Report: Rahul Kapoor ; Photography: Mohd. Nasir
If you have 70
lakh rupees lying around the house and you want to buy a car, but you also want
to stand out a wee bit with that purchase, what can you get?
say you desperately want a roadster and you know your wife hates to get her
pretty coiffure messed up in a convertible, then I can bet my every bit of
money stashed away in teeny-weeny fixed deposits that the answer is a BMW Z4.
Now let me
give you some history lessons. During the Margret Thatcher’s reign in the UK, the
Iron Lady sold off almost every division of British Leyland to the highest
bidders. In that bidding war, BMW came out with Triumph, Standard and Mini in
their pockets. We all know what an icon Mini has been and what Mini is doing
today. But Triumph and Standard were known for the era of British Roadsters
with the Triumph Spitfire and the Standard 8 along with the others Like the MG
MGB. These roadsters were all soft top convertibles with engines in the front. After
that era, small compact, terribly unreliable but easy to use every day
convertible cars were a thing of the past. BMW never showed any signs of
reviving those brands.
But then BMW
decided to show Brits how convertibles were supposed to be made. Though BMW did
make roadsters like the 507 and the Z8, BMW introduced the Z1, a roadster that
looked iconic and was truly iconic. It was the first and only car which had
doors that didn’t open but lowered down into the door sills and if you wanted
you could drive with not only the roof down but even the doors down as well!
The lunacy of the Z1 was like a German trying his hand at British humor.
Surprisingly, it worked just like Henning Wehn (remember the German stand-up
comedian based in London?) and the Z1 has been an icon ever since. Then they
got a bit serious and brought about the rather ugly Z3, but it didn’t work as
it lacked the lunacy and the style from the Z1. A few years later, they decided
to get back to more serious lunacy and say “take zat ew little Englishman!” and
gave us the beautiful Z4. Since then BMW found the perfect formula for a
roadster; light weight, straight 6 engine in the front, and drive going to the
back. BMW has now updated the Z4 with even better looks and we got to drive it.
The Z4 has
two variants in India, the standards sDrive35i and the sDrive35i DPT higher
variant. We got the expensive higher variant to test with all the expensive kit
that usually is standard apart from some interior trim and the burnt orange
paint. DPT stands for Design Pure Traction which includes an optional Valencia
Orange exterior paint which just adds so much zing to the car. The Z4 was
designed by two different women. One designed the exterior, while the other the
interior which is probably why the car looks so tasteful. From the outside, there
isn’t a single angle the car doesn’t look pretty from. The back is pure beauty.
But then upon closer inspection you notice that the roof isn’t made from fabric
but metal. So it’s a coupé? No, at the push of a button, the metal roof folds
into the boot and makes it into a two seat roadster. Here is the thing, convertibles
usually has a coupe version and a convertible version. The Z4 is only available
with a metal folding roof and no coupé. In 20 seconds, and even on the move, at
the push of a button the roof folds down. Brilliant!
Just like the
outside, same attention to detail is paid to the interior. In the DPT trim, you
get black and orange leather seats and door trims with colour coded orange velvet. Right in front of the driver is the 3 spoke,
BMW black and grey steering wheel with some buttons and binocular shaped dual
analogue Seedo and Tacho dials with a small, illuminated, digital display which
tells you some information like driving mode setting, time and distance. At the
drivers feet are a floor hinged accelerator and floating brake pedal glazed
with aluminium. The thing that catches the eye inside is the beautifully
crafted metal weaved panel on the dashboard. The grey finish and a slight
roughness to it, gives a feeling of specialness. Placed right in the centre on
the centre console are the BMW signature gear lever and the iDrive dial with
infotainment navigating buttons.
But enough of
touchy feely stuff, let’s get down to business. How is the Z4 to drive? Well at
the heart of the Z4 is a 3 litre TwinPower Turbo straight six engine from BMW and
a 7 speed automatic transmission.
This might sound odd, but some might say a straight 6 is a thing of the
past, well we can tell you that the straight 6 is as economical as any other
car in the range with 10.3km to the litre even though it’s a relatively old
engine that produces 306bhp and 400Nm of torque. Put your foot hard down and
the Z4 does 0-100kmph in 5.1 seconds. You can have 3 driving modes: comfort,
sport and sport+. In comfort mode, the car feel a bit lazy, the steering isn’t
sharp even with an electric power steering though you do get a lot of feedback.
The throttle is relatively linear in terms of power delivery in comfort and the
transmission is decently responsive.
TwinPower Turbo straight 6
306bhp @ 5800rpm
min RON 95
wishbone spring strut tie bar axle with caster offset, anti-dive
axle, separate springs and dampers, anti-squat and anti-dive
324mm 9front & back) ventilated steel disc brakes
225/40 R18 / Rear – 255/35 R18
Kerb Weight (Kgs)
RWD with Cornering
Price (ex-showroom Delhi)
mode, it’s the mode in which we mostly tested the car; it’s just so much fun.
The steering is much sharper, the throttle responds much quicker and so does
the gear box. You can probably count the difference in time between gear
changes in comfort compared to sport. With a flip of the perfectly placed
paddles behind the steering wheel changes gears in manual mode instantly in
sport and it’s the same if you choose to use the sequential shifter. The Z4 easily climbs to around its max speed
and still manages to be comfortable even when you have massive undulations.
What this car loves is corners. The Z4 seems like it was engineered by the
Greek God of perfect handling. You just pace yourself and fling it, it just
turns in, and those grippy 18 inch run-flat tyres are just always glued to the
road. The cornering braking control which acts like a torque vectoring system
just adds a little more sharpness to the handling.. Give it a dab of throttle
into the corner and the back slips out easily and you can hold it, control it
to execute a perfect slide, but in sport the traction control does step in to
spoil the fun just a little bit. The engine is at the front and the rest of the
weight is distributed evenly around the car..
mode, is where it gets a bit leery. Even though everything gets sharper with
the steering, throttle and gear changes, but you’re on your own because whether
you like it or not, it disables the traction control in Sport +. It’s good on
the track, but on the public road, we decided to test it minimally so we don’t
end up on a tree!
question of practicality must be addressed. Can it be used every day on the
road? That is definitely a yes. Usually roadsters don’t last very long with
soft tops but with a hard top on, you’re less likely to tear the roof off and
you don’t have to do it yourself, all the mechanism does it for you and the kids
love the theatrics. It’s like a tiny transformer on the road which all of a
sudden starts breaking into shapes and sizes before looking like a car again.
Another thing on the practicality front in that the seats are immensely
comfortable and offer a huge range of seat positioning. The boot however might
be small for Indian standards--a total capacity of 310 litres with the roof up,
which is more than what you get from sub 4 metre sedans. But if you package your
luggage correctly you can squeeze in enough for a weekend getaway for two and a
little more with the roof down as well. So yes it is more practical than you
to the spare 70 lakh rupees lying around, we suggest you force yourself to take
a look at the Z4, and we dare you to not have a smile on your face!