“I haven’t driven such a precise manual in a long time,” I said to myself after sitting in the facelifted BMW Z4, and only a few weeks before I jumped out of the driver’s seat of the much fun Toyota GR86. Willy-nilly, the Munich engineers managed to create a truly excellent manual transmission for the Z4, which in the end is one of the strong arguments for considering the car itself.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The Z4 has “roadster” right in its model designation.

The roadster itself belongs to the category of leisure cars – partly because of the canvas roof and also because of its two-seater design with a minimum of storage space inside. In short, it is a kind of excursion boat on wheels, where you only take a few basic things, a cap and sun cream. If you still need to transport something, you can use the 281-liter trunk, which can fit a bag.

You might expect the BMW logo to be some noisy, unmannered sports car whose rear-wheel drive will run away at every dynamic opportunity, but… no, that’s not the case with the very basic sDrive20i.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The basic sDrive20i does not belong to the wild backcountry.

If the Bavarian automaker’s code language doesn’t tell you anything, we’ll say that the “s” means single-axle drive, while the “20i” really (exceptionally) here means a two-liter turbo petrol with 197 hp and 320 Nm of torque. A lot of people sigh when they think of the combination of BMW and four-cylinder engines, but especially with the Z4, the power unit actually makes up the entire character of the car.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The letter s means single-axle drive, 20i then a two-liter four-cylinder with a turbo.

When the four-cup arrived at the sister Supra, there was also a fire on the roof, but somewhat unnecessarily. It turned out that even the less powerful and less playful “baby” Supra (which could easily be called the Celica) is not such a bad car. And the same can be said about the basic Bavarian Z4.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The BMW Z4 is the sister model of the Toyota Supra.

In this case, perhaps not because of the built-in four-cylinder. Although it is a decently dynamic unit with acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, a maximum of 241 km/h and a real average consumption of under 7 liters per 100 km/h in normal driving, the interesting things about this power unit end there. In the words of a blunt speaker – just a normal two-liter with a turbo.

The magic of mechanical shifting

The magic here lies, as you must have understood from the introduction, in that six-speed manual gearbox. The properties of the short path type, the precision of the strokes and the 100% correct guidance of the lever when changing the qualts will naturally excite every driver who can enjoy the purist driving of the car.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The six-speed manual in the Z4 was clearly done by BMW.

In addition, by the fact that it is a backroad, where the physics works a little differently compared to a front-wheel drive car, we get an even more purist experience. However, I am not talking about mindless drifting, but about the joy of a trip, when with the right quality and adequately added gas at the right time you circle a turn like Maja Plisecká (ballerina) pirouettes.

Furthermore, it is, I hope, quite evident that, given the performance, it will not be an asphalt ripper or a racer. The basic Z4 pays for a lovely roadster for easy driving, which, even with the tested M sports chassis, is more comfortable than designed for highly technical driving. So no go-kart, no circuit gear, but a reasonably agile open sports car.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

With a two-liter, don’t expect asphalt rippers, but rather a lovely ride.

On top of that, we have to praise the presence of the older interface of the BMW iDrive 7 infosystem, since the new one (8, thus 9), conceptually similar to tablets, is simply not as intuitive and “automotive” as this seven software.

A separate chapter is the navigation, which is often cheated in many sports cars, because the priorities of the car are elsewhere. We partly agree, but we object that even with a sports car you need to get somewhere you don’t know from time to time or where it is better to drive with navigation because of the traffic.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

We praise the native navigation for its great usability.

The Bavarian one is highly usable in online mode, and you can send the map right before your eyes to the instrument panel. And this is something that Apple CarPlay / Android Auto does not support in the vast majority of cars here. Yet.

A meaningful foundation

During my wanderings through the countryside with the sky above my head, but also in the streets of big cities, I thought about the driving sense of the Bavarian Z4 and its motorization in relation to the financial investment. That is, if you have a lot of money, you probably don’t care what you buy. If, as an ordinary person from the middle class, you are choosing a new pharaoh for pleasure, you will probably think deeply several times about what motorized (non)sense you will spend the saved crown on.

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The manual is only available with the basic four-cylinder.

And if you’re aiming for a Z4, then only a manual with a basic four-cylinder and rear-wheel drive makes the real driving sense for me. I would speak differently if the six-wheel drive was also offered with a more powerful 258-horsepower engine or the top-of-the-line six-wheeler with 340 horses.

And that’s when (with the automatic) the BMW Z4 Roadster stops making sense to me outside of that retractable roof. First conceptually, because for the price of a basic Z4 in an automatic, you have a 258-horsepower two-liter Toyota Supra in an automatic (CZK 1.28 million), which is a slightly better car to drive. Alternatively, you can go for the GR86/BRZ, where the mechanical driving experience is after all more intense due to the flat naturally aspirated engine and the overall design (manual from 950,000 CZK, automatic from 1,000,000).

Photo: Jiří Cermák

The Z4 has the driving sense of a sports car, but only with a manual or if you just want a retractable roof.

If you would choose the higher specifications of the Z4, perhaps even the six-cylinder Z4 M40i, then we are once again in the financial spheres, where the sister Toyota GR Supra with 340 hp with manual and automatic is already close, as well as the BMW M2, which is already (both) a bit ” other coffee” with six cylinders (both cars from 1.8 million CZK)

In a second breath, I add that a typical buyer will buy a Z4 anyway mainly because of the BMW logo, the retractable roof, the automatic, and only then somewhere towards the end is the driving experience the reason. In short, that’s how it is, in this named order, but kudos to the exceptions who reach for the manual and want to drive authentically as a priority.

The BMW Z4 with a two-liter and a manual costs from 1.21 million crowns without change, while with an automatic from 1.27 million. A more powerful (258 hp) two-liter with an automatic costs 1.45 million, the top six-cylinder in an automatic starts at 1.69 million crowns.

Specifications BMW Z4 sDrive20i
Motor turbocharged inline four-cylinder
Displacement volume 1,998 cm3
Performance 145 kW (197 hp) at 4,500–6,500 rpm
Torque 320 Nm at 1,450-4,200 rpm
Transmission manual, 6 degrees
Tree rear wheels
Standby weight 1 510 kg
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 6,8 s
Maximal speed 241 km/h
Consumption (combination) 7.3–7.4 l/100 km
Fuel tank volume 52 l
Wheels and tires 255/35 and 275/35 ZR 19
Dimensions (length/width/height) 4 324/1 864/1 304 mm
Wheelbase 2 470 mm
light height 117 mm
Volume of the luggage compartment 281 l