I intended to write a column comparing the BMW-esque Toyota Supra to the G29 BMW Z4. Earlier this year I found a 2020 Launch Edition Toyota Supra 3.0 for a friend, which I discussed in my Roundel column, where I surmised that the Toyota Supra could be the new embodiment of the original Z3 M coupe. In the months since that column, I have become convinced that this is indeed the case!
A similarly equipped third-generation Z4 would make a great car against which to contrast the Supra: two apparently similar cars that are actually very different The only hitch was that I couldn’t find a Z4 to compare with it. I started with the Rocky Mountain Chapter but struck out. Then I reached out to my contacts at local dealers, and again found no joy. The only two G29s available for sale in the entire state of Colorado were offered by Winslow BMW, but there was a hitch: They were both four-cylinder Z4 3.0i’s.
It’s not that the 100-mile drive to Winslow BMW in Colorado Springs wouldn’t be fun—especially in the Supra—or that Winslow, a CCA-friendly dealer, wouldn’t let me put a few gentle miles on their Z4s; they would. But the Z4 3.0i just wouldn’t be a fair comparison with the six-cylinder three-liter Supra.
Winslow BMW’s Z4, finished in Alpine White over an Ivory interior, did have a certain Honda S2000 vibe, especially when viewed from the side, thanks a subtle rear lip-spoiler. I could have taken a David-and-Goliath angle with the story, but the two-liter four is properly powerful for its size: 255 horsepower—that’s more than an E36 M3! And unlike the S2000, the turbocharged Z4 doesn’t need to be revved out to make its power. Inside, the interior layout and switchgear are virtually identical to the Supra’s, which would have made the differences in each car all of the more compelling.
Nevertheless, it felt like I was forcing the story, and that got me thinking about the root of my problem: If I were an enthusiast who wanted to buy a new BMW drop-top for the Labor Day weekend, roadster or four-seater, what would my local options be, and which car would I choose?
I fit the likely demographic of the male Colorado BMW convertible buyer: I’m over 40 years old, my hair is more salt than pepper, and if I spent my money on more intelligent things than airplanes and unprofitable side businesses, I’d easily have $60,000 to plunk down on a drop-top BMW for the weekends. Autumn is the best season for a convertible in Colorado, so the timing is relevant.
Here are the rules for this mental exercise: My hypothetical convertible must be in-state, and it must be sold by a BMW dealer (new or used), in order to get something with a warranty, be it new or CPO. There are four dealers in Colorado: Loveland BMW (formerly COs), Gebhardt BMW in Boulder, BMW of Denver Downtown, Schomp BMW in the southern part of the Denver metroplex, and Winslow BMW of Colorado Springs. The total number of BMW convertibles, new and used, was twenty cars. The most prolific were the G23 4 Series, with BMW of Denver having half a dozen and Loveland BMW having three. The 430i was the most abundant, but several M440i’s were available, too; all were xDrive all-wheel-drive models, and none had manuals (they don’t make them). Unfortunately, my hypothetical self has not warmed up to the new grilles of the G23 4 Series yet, so all of those are off the table.
The next-most-populous segment consisted of 8 Series convertibles. Loveland BMW has a Donington Gray M8 Competition, but at $160,000, that is out of my hypothetical budget. Loveland BMW also has a Certified Pre-Owned i8 roadster, which would be my absolute winner if it weren’t also $122,000. I think that the i8 is truly a special BMW, and I think that the future will be very kind to it from an investment standpoint.
Moving slightly down-market, Gebhardt BMW has a Black-Sapphire-over-Fiona-Red 840i convertible—a superb color combination—but its $98,000 price tag is still stretching the hypothetical rubber bands (around my hypothetical stacks of cash) dangerously close to snapping. This leaves a 2018 BMW 650i convertible that reduces the strain on those rubber bands considerably, but at $74,000, that’s still Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet money, and that car would make a much better hypothetical investment.
But with the bigger convertibles out, what’s left? The best buy of the entire population sample is a 2006 Alpine White 2006 Z4 3.0i at BMW of Denver, but I reckon that for their $15,000 asking price, I could find a manual-transmission example. Gebhardt BMW has a 2008 BMW 335i convertible for $2,000 more, but my 2008 535xi’s upkeep has soured me on N54 engine maintenance. Not including that Alpine White Z4 at Winslow BMW, that narrows the choices to a CPO 2020 M240i at BMW of Denver or a CPO 2019 Z4 that is also at Winslow BMW.
The M240i is priced at $48,000. It has a black-over-brown interior, all-wheel drive, and only 3,000 miles on the odometer. The Z4 is my favorite color—red—over an Ivory interior, and it has 23,000 miles.
I actually prefer the look and portions of the M240i to the new Z4, and with its back seat and all-wheel drive, the M240i would be the more practical car. It also has a more powerful engine, and with only 3,000 miles, it’s nearly new compared with the Z4’s 23,000 indicated miles.
The point of this hypothetical exercise, however, is to find a fun second car, and the Z4 is a proper roadster with rear-wheel drive. It is the only rear-drive convertible of the entire sample that is less than ten years old. This Z4 also has the M Sport package, which would only increase the fun.
In general, the design of the G29 Z4 has not grown on me like the Supra, but it does look much better in person than it does in two dimensions. I think that in time it would win me over, as most new models tend to, until I see those grilles on the G23 4 Series.
After my hypothetical journey, it seems that I’d wind up with nearly the same exact car I that had originally wanted to compare with the Supra. This was not where I thought I’d end up, but it does show the relevance of the BMW Z4. I hope that BMW keeps making them.
By the way, the white Z4s at Winslow are already under contract, so it looks like I’m not the only one looking forward to ripping through the aspens with the top down before the snow falls.—Alex McCulloch.
[Photos courtesy of Peter Thompson, Jeremy Heslup, BMW NA, Winslow BMW of Colorado Springs, BMW of Denver Downtown.]