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How much? £27,315
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1997cc 16v in-line 4cyl, turbocharged, 154bhp @ 5000rpm, 177lb ft @ 1250rpm-4400rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 7.9sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 41.5mpg, 159g/km
How heavy / made of? 1505kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4239/1790/1291mm
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 3 out of 53

Handling

Rated 3 out of 53

Performance

Rated 3 out of 53

Usability

Rated 2 out of 52

Feelgood factor

Rated 4 out of 54

Readers' rating

Rated 3.5 out of 53.5

BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

By Ollie Kew

First Drives

13 August 2013 06:25

When BMW facelifted the Z4 late last year, you’d have been forgiven for thinking it was administered placebo medicine. Apparently, the new car has reshaped headlights and a revised side ‘gill’ vent. Mercifully, the powertrain updates are easier to identify – especially in the case of this new entry-level Z4 18i model.

Using a detuned version of the Z4 20i’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, the Z4 18i is the cheapest point into Z4 ownership, kicking off at £27,315 – £2100 less than the 20i. Is less more in the case of BMW’s only dedicated sports car? Read on for the full CAR review to find out.

How much power do I lose out on?

Developing 154bhp and 177lb ft, the Z4 18i’s four-cylinder engine gives away 27bhp and 22lb ft to the superior Z4 20i with which it shares an engine. Consequently, the cheaper model lags behind by one second in the 0-62mph run (6.9sec plays 7.9sec for the manual versions, though a slower off-the-line auto is available). The top speed also suffers to the tune of a largely irrelevant 9mph.

And how much fuel will I save in the slower car?

Not a drop, according to BMW’s official figures. The Z4 18i scores 41.5mpg and 159g/km of CO2 – numbers identical not just to the Z4 20i, but the considerably punchier Z4 28i, which boasts 245bhp and will hit 62mph in a Porsche Boxster-baiting 5.7sec.

I’m not buying a sports car to save fuel – how’s the drive?

Better than expected. Expel any thoughts that this is a hard-edged sports car designed to snap at the Boxster’s coattails and it’s easy to get into a good rhythm in the Z4 18i, exploiting the easy-access torque from 1200rpm, and up-shifting at 5000rpm rather than the thrashy 7000rpm cutout. BMW’s engineered a sporty straight-six-aping rasp into the induction noise, and some amusing exhaust pops on the overrun, but overall this is an engine that does its job unassumingly, rather than dominating the experience like it does it, say, an M135i.

Speaking of BMW’s straight-six super-hatch, the Z4 is available with a detuned version of the same 3.0-litre engine (Z4 35i), good for 306bhp. In comparison, the Z4 18i feels more nimble and less nose-heavy thanks to its smaller, more rearward-mounted engine, but is still robbed of a truly inspiring drive by the numb – dare we say it – Audi-like steering. There’s lightness around the straighahead that morphs into dead weight post quarter-turn of lock. It’s no exaggeration to say a 3-series has more pleasant steering than the Z4.

On our test car’s optional 18in wheels, the ride was acceptable in the Comfort and Sport modes, but the Z4 is distracted by poor road surfaces, losing composure and transmitting unpleasant thunks into the structure. It remains stiff with only a hint of steering column shimmy over railway crossings, but along with the dead steering, the harsh ride impedes fast progress on twisty, roughly-topped British B-roads.

Is it refined enough to be an everyday car?

Yes. Drop the pace back down to a relaxed cruise and the Z4 really comes into its own. Refinement with the roof down is excellent – tyre and wind noise around the mirrors at speed is the main irritation with the roof in situ.

How’s the Z4 ageing inside?

For the 2013 facelift, BMW has released a few new trim option packs inside, but this isn’t a cabin in need of a tart-up. The materials are high-quality, the driving position satisfyingly low-slung with an old-school view out over that phallic bonnet. Clustered climate control buttons are an attractive touch not used in other BMWs – such showroom appeal is essential for a car battling the Mercedes SLK, with its SLS AMG-inspired cockpit.

Anything else?

It’s a German car cliché, but beware the options list. Besides power and pub ammo bragging rights, the Z4 18i sacrifices a good deal of desirable equipment in its status as Z4 For Beginners. To bump the kit count back up to Z4 20i levels, you’ll need to shell out £1610 for dual-climate control, leather seats, and automatic headlights and wipers.
Get carried away with the box-ticking and you’ll end up with a well-equipped but obscenely pricey Z4 18i like our test car, which sported £9775 of optional extras. At £36,415 as tested, it’s not far off straight-six Z4 35i money – far from the entry-level proposition promised.

Verdict

Ignore the pricing loopholes for a moment and the Z4 18i is an appealing roadster, offering the low-slung, wind in the hair experience in a pretty, well-built package. It’s far from the sharpest sports car drive, blunted by the weight penalty of that retractable hard-top roof, but as an everyday two-seater with mini-GT pretensions, it’s thoroughly liveable. However, the more potent Z4 20i enjoys a more generous specification as standard, making it the better value proposition.

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Average rating: Rated 3.5 out of 53.5 (33 votes)

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BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

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CarCrazy62

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CarCrazy62 says

RE: BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

BMW equals Badly Made Wheels yet again

30 August 2013 07:11

 

CarCrazy62

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CarCrazy62 says

RE: BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

I see the BMW design studio have got to this one with their ugly pencil too

30 August 2013 07:10

 

OldDog

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OldDog says

RE: BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

@ Halfabee: Exactly.

For the of the world it's pointless.

 

20 August 2013 06:34

 

Halfabee

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Halfabee says

RE: BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

Over-priced, under-powered and over here.  Hairdresser's assistants form a queue at your nearest BMW dealer.

14 August 2013 16:44

 

Robby1977

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Robby1977 says

RE: BMW Z4 sDrive 18i (2013) CAR review

 Save £10K and buy a new MX5. £28K before options for this is madness. 

14 August 2013 10:32

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