2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i
2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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Photo Gallery:
2009 BMW Z4

Second Opinion:
Jil McIntosh

Ottawa, Ontario – There’s an unmistakable audacity and swagger in the lines of the 2009 BMW Z4. The car just oozes self-assurance. If it was a person, you couldn’t help but be fascinated and perhaps a little intimidated.

Powerful, confident, athletic, attractive; who doesn’t admire those qualities? The Z4 has them dramatically stamped right into its sheet-metal, and it’s not just skin-deep, as the drivetrain has plenty of attitude as well.

It’s a total package, a brash personality to complement or supplement your own. Well, maybe not total, as the most frequent question I received was, “Can I fit my golf clubs in that trunk?” We’ll get to that later.

2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i
2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i. Click image to enlarge

There are two Z4 models – the Z4 sDrive30i and the Z4 sDrive35i — and although they look virtually the same, price and performance separate the cars. Our test vehicle was the Z4 sDrive 35i, powered with a twin-turbocharged inline-six cylinder engine that makes 300-horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 300 lb-ft torque at 1,400 rpm. The term “sDrive,” by the way, is BMW-speak for rear-wheel drive, as opposed to the company’s “xDrive,” all-wheel drive vehicles.

With a starting price of $61,900, our Z4 sDrive35i adds a $2,900 Executive Package (heatable steering wheel, alarm, wind deflector, compass mirror, auto dimming exterior mirror, USB and iPod audio integration, Satellite radio, LOGIC7 sound system) and an $1,800 Sport Package (18-inch alloy wheels, sport seats, anthracite roof liner), metallic paint for $800, and a special leather interior for $1700 and an as-tested price of $69,100.

Finished in Black Sapphire Metallic paint and a Coral Red “Extended” Kansas Leather interior, this is a car that will get you noticed.

2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i
2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i
2009 BMW Z4 sDrive35i. Click image to enlarge

The big news for the 2009 Z4 (along with the fact that it’s now built in Regensburg, Germany rather than Spartanburg, South Carolina) is the retractable hardtop, new this year, which means no more soft-top, and presumably no need for a coupe, either. The top is completely automatic, raising and lowering via two buttons at the base of the centre console. Fitting the roof into the trunk has necessitated lengthening the car, which, in my view, results in more pleasing proportions for the Z4.

The surfaces have received attention, too — they’re not as sharp-edged as the outgoing model — and again this is to the car’s benefit. It’s taken 14 years (the Z3 was introduced in 1996) but BMW’s Z-car has evolved into a very sleek machine.

As mentioned above, motive power for the Z4 sDrive35i is BMW’s 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged engine, which can now be found in nearly all of the company’s vehicles, from 1 Series to 5 Series. It is a superb powerplant, widely applauded for its smooth delivery of power and prodigious torque which is available at very low engine speeds. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h takes a brief 5.3 seconds, but fuel economy is an impressive 11.4/7.7 L/100km, city/highway for the manual transmission model (my experience was 9.0 L/100km, combined, although at 55-litres, the fuel tank is on the small side).

In addition to the standard six-speed manual gearbox, a six-speed automatic with “Steptronic” paddles is available for an additional $1,700 (it actually shaves 0.1 second from the 0-100 km/h time). The manual transmission features a handy “hill holder” that prevents the car from rolling back for a few seconds when you are stopped on an incline and release the clutch.

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