Our good friends over at Autoblog decided to take the 2009 BMW Z4 for another spin, but this time, they settled for the sDrive30i, the roadster powered by the normally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine.
Since we’ve driven both models in the past, we’re a bit inclined to adore more the sDrive35i model, the high-end roadster that gave us back the driving thrill we’ve been craving for, but we’re fully aware that the entry-level model in the North American market will be sufficient for a large variety of buyers.
So let’s take a look at the review as published by Autoblog.
“Our tester was a base sDrive30i, and as an entry-level model, our Bimmer was devoid of many higher-end toys like satellite navigation, which in turn meant that it had no iDrive controller. As much as the latest iteration of this all-in-one GUI controller has been improved, we were actually quite happy to have a driving environment free of such complexities, as going without seems more in keeping with the spirit of a roadster anyhow. Thankfully, in the iDrive’s place there’s a set of well arrayed and pleasingly straightforward controls.
Front and center in the console is a pleasantly short lever for rowing through the six-speed manual gearbox. Directly in front of the driver is a small, reassuringly thick-rimmed three-spoke wheel. Thankfully, it’s not so small that it obscures the large speedometer and tach that dominate the instrument cluster. As with most modern BMWs, between the analog gauges is a red-orange LCD display that displays secondary information like mileage, radio stations and so on. The readout is easily legible except when wearing polarized sunglasses.
“BMW’s (labored) sDrive30i appellation denotes the company’s normally aspirated 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. While we’re just as enamored with roaring V8s as the next guy, there’s something simply sublime about a great straight-six, and it’s a BMW hallmark. Unlike a V6 of any bank angle, inline sixes are inherently balanced without having to resort to band-aids like balance shafts. While the two turbos on the sDrive35i do an excellent job of inflating the torque curve, the more moderate 220 pound-feet of our un-boosted sDrive30i arrives at an eminently usable 2,600 rpm. That means cruising around town is a smooth and effortless process that doesn’t require drawing excessive attention to one’s self by revving out the engine all the time. That is, unless you want to – in which case the six will happily spin up to nearly 7,000 rpm all day long.
In urban traffic or on the freeway, the Z4 is a happy cruiser. With the top up, it’s also a remarkably quiet place for a road trip, although you can still can still hear the pleasant engine note coming through. It’s not the glorious wail of a high strung race engine, but it does have a mechanical sound that evokes precision machined internals. With the top down and the side glass up, buffeting is surprisingly subdued – even without any sort of wind blocker. For those interested in running the numbers, a normally aspirated Z4 like our tester will scoot to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds, yet the EPA rates the Z4 at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway regardless of transmission choice. We saw 23 mpg in mixed driving.
If you enjoy listening to something besides the tires thrumming along on the brushed concrete or the air flowing over your head, you may want to consider a serious upgrade to the stereo system. The base entertainment system simply does not have the auditory oomph required to overcome high speed air flow. Even maxed out, the volume was totally inadequate at 70+ mph.”