BMW Z4 sDrive30i is an entertaining drive thanks to its willing and exceptionally smooth 255-hp inline-6. The twin-turbocharged sDrive35i is better yet, offering up authoritative yet ultra-refined acceleration." -- Edmunds
- "Where the 'base' 3.0-liter six is certainly adequate, with a brawny torque spread and pleasing exhaust snarl, the biturbo mill is seriously strong." -- Popular Mechanics
- "For some, any mention of turbocharging brings to mind words like 'lag' and 'surge' - both of which are virtually nonexistent here (and in many other modern turbos, thanks in large part to direct-injection technology)." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "Both automatic transmissions are well-behaved around town, but the 6-speed auto in the sDrive30i is a bit slow to downshift while in normal drive mode. The automatics come with sport modes that hold gears longer for more spirited performance, and each can be shifted manually using the console lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles." -- Consumer Guide
- "We found happiness with the manual transmission, which is blessed with BMW's trademark snickety-snick operation. The optional six-speed traditional automatic ($1325) is a suitably sporty match for the engine. Shifts range from imperceptibly relaxed in drive mode to assertive and snappy in sport and manual modes, complete with rev-matched manual downshifts." -- Car and Driver
- "Strangely, the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles do not follow the same logic here as they do in the M3, where one paddle upshifts and the other downshifts. Instead, either paddle can shift up (by pushing forward) or down (by pulling back) -- the idea being that the Z4 can be shifted with only one hand on the wheel, whereas the more serious M3 pilot is someone who drives with two hands." -- Automobile Magazine
Handling and Braking
Most test drivers are impressed by the Z4's purposeful handling dynamics. Some, however, note that its steering lacks the level of feedback expected from a BMW. The all-new Z4 sDrive35is improves on the Z4’s sports capabilities, but it still lags behind the Porsche Boxster in terms of all-out sports performance. Nevertheless, drivers can opt for BMW’s M Sport Package, which among other things includes an adaptive M Suspension, performance run-flat tires and increased top-speed limiter.
- "Our test car was equipped with the optional adaptive M suspension, which electronically adjusts the damper rates and offers three driver-selectable modes: normal, sport, and sport plus. ... The Z4 keeps a flat cornering attitude in all three settings, and the neutral handling gives way progressively to gentle understeer at the limit. The electronically assisted steering has a responsive and direct feel but doesn't offer much feedback from the road surface." -- Car and Driver
- "Handling on mountain roads (or the all-important entrance ramp GP) feels sure-footed and predictable, and the car's supple suspension and excellent ride quality keep the Bridgestone Potenzas connected on bumpy curves." -- Road and Track
- "[I]t drives very well indeed, with a commendably stiff structure resisting quakes on rough surfaces, and with suspension disciplines that keep the car on track. The electromechanical steering assist feels naturally weighted, and the Z4 aims at corner apexes with pleasing accuracy." -- Popular Mechanics
- "Although the Z4 sDrive35is is not a true M, it does feature an adaptive M Suspension with a 0.4-in. lower ride height as well as sportier programming for the car's Electric Power Steering. BMW claims the reworked EPS provides 'intense and clear steering feedback to the driver.'" -- Road and Track
- "Handling is agile and stable, and even the base tires are grippy. The powerful brakes are easy to modulate and feature excellent pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
- "The new M Sport package that's standard on the 35is and optional on the others should be a must-buy for serious drivers. Having said that, though, no package or adjustable settings will make the Z4 as engaging to drive as a Porsche Boxster -- the steering in particular is a bit of a letdown, providing less road feel than we'd like from a sporting car." -- Edmunds