Following much speculation and a rather confusing development path thanks to the Toyota Supra being based on the same platform, the 2019 BMW Z4 has finally been released. The new open-top two-seater was unveiled on the same Reviewing Stand where the concept was shown last year, at the site of the illustrious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
The 2019 Z4 is the latest of a lineage which dates back to the Z1 introduction 30 years ago, and continues BMW’s rich roadster tradition which stretches to the pre and postwar eras, and includes special cars like the 328 and 507. Now, the new Z4 is picking up where the previous E89 generation left off, but appears dead set on offering a fresh and improved level of visceral thrill in a package that is balanced and composed with excellent looks and a fabric roof.
Styling is a break from the norm in that it exchanges the traditional long hood design with a more balanced and proportioned side profile, which is bolstered by the aggressive angles and large vents that almost dominate the front end. Wide kidney grilles might seem foreign to some, but the look isn’t a new one by any means (see the 507 or Z8), and future styling for the marque seems to be trending in this direction. Lighting also represents a precise divergence from the past, with stacked front beams taking the place of the traditional side-by-side arrangement. The body as a whole appears quite unique when juxtaposed with current model offerings, but the lines might make a bit more sense once the rest of the stable has been refreshed and allowed time to catch up with new platforms and facelifts. The rear end presents a bit more familiarity, with L shaped tail lights, a trunk lid with its own integrated spoiler and a good looking M Sport diffusor framing the dual exhaust.
Whether retracted or in place providing a respite of shade, the black textile top flows with the sheet metal as if the two were one piece.
Output figures have yet to be released, but two models are on the horizon. The Z4 30i will arrive in U.S. BMW dealership showrooms during spring of 2019, and is expected to motivated by a version of the current B48 four cylinder engine. BMW is on record as saying a pure M derivative is unlikely to become reality, but an M40i is scheduled for availability during the second quarter of 2019. This range-topping variation will be motivated by the potent B58 six cylinder mill, more specifically a version developing something to the tune of 380 hp and 369 lb. ft. outside of European emissions standards borders, while another new-for-2018 version offers 335 hp between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm with 332 lb. ft. of torque with a length plateau from 1,500 up to 5,200 revs. The former unit sounds a lot like what is expected to be found beneath the hood of the G20 M340i when it arrives before too long. Black nineteen-inch ten-spoke wheels house M Sport brakes on the M40i, and other mechanical highlights include an electronically actuated M Sport rear differential. Adaptive dampers are listed as well, along with an estimated zero to 60 time of 4.4 seconds and of course, 50/50 weight distribution.
The interior is a mesh of different elements, some of which might be recognizable from new models, while other parts seem specific to the Z4. The completely-digital instrument display was expected but remains a welcome sight, while the center console control pad, climate controls and other pieces of switchgear are following the same overarching trends as other new offerings. The steering wheel appears to be an improvement upon the perfection that is the current M and M Sport three-spoke design, but with increased thumb support, better ergonomics and redesigned controls for cruise control and infotainment. The head-up display is a first for any Z, but is another welcome addition like the new gauge cluster, both of which are fully integrated with iDrive, and the entire system is referred to as Live Cockpit Professional—notice how everything is angled to face the driver.
As with any modern automobile, different shades and angles of plastic are the main event beneath the hood. Regardless, and even without knowing the detailed specifics, BMW’s current B58 non-M six cylinder engine is well regarded for its performance capability, sound and efficiency, and is largely viewed as picking up right where the venerable N55 left off. No details can be confirmed, but the only transmission option being discussed in the automotive sphere is ZF’s eight-speed automatic, although you really never know with BMW, and the next generation of M cars have been confirmed as retaining the classic three-pedal option.
The Z line has always appealed to a unique subset of society, something that is becoming increasingly evident at focused gatherings like Dorkfest. Obsession shows no signs of having tapered off after the E85 signed off in 2008, and values of M versions of that generation and the previous E36/8 only seem to be appreciating. The E89 Z4 gave us the the Z4 sDrive 35is (with N54 power like the 335is, but different than the Performance Power Kit-equipped N55-powered 135is), and that model has earned a special place among educated brand enthusiasts. Some might be sad to see the hardtop go, but the core collection of individuals who buy a roadster for the sole purpose of indulging in the open-air driving experience seem likely to find a winner in the new G29 Z4.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]