Friday 24 November 2017

Price still a barrier for new entry-level BMW roadster

Cramped cabin and seats mar decent performance

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

THIS is all about the engine. A 4-cyl 2-litre with 156bhp makes this long-snouted roadster a better financial proposition – relatively speaking – than the more powerful engines available.

One part of me said: "Fine, this is grand for Irish driving. What more can you do legally with a car on our roads?"

Another part said: "If I'm going to buy a car like this I want it ripping to 100kmh in next to no time and I want mid-gear acceleration to have me whooping."

It is that sort of car. You really want to drive it.

The Z4 is like a young person's life – it is all in front of them. You sit low and deep in a small cockpit. It's a long way to the front number plate.

Mine was in orange and the interior carried on the colour coding with streaks and spot dashes of it sprinkled through the cabin. Loved it. So did my passengers (one at a time of course – it is a two-seater).

The seats are long and sloping but I found them quite awful.

Little or no adjustment, no room to ease the angle of seating and hard as the hob of hell on the poor ould backside.

Normally I'd have loved the harder M-Sport suspension and welcomed the bit of thud on the more abrasive surfaces. But the seats spoiled the experience for me. There was a fair bit of road/tyre noise – the retractable roof is solid not cloth – but that is part of the experience and I would not criticise it for that. The weather did not permit dropping the hood. Now I am not your typical Z4 driver in that I am more than six-foot tall and love to have a long reach to the steering wheel. So I was always going to feel a bit cramped. I'd have forgiven having to push up a bit if it gave me appreciable room behind to slacken the angle of the seatback. It didn't.

And yet I couldn't help myself enjoying it a fair bit. The acceleration figures are not tyre burning (rear-wheel drive of course) but such is the nature of the beast, low-slung, sharp steering feed, that the dynamics do come through and give proper buzz to the drive.

A 6spd manual gearbox is standard but you can order an 8spd sports automatic.

I put my test version in Sport mode every time. 'Comfort' is fairly flat and 'Sport+' was a bit too harsh for me given the lack of decent cushioning in the seat.

They have smartened it a bit here and there but essentially the Z4 – in orange – is a hell of a looker.

And of course there is a price for it all. No make that two.

The first is that the doors are so long – to make getting in a feasible undertaking – you need a big, wide parking slot.

And I wouldn't pay €60,000 or so for one, even with all the bells and whistles on my test version.

Are you thinking I got the engine size wrong by calling it the Z4 sDrive18i? No, this is a detuned/tweaked 2-litre. Confusing isn't it? Can they not find a way of reflecting the engine in the name?

I see the point of making this the entry-level version and I doff my cap at them for making it such a reasonably energetic piece of work.

But the price is too steep for the performance.

Key facts

1,997cc, 156bhp

0-100kmh in 7.9 seconds

41.5mpg, 159g/km

My 18i Roadster M Sport version costs €51,560. When extras and options are added (extended Alcantara/leather combination black/orange, sport seats, wind deflector, Park Distance Control, cruise control, BMW Professional media package, navigation, enhanced Bluetooth telephone preparation with USB audio interface and voice control etc) it all comes to €62,829.63.

Irish Independent

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