The current BMW Z4, introduced for the 2009 model year, is the second generation of the Z4 name and is as much a completely new car from its predecessor as it is reasonably possible to be. It continues into 2010 with essentially no changes.
The Z4 sports a retractable hardtop, a departure from any previous two-seat BMW. The retractable hardtop replaces the roadster and coupe versions of previous-generation (pre-2009) Z4 models with one car. The hardtop retracts for the same open-air driving of a convertible, but closes with the press of a button to provide the advantages of better security, rigidity, rearward visibility, interior quiet and the weather control of a coupe.
The Z4 offers the driving character you expect from BMW and it will be familiar to any fan of the brand. As with other cars getting bigger and laden with more luxury and features, the higher-optioned Z4s tend to feel more like grand touring machines than sports cars. In terms of a pure sports car, we liked the base Z4 sDrive30i with the optional Sport Package. The performance and feel of balanced precision is there in every Z4. The higher-performance Z4 sDrive35i with the dual-clutch gearbox gets close to the previous M Roadster as a track-day tool.
While some will choose a Z4 based solely on the badge and others solely on style, over time they will learn the real reasons, both objective and emotional, behind the car and why they want to keep it. Others will appreciate the performance and technology without regard to style, and yet others will shop merely because they've been waiting for a folding hardtop roadster from Munich.
BMW accurately points out that the Z4 sDrive35i is about the same size and offers performance close to the earlier Z8, and it does so for about half the price. The Z4 is also far more practical.
For 2010 the Z4 is offered in two models, the sDrive30i and sDrive35i. In current BMW nomenclature, sDrive refers to rear-wheel drive. However, there are no xDrive (all-wheel-drive) Z4s and no M model has been announced. Yet.
Due later in the spring of 2010, as a 2011 model, is the Z4 sDrive35is, which will deliver even more performance than the already-quick sDrive35i. It will also have enhanced aerodynamic and handling features, unique wheels, distinctive exterior appearance trim and details, and interior comfort and feature upgrades.