The high price of petrol now affects people who previously wouldn’t have been able to tell you the fuel economy of their cars. It seems that everyone is beginning to look for ways of reducing everyday costs and now we’re all looking to buy less thirsty and more frugal cars. This is straightforward enough if you’re the kind of pragmatist who values high miles-per-gallon over motoring enjoyment. But it’s much trickier when you’re considering buying a sports car and you’re looking for a vehicle that will unleash fast and furious driving pleasure without wincing every time you stop to refuel it. Traditionally you simply couldn’t have your cake and eat it too. The equation was simple – the faster the car, the more fuel it demanded. But sports cars too are changing – even Ferraris now have stop/start technology – and sales in the market for the “everyday sportscar” are as likely to be affected by a vehicle’s fuel economy as they are acceleration figures.
In the new Z4, BMW has worked hard to create a sports car which combines excellent economy with the capacity to make your hair fly back. BMW’s popular roadster used to only feature a ravenous 6-cylinder engine, but this new version Z4 now boasts a greener, lighter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine instead. But because the car is now lighter there is virtually no performance trade-off despite the fact that the car is less powerful. The result is a car that promises the same driving thrills with fuel economy and emissions improved by 20 per cent.
And the Z4 certainly looks the part. It’s still the same head turner it has always been and one of the most stylish roadsters there is. It may not be elegant but it is a handsome beast. Inside, it’s essentially the same as its predecessor, though the new Bluetooth and USB connectivity is a welcome addition. The feel-good interior is stylish, well-made and intelligently laid out. It’s also very comfortable. It still feels very fresh, despite being an ageing design, and it’s certainly well put together.
Powering the 184hp sDrive20i model on the roads around Goodwood, I was surprised to find that I barely noticed its new turbocharger, and there was certainly no turbo lag. The car felt fast and responsive, it’s agile, the ride is comfortable and the drive is genuinely exciting. In fact there are barely any downsides to the fact that this great roadster has now dropped two of its cylinders.
Except one. The sound.
There was always going to be a trade-off for what is a bodacious move by BMW to offer far better efficiency in its roadster. In many ways, the new Z4 does feel like a powerful 6-cylinder. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like one. The engine noise is a little too quiet and there’s certainly no more roar.
The Z4 was always an attractive purchase, but now it’s cheaper to run and cheaper to buy. Amazingly, the CO2 emissions and economy performance of the more powerful 245hp sDrive28i model is exactly the same as the entry level sDrive20i version we’ve driven. Which means it’s worth getting the more powerful car if you can afford to.
THE FACTS: BMW Z4 SDRIVE20I
TOP SPEED: 146mph
CO2 G/KM: 159g/km
MPG COMBINED: 41.5mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY