Roadshow Video Reviews
2013 BMW Z4 sDrive35isIf you missed the BMW 507, here's your 21st-century do-over.
Roadsters have never been a big part of BMW's business, but they are an important one. It's a whole DNA thing. Let's see how strong the family chromosomes are doing in this top in the stack, 2013 Z4 sDrive 35is and check the tech. Now an S does not look dramatically different from the 35i, but there are about 7 or 8 key differences overall. Let's run them down. It's about 12 percent more powerful, comes with a DCT gearbox only, has an MPG that are too thirstier, has an active suspension, weighs about 50 pounds more, goes about .3 seconds faster, has fancy leather, and cost you almost $9,000 more, all things being equal. Now inarguably the best feature of a Z4 is this, the retractable hard top that is an absolute wonder of engineering and it actually does something in most convertibles can't do, it gives you confidence. I know this thing's never gonna leak and then I'm never gonna feel like I don't wanna put it down because it's gonna wear out the plastic window or something, none of that going on here. High-quality, 20 second cycle in one way or the other, and you can do it of up to 35 miles an hour, so it can double as a speed brake. But look what happens when the top is down. You know, I'm gonna take a minute here to gripe about something. I'm sick and tired of the organic era in interior design. What are the shapes of this dash? Sure it's beautifully done in materials, but what is this weird silver sort of wax mustache shape and then you got this odd organic shape here and the slight tilt here and I miss symmetry. Am I the only one? Now, let's go to the technology. Hit the iDrive button, and peeky-boo, here comes your little friend-- a large, though not BMW's largest, LCD screen. I'm glad they have it powerable down and up like that because when you do park the car with the top down, you don't wanna leave that up. I don't know why, you just don't. Connected drive brings you to both BMW's apps which are pretty good, and BMW online which is a separate deal. It sets up the internet connection in the car to go online, 3G, so it can be painfully slow and I mean painfully slow. Okay, here we go. News, weather, online search to me is the most interesting. I don't care about my stock quotes while I'm driving and anyone who really is serious about money, sure as hell doesn't get their information here. The online search let's you do a Google search and get results that are very much sort of oriented toward location, and by the way, BMW is one of the last carmakers that lets you actually do things while the car is moving. You can run this guy while driving. It's not something you gotta pull over for, which may be controversial, but at least it gives you the choice. The main stuff you need in terms of media sources is all here, but that doesn't mean everything. Radio is put into one area with AM-FM Satellite as optional. The car has satellite prep only. Under the [unk] title of CD multimedia, you've got your iPod-- I'm doing that through USB down here, my phone is paired up for streaming, that is included as part of the Bluetooth package. You've got an aux jack over here and with Apple devices, you can do plug-in echo to the screen which almost nobody uses, and the key thing that we rarely see in these test cars, but this cradle here, you see is generic right now, that could be an iPhone or Blackberry cradle. If you have that and you dock your phone, you're charging off of power in the car and you're connected to an external antenna on the vehicle. You're still doing Bluetooth for the actual communication and streaming, but that is a really cool option for very little money. Now even loaded up with our tech package, look what happens when I go to reverse, nothing. No camera standard or optional on this car-- ain't gonna happen. Given the fact that when the top's up, the visibility is kinda crap and it's got a great big ole painted surface waiting to be scuffed on the car behind you. I think that is a serious omission. Now, some drive controls. You see this shifter, it's the only one you're gonna get and the transmission connected to it is the only one you're gonna get. It's a seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual. No automatic in the traditional sense and no manual in this car, not at this trim level or power level. Next one is your drive control. Comfort is kind of normal. Sport, tightens everything up including transmission engine response. Sport Plus does that even more and turns off traction control to hangout the rear end-- rear-wheel drive method. I gotta say for a little car, it's got the biggest hood in show business, it's because they move the cut lines for the hood from the top along the fenders to the outside of the fenders. Isn't this great? It expands when it opens up and some of the spaces-- be careful of these. Now, this engine is your inline-6 with the twins-scroll turbo, not twin turbos, but a two-stage single-turbo tuned for various parts of the RPM [unk], a very effective unit in our past experience. Not at longitudinally, driving the rear wheels, as I mentioned, through that one choice DCT seven-speed transmission. The numbers-- 335 horse, 332 foot-pounds of torque, each of those, about 30 more than on the non-S car. Zero to 60 for this 3,500-pound ride, it's 4.8 about .3 faster than the non-S car. MPG 17, 24, 19-- about 2 MPG worse on sitting in highways than the non-S car. And of course, that transmission is all you get on the S, that dual-clutch I mentioned earlier. Blessedly, the efficiency technology here is limited to brake regeneration to lessen the alternator drag, but we do not have BMW's jerky start-stop system-thank you. Let's go for a ride. First of all, this car has got a great exhaust note, you're gonna spend a lot of time listening to that and playing in with the accelerator pedal. When you open it up, this car is a tremendously responsive ride. When you're just driving in every day traffic, it feels a little more flatfooted than the i model with just a basic, basic ZF automatic. It's a great automatic. Makes me think the 35i is the better overall car and I'm not sure I need the extra 12 percent horsepower and torque. The car's fast. But I think the margin of this over a 35i is a degree of frenetic, not real ability. That said, it is fun when you tap in to everything it's got. I was also very pleased how moving the shifter from the traditional drive mode over the sport mode transforms the car in one click, not having to fiddle with a bunch of profiles and non-sense or even having to get on the paddles. And as with any Z4, don't go out of the house with your hair sticking up 'cause you're gonna get a lot of looks in this car. Now with an S, so pricy little thing, about 66 base and right off the bat, you're gonna add to that $2,250 for the tech package to get navigation with voice, traffic, BMW apps, and a few other niceties. Satellite radio's $350 more. Parking sensors, no camera, that's $750, automatic high-beams, $250, and the steal of the option list, there are very few of those in BMW land, is that iPhone cradle adapter for 125 bucks, absolutely. All in, we're pushing $70,000. My mind keeps going to the possibility that the 35i is the better buy overall for the modest improvement in performance you get here. If you really want a track car with that last little bit of go, you're not gonna get something with the big ole heavy retractable hardtop. Now the other thing to think about is, it's very hard to make this your only car, I mean it's highly-impractical in terms of storage. There are many times just in our week of testing it, where I have to leave stuff behind and go back and get it the next day when I'd emptied out the trunk of the first amount of stuff I took home. That gets old pretty quick. But all in, this is a very enjoyable car that carries forward a limited, but important part of BMW's heritage.