The BMW Z4 also holds a world record – the fastest retracting fully automatic convertible roof in the world. Proving handy for the UK’s occasional downpours, it retracts fully in less than 10 seconds with a simple push of a button and comes standard on both the 2.5i and 3.0i cars. It also features an inventive convertible roof mechanism. The roof structure is made of weight-saving magnesium and aluminium and the reinforced front panel of the fully lined fabric roof folds flat, which means no need for a tonneau cover with the added benefit of reduced wind noise in the cabin.
By the end of 2003, a hard top will also be available, featuring an integral roof spoiler. This makes the car look more coupe-like, and increases down force, improving aerodynamics.
At launch, the Z4 features either 2.5i and 3.0i power plants carried over from the 3 Series range – the best 2.5-litre petrol engine in the world, according to this year’s International Engine of the Year awards. The 2.5i (2,494cc) roadster produces 141kW / 192bhp at 6,000rpm and 245Nm of torque at 3,500rpm. It sprints to 62mph in a more than respectable 7.0 seconds before topping out at 146mph. Its larger brother, the 3.0i, displaces 2,979cc, producing 170kW / 231bhp at 5,900rpm and 300Nm of torque at 3,500rpm. That’s enough to blast the car from 0 – 62mph in 5.9 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph.
Although the engines may be reassuringly familiar, much of the technology is brand new.
Introduced as a world first, Engine Sound System (MSS) is fitted as standard to the Z4 3.0i. BMW acoustic engineers have worked on a system that delivers enhanced engine intake noise directly from the intake manifold into the cockpit, making the driver feel more connected to the car’s lightning performance. Adding to this connectedness is the Z4’s all-electronic throttle butterfly, which delivers maximum engine power spontaneously as the throttle butterfly adapts itself to any given driving situation.
The Z4 also benefits from Driving Dynamics Control (DDC), previously only seen on cars from BMW Motorsport. DDC is operated using the Sport button on the centre console and once activated, alters the throttle pedal mapping for faster accelerator reaction times, and the power steering response for a more direct and dynamic steering response. It also positively recalibrates the point of gear change if the car is fitted with the optional automatic or Sequential Manual Gearboxes.