What you’re looking at here is the radical BMW Concept Z4: a visual teaser of what the German firm’s all-new and production-ready Z4 Roadster should resemble when it’s launched in 2018.
Sharing the same basic platform as the upcoming Toyota Supra (remember that BMW and Toyota teamed up to build both these cars), the third-generation Z4 (codenamed J29) marks a radical design departure from its predecessors as it scraps that long-nose-short-tail architecture for which the popular BMW roadster has traditionally been known.
These proportions are now a lot more balanced with the BMW designers instead adding visual drama via radically sculpted side panels. They’ve also worked in elements of the Concept 8-Series that broke cover earlier this year – the evidence of which can be seen peppered all over those aggressively sunken air intakes that stretch their way across the front apron.
The rear of the Concept Z4 is flat and wide with narrow LED taillamps that give a definite nod to the outgoing 6-Series. Not a bad thing. Wheels come in the form of monstrous 20-inch alloys sporting no less than five double spokes. Although whether or not these will make it to the final production version remains to be seen.
What has been signed off, apparently, is the interior: an unashamedly driver-focussed environment that focusses everything around whoever happens to be sat behind the steering wheel. The infotainment system and central ventilation stack has, for example, been angled towards the business side of the cabin to help make on-the-fly adjustments as quick and as easy as possible.
BMW has also developed a trick new steering wheel that has a digital lap-timer display built into the flat bottom of the rim. Another interesting feature is the option of asymmetric seat detailing: it seems as if you can spec the driver and passenger seats in different coloured upholstery. It’s avant-garde and we like it. A lot. More conventional goodies include a large rotary iDrive controller as well as buttons for adjusting the adaptive damping and BMW Driving Experience Control system.
To keep weight down to a minimum and also help lower the car’s centre of gravity (good for handling in case you didn’t know), BMW has decided to shy away from the complicated folding metal roof that dogged the previous Z4. In its place you’ll find a far more classical fabric top complemented by two aggressive aluminium (aluminium-look?) buttresses sat behind the headrests.
So what’s lurking under the hood then? Well kicking things off will be a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine available in two different states of tune – 20i and 30i. Both will be supplemented by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The range-topping motor will be the six-cylinder M 40i lump that, thanks to TwinPower turbocharging technology, will muscle out 272kW and 465Nm.
What’s interesting to note is that while the Toyota Supra will only be made available with a BMW-sourced automatic gearbox, the Z4 will have the option of an old-school manual transmission. Purists rejoice!
Now like we mentioned at the beginning of this article the new BMW Z4 will be released internationally sometime next year. South Africa will, according to BMW SA, get it in 2019. Which, going on past history, suggests that the international launch will happen at the end of 2018. – Thomas Falkiner