Even though the Toyota Supra and the BMW Z4 are mechanically related, they are different cars for different purposes. The Supra is a street racer, for the fortunate youthful few living out their “Fast and Furious” fantasies or more mature drivers yearning to relive their own youth. The Z4 is a roadster made for cruising at speed. On the track or around town, the Z4 works to deliver an engaging driving experience, earning an 8.0 of 10 in performance.
The two engine choices in the Z4 let it be enjoyed as a peppy cruiser or a trackable thrill ride. The base sDrive30i is powered by a 255-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 with an 8-speed automatic transmission that generates 295 pound-feet of torque. That torque comes on early and maintains from 1,550 rpm to 4,400 rpm. Even though there is no manual transmission, the diminutive paddle shifters are a perfect match for the quick shifting 8-speed automatic that provides plenty of passing power and enough pop from a stop to leave traffic behind. It hits 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
New for 2020, the Z4 M40i hits 60 mph in 3.9 seconds but, starting at $64,695 it costs $14,000 more that the 30i. The price of speed is pretty sweet, if you’ve got it. The M40i is powered by a 382-hp 3.0-liter turbo-6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission churning 369 lb-ft to the rear wheels. Peak torque comes at just 1,600 rpm, so there is plenty of grunt available with the quick-shifting 8-speed. It surprises a passenger from a stop, causing him to reach for handles and brace for God. It lifts off quickly, despite its 3,457-pound curb weight, which is the same as some small crossovers. The transmission doesn’t want to be pushed much past 5,000 rpm, and will shift for you if you tempt the redline or put it in manual mode. The small, contoured paddle shifters are nearly perfect for a tap in and tap out, even around town.
In sport mode, the baffles on the Z4 open up from an idle murmur to an impatient grumble. Hammer the throttle with the top down and that hunger fills the air, then lay off the gas and the exhaust baffles snap crackle and pop as if it’s telling you it’s hungry for more gas.
The variable-assist electric steering provides more feedback the harder the Z4 is pushed, so it’s light and loopy at low speeds or while cruising, and tighter while performing.
The Z4 M40i comes standard with Adaptive M Sport suspension and electronic locking rear differential, which are optional on the 30i. The suspension softens while cruising and tightens up at speed, with the differential correcting for optimal grip multiple times per second. Under certain conditions, these minute but precise corrections can create a slight skipping sensation in the rear, but it’s these same torque corrections that let you bust out of turn at higher speeds. It’s not as wag happy as a Mazda MX-5 Miata, but not as precise or confidence-inspiring as the 718 Boxster. It’s still a blast to track, and the M Sport Brembo Brakes grab the 19-inch alloy wheels shod in Pilot Super Sports with enough force to take the next lap faster.
While impressive on the track, the Z4 is best had as a roadster, as designed. The 30i has similar handling characteristics, but the M40i’s suspension is 0.4 inches lower, making it all the better to zip through hairpins quicker.
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