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Return of a Classic: the new 2009Z4

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Story by Jim Murray

Like many of you, my first memories of a BMW Roadster go back to 1995 with Pierce Brosnan driving the Atlanta Blue Z3 in the James Bond film “Golden Eye”.

That was a legendary moment for the BMW Roadster but only a small glimpse of its history.

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The pioneer of the BMW Roadster was the 315/1, which saw its debut in 1934. With a top speed of 120km/h, it was one of the most important sports cars of its era. It achieved a host of podium finishes at major races both inside and outside Germany. By 1936, the BMW 328 Roadster was the fastest production two-liter engine of its time—it went on to take over 130 chequered flags between 1936 and 1940. In 1956, Designer Albrecht Gaf Goertz developed the classic dream roadster, the BMW 507, in less than half a year. To this day, the 507 remains a timeless, classic and elegant roadster. While maintaining this tradition of classic design, in 1988 BMW showed off their latest technological innovations with the Z1.

Only 8000 of these BMW Z1s were every produced. This was just the start of good things to follow. To the great pleasure of sports car enthusiasts, the modern classic Z3 came on the market in 1995 with its cutting-edge BMW styling that was an exciting mixture of youthful exuberance and motoring heritage. BMW’s tribute to the 507 came in the form of the limited-production, all aluminum, high-performance, V8 roadster called the Z8. The retro styling of this car, which paid homage to the 507, helped it quickly become a favorite among BMW collectors and aficionados. In 2002, the first generation Z4 was in production. The exterior and interior were designed to deliver an unparalleled level of driving pleasure.

This spring, BMW unveiled the next generation 2009 BMW Z4 Roadster. It combines the classic roadster look with a more modern contemporary athletic presence, and forthe firsttime it is equipped with a two-piece electro hydraulically retractable hardtop. The lightweight aluminum top opens in 20 seconds and offers side windows that are 40% larger and 52% larger rear window visibility compared to the previous generation Z4. In addition, the hardtop integrates seamlessly to give you coupé style lines and superior acoustic insulation. Unlike its predecessor, the new Z4 will be built in Germany at BMW’s Regensburg plant. It has noticeably larger dimensions offering a longer wheelbase, greater headroom, leg room and shoulder room. The car’s proportions are borne out bythe long and low-slung engine compartment lid and Vshaped hood lines that point towards the BMW logo.

Combined with new side gills, shoulder lines, and elongated bonnet, it boasts genuine roadster proportions. The interior has a classic roadster layout and is unique in every detail. Four eye-catching controls in the centre dash give a retro feel in a modern setting. We also saw this type of design in the legendary Z8. The latest generation iDrive control system makes its premiere in a BMW Roadster. With an 80 GB hard drive and 12 GB of music storage this option will give drivers access to all entertainment, information, navigation and telecommunication functions with ease and speed. The 8.8-inch high resolution display offers 1280×480 pixels for exceptional graphics clarity.

New roadster-specific climate control settings and leather with SunReflective technology are two of the many unique features found in the New Z4 roadster. With the roof open and in combination with the iDrive you can select a special convertible mode that alters air distribution and intensity based on exterior temperatures and vehicle speed. Like all open top BMW models, the SunReflective leatherseats significantly reduce the heat effects of bright sunlight by using special color pigments in the leather material that reflect the infrared radiation of the sunlight.

As a result, the surface temperature of the leather remains up to 20 degrees cooler than regular leather. The new Z4 comes with high-quality Kansas leather in three colors. There is also a fourth choice: Ivory White Nappa Leather. In addition, you can choose an optional Extended Leather Package on the Z4 sDrive 35i, which will add leather on the upper section ofthe instrument panel, upper door panels, and sun visors in black leather as well as a leather finish on the passenger door handle pull.

Two models ofthe Z4 are available in Canada. The first model is the BMW Z4 sDrive 30i with an in-line six-cylinder engine with 255hp and 220lb ft torque. This vehicle accelerates from 0-100km in 5.9 seconds for the manual transmission and 6.3 seconds when equipped with a six–speed Sport Automatic Transmission.

The second model is the BMW Z4 sDrive 35i, which features the two-time winner of the “International Engine of the year”—the Twin Turbo 3.0l in-line six- cylinderthat produces 300hp and 300lb-ft of torque. It accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 5.3 seconds and 5.2 seconds with the optional Seven Speed Double Clutch Transmission (DTC). The Seven Speed DTC shifts gears without the slightest interruption of power: fast and smooth gear changes allow harmonious acceleration and outperform acceleration and fuel economy compared with the same model with a manual gearbox.

The dual exhaust system is also an instantly recognizable feature of the BMW Z4 sDrive 35i. The unbeatable throaty engine note creates a perfectfrequency to ensure the car offers acoustics to match its compelling driving experience. Every road is different and every road can be driven in many ways. With the new Z4 equipped with Dynamic Driving Control, you can change the suspension setting at the touch of a button. Drivers can switch between Normal, Sport and Sport + modes which modify the throttle response, automatic transmission shift points, and power steering ratios Combine this with Adaptive Sport Suspension and you’ll receive a central control unitthat varies the bump and rebound stages by using four twin-sleeve gas pressure dampers.

This creates response times so fast that when driving on uneven road surfaces the front wheels can signal to readjust the rear dampers before the rear wheels reaches the same uneven surface. This will give you precise handling and superb control under all road conditions. Safety is also at the fore frontin the redesign of the new Z4. The passive and active safety features include Bi-Xenon headlamps, run flat tires and six airbags (including new head/upper body airbags that protect the sides of the chest and the head), which are incorporated 

into the seat side panels and offeran optimum level of protection.There are also knee airbags for both driver and passenger. The high-load resistantsub-frame uses crumple zones combined with an extremely stiff passenger cell and highly effective restraint systems ensuring outstanding safety. BMW has some of the best braking systems on the market: this car features new high-performance brakes with low weight and low brake pad wear.

There are still a few more goodies in the audio and communication department that are available for your driving pleasure. The Z4 Roadster has BMW Assist with Bluetooth technology, offering greater safetythrough a wireless connection that allows you to make hands-free telephone calls while driving. This also comes with a complementary 1-year subscription to BMW Assist, which offers a full range of BMW services. A premium sound package is available: it includes up to 14 loudspeakers and two additional subwoofers for an intense and precise sound experience that boasts 650 watts of power.

Other optional features are USB Audio Integration, which allows forthe full integration ofvarious MP3 players such as iPods or conventional USB sticks. In addition, you can have it equipped with SIRIUS Satellite Radio, giving you instant coast-to-coast coverage of over100 premium channels featuring music, news, sports, talk and comedy. This option comes with a complementary 1-year subscription. Storage is always a premium with any roadster and the new Z4 has 50 liters more storage than it predecessor. With the roof up, it offers 310 liters of luggage space and can accommodate two 46-inch golf bags with the optional through-loading system. The large cross rack behind the seats offers additional storage for umbrellas or briefcases.

There is also glove compartment storage, centre console storage and a compartment under the center armrest. The new BMW Z4 is notthe sort of caryou see everyday, but it is the kind of car you can drive everyday. Seventy-five years in the making, BMW’s newest classic roadster has arrived. It’s not hard to guess what I am driving this summer

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