Mark Jones
Road Test Editor
3 minute read
1 Aug 2019
9:10 am

New BMW Z4 is more than just fast

Mark Jones

On most days I drive a test car, you can bet it’s going to the Gerotek test facility for some hard-core data runs. It’s what I do as a road test editor.

BMW’s new Z4 is a car to run for numbers, especially in M40i guise. Top down or up, swanning leisurely on the boulevard past the beach, or race gloves on, tackling mountain passes like a driver possessed, you know 250kW of the BMW 3.0-litre straight-six turbo power and 500Nm of torque is going to be fun to drive. And it is.

This two-seater is about agility and dynamism for not only the discerning, niche buyer, but for one who knows how to drive – if you want to enjoy the entire Z4 M40i experience.

As performance BMW’s tend to be, this car is firmer than most and requires respect when pushing. The body and chassis are as rigid as you can get with a soft-top. Squeeze in I have to, at 6ft 2in, but was greeted with a proper low seating position that goes perfectly with a low centre of gravity and ideal sports car like 50/50 weight distribution.

For potential buyers, who will haul out R1 030 500 to start with, what might be of more importance is that the fabric roof is electrically operated and can be opened or closed in 10 seconds up to a speed of 50km/h. And the boot capacity is now 281 litres, whether the soft-top is open or closed, which is an increase of more than 50% compared to the old model. You are still not taking your golf clubs with you, but at least now you can pack a change of clothes and your toothbrush.

Back to the numbers. The power and torque run through BMW’s latest-generation eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission to the rear wheels. And the claims are that this roadster will hit 100 km/h in just 4.6 seconds, heading to an electronically limited top speed around 250 km/h.

Normally at this point I would tell you about the data my Racelogic VBOX spewed out for some real-world Johannesburg test numbers. But something happened to change this sequence of events.

It is not something we think about. Be honest, when last did you get in your car and think about having a tyre blow out on you? Never, and you know it. But it’s the type of thing that causes many accidents and deaths. Why? Because it’s not something you can predict and, worst of all, when it goes, most of the time you have no control over your car. And for the first time in my career, I had a tyre blow out on me at a speed relative to things ending in a rather large mechanical and human mess.

It was out of the blue, instant and it wasn’t fun. In the split second it happened I thought, this is it, it’s going to hurt, but the car’s safety systems kicked in and started doing their job of keeping the car on the road while assisting me in bringing the Z4 M40i to a safe stop.

I know we all think we are Formula One drivers and can control any car in any situation. We can’t. All I did was soften my hands on the steering wheel, was gentle on the brakes and allowed the car to do the hard work of keeping driver and itself in one piece. Of course, you expect a BMW to have these state-of-the-art safety systems, and it does. But do you truly know what safety systems are fitted to your car? Do you even know what the acronyms, ABS, EBD, BAS, DTC etc stand for? Or what they do?

Hopefully my slightly off-topic driving impression of the BMW Z4 M40i gives you a wake-up call. Because very few know what is happening under them and simply assume that their car does, but you could be making a fatal mistake.

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