Motoring review: BMW Z4 35i - not so much a snarling monster, more a damp squib

The little Z4 should be brilliant, but Jamie Merrill just found it a tad wet
  • @Jamie_Merrill

Price: from £42,870
Engine capacity: 3.0-litre, 6-cylinder turbo
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 302 @ 5,800
Top speed (mph): 155
0-62 mph (seconds): 5.2
Fuel economy (mpg): 30.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 219

Last summer, was a damp squib, the wettest in 100 years, apparently, and I was driving around in convertibles from June to September. Later in the year, in one of the least sensible things I've done, I even took a Caterham out in an early snow flurry. That's the vagaries of the car launch world for you. Thankfully, this summer has been pretty good, but for reasons I'm yet to fathom to do with my own stupidity, I've been driving around in cars with roofs on and there's been little top-down fun for me.

Hopefully, next year I'll get it right, but this year my only consolation came recently when, as the final rays of summer sun battled to make an appearance, I had a bright red model of the facelifted BMW Z4 convertible sitting on my drive to test. It was a Saturday morning and automotive joy should have ensued.

My local roads in north London aren't ideal for top-down cruising or buzzing around on (the local council enforces a very sensible 20mph speed limit), so a run up the A1 to the rural roads of Bedfordshire beckoned.

Believe it or not, we Brits on our small rocky outcrop of Europe are the biggest buyers of convertibles per head of population in the EU. As far as I could tell most of them were out on the rural roads of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire with the same idea as me – to zip around enjoying the sunshine before buffeting wind and crashing road surfaces sent us in search of a pub lunch.

It should have been a joyous Saturday drive, the sort of pure driving experience that car magazines like to bang on about. I mean, who wouldn't love 300 horsepower and an actual gear stick to play with on a sunny day. The thing is; the Z4 just didn't do it for me.

Don't get me wrong, the Z4 is a beautiful thing, probably one of the best-looking small convertibles for sale today, but for my money there are two types of convertibles – comfortable cruisers and snarling beasts. Usually, I'll take the shattered spine of the latter every time – I'm a petrol head after all – but the Z4 is neither.

True, it has acres of power but you need to be travelling at silly speeds to get it to step out or test the limits of its mechanical grip – not something I was tempted to try on public roads. Similarly, the chassis seems to be set up in such a way that you need to be really pushing along for precise handling but smashing over broken surfaces on a B-Road isn't exactly fun for your passenger, even if it is entertaining from behind the wheel.

Roof up or down, it isn't particularly refined either, like, say the Mercedes SLK. It's comfortable enough but nowhere near luxurious enough for a £42k motor. And once you've got the roof down, there's 180 litres worth of boot space which, frankly, isn't a lot. When the roof is up, well, BMW there's no easy way to say this; my test model leaked. That's right, a late summer storm brought a steady trickle of water down from the roof where the seal wasn't perfect.

This kind of fault is motoring reviewer paydirt, but I really just felt sorry for the little Z4. It should be brilliant, but it's just a tad wet.