BMW Z4 sDrive35i review

SINGAPORE - Life Cycle Impulse (LCI) is BMW-speak for mid-life facelift. German carmakers love making things complex and giving them fun names, which is half the fun of driving them and writing about them (the cars or the names? Both...). Besides, if they made everything too straightforward, I’d be out of a job. Just try decoding z4 sDrive35is LCI by yourself without Googling it.

The first BMW Z4 (lifespan 2002 to 2009) came in coupe and convertible forms and was on a good day, a Porsche Boxster beater. The ensuing years have given it the sort of halo that descends on great-handling roadsters (like the urm...Porsche Boxster) and even made the looks (a favourite of ex-BMW design boss Chris Bangle) mature well, all of which further accentuates the difference the current Z4 bears.

That machine migrated into an altogether different market sub-segment - one dominated by the popular SLK. Convertible, coupe and even M variants all became subsumed into a single model range, one with a folding hard-top.

This one’s the sportiest of the new lot, the range-topper, the z4 sDrive35is. It comes with the N54B30 twin-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six engine, with the ‘is’ bit at the end of the name denoting it puts out 36bhp more, plus an extra 50Nm overboost function. That’s enough to shave off 0.3 of a second from a sDrive35 ‘non-is’ in its 0-100km/h time and makes this car faster and more powerful than the old Z4 M.


A specially-tuned exhaust means this car sounds loud and in-your-face, although it’s not quite obnoxious. At low speeds it’s a warbling, unsophisticated drone, but serves as a decent enough prelude to the sheer speed of the machine. It’s very fast in a straight line - just look at those torque and power figures, then add on that it redlines at 7,000rpm. Once past 4,000rpm or so, the engine really starts to sing and take off. For its part, the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is ferociously quick and does a good enough job of being smooth at low speeds too.


But the impressiveness of the drivetrain is let down by the diffident handling. While the car packs adaptive dampers and a drive mode selector (Sport+, Sport, Comfort) the basic setup is altogether too stiff - it communicates far too much of the road condition (especially dips, which implies too much compression, and not enough rebound) for you to really be able to trust the grip level and hustle it. For a car in which the driver sits near the rear axle, there’s precious little information about what the rear end is doing, too.


Granted, the Z4 doesn’t drive badly - stick to the open highway and wide sweepers, with good road conditions, and it’s a joy to blast through, but it lacks the driving edge to be a B-road bomber and you’d have to watch it carefully on the track, too.

Then again, we’ve always known these characteristics of the Z4 sDrive35is, so where does the LCI bit come in?


Well there are new bits on the front and rear from the lights down (including the lights themselves) - notice the little strakes on the back, on each side of the diffuser? This particular machine comes in a stunning shade of ‘Valencia Orange’ metallic paint as well as packing an extended interior leather and alcantara option with the orange fabric upholstery and stitching - BMW terms the entire concept ‘Design Pure Traction’. At this price, it’s just as well that the car comes with a huge loadout of standard equipment, including navigation and the M sport pack which includes the M-branded steering wheel, 19-inch alloys and sill plates. With the facelift, the hard-top folding roof can also be deployed or retracted on the move, at speeds of up to 40km/h.


All that is the icing on the cake, and will draw more eyeballs to what is still a very fast and handsome-looking car in both coupe and convertible modes. It’s a pity not much more was done to improve the ride and handling, but then again, it also renews the idea of a different purpose and target audience of the updated Z4.



Engine                 2,979cc, 24V, twin-turbo inline 6

Power                340bhp at 5,900rpm

Torque                450Nm at 1,500rpm (500Nm overboost)

Gearbox                7-speed dual-clutch

Top Speed        250km/h

0-100kmh        4.8 seconds                        

Fuel efficiency        9.0L/100km

CO2                210g/km

Price                $356,560 with COE

Also Consider: Mercedes-Benz SLK 350, Porsche Boxster S


Derryn Wong
Author: Derryn Wong
Derryn Wong is currently editor-in-chief of CarBuyer and he enjoys probing all aspects of the motoring industry, ranging from bizarre holes in the upholstery to the engineered insanity of the COE system. No, not those kinds of holes.