Having debuted in 2009, the current E89-generation BMW Z4 is the Bavarian brand’s oldest car on sale by a long shot. To say it’s starting to show its age would be an understatement. While it’s still actually a good looking car on the outside, absolutely everything else about it is getting old. The cabin, while different and still interesting, just feels so dated. The power, performance, handling and response all feel old and not in the good, classic-BMW way. The BMW Z4 is in desperate need of replacement. Thankfully, a replacement is coming.

At this year’s Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, BMW will be showing off its plans for the Z4’s future. While we won’t actually see the new Z4 at Pebble, the BMW Concept Z4 will debut, giving us a glimpse of the direction for the upcoming roadster replacement. And it looks good.

“The BMW Concept Z4 in an all-out driving machine,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design. “Stripping the car back to the bare essentials allows the driver to experience all the ingredients of motoring pleasure with supreme directness. This is total freedom on four wheels.”

In these Concept Z4 photos, you can see that BMW is focused on driving more than tech, features or luxury. This does seem like a more driver-focused machine than many other concepts to come from the Bavarians in recent memory. It gets all of the typical BMW roadster design cues, aggressive lines and a simple, driver-oriented cabin. All of which make it the classic BMW roadster, just with a more modern twist. “The BMW Concept Z4 expresses the new BMW design language from all perspectives and in all details. From the dynamic looking front to the striking flanks to the clean-cut tail end: a few lines and the subtle interplay between surfaces are enough to generate a sense of power and emotion,” adds van Hooydonk.

The classic elements are there. A short rear deck, long hood, compact size and short overhangs. It’s all there to remind you that this is an old-school sports car. But its aggressive flanks, massive air intakes and nostrils show that this is a modern, real-deal sports car. This isn’t a roadster for grannies. The new Z4 means business. Just look at the guy kicking sand, he’s no joke.

BMW’s also going back to some of its roots with the new Concept Z4. According to the Bavarians, a lot of this concept’s design was inspired by older cars, such as the original Mille Miglia-winning roadster, the BMW 328. I personally love the double-bubble style roofline, which looks like a proper racing roadster and really gives it character. We know those two humps won’t make it to the production car, as we’ve seen spy photos of that car and they aren’t there but they still look great. Maybe if Zagato makes another Z4, they’ll return.

Out back, the extremely thin horizontal taillights accentuate how wide and low this car is. Yet, the classic BMW “L-shape” is still present, just simpler than ever. The look really good, as they flank the built-in decklid spoiler. The massive vertical air intakes are reminiscent of the 8 Series Concept that recently debuted, which shows that BMW does have a specific design language moving forward. The exhaust pipes look better on this Concept Z4 than on the 8 Series Concept as well. They’re simple and horizontal but look perfectly sporty.

The expressive Energetic Orange frozen exterior paint finish showcases the contrasts of light and shade in the surfacing, accentuating the three- dimensionality of the exterior. And the 20-inch light-alloy wheels in a sporty bi- colour double-spoke design provide harmonious finishing touches to the styling of the flanks.

Inside, the classic sports car with a modern twist theme carries on. The three-spoke steering wheel is simple and elegant, yet futuristic and modern. I do like how the horizontal spokes are floating and don’t touch the horn. It looks sort of like a McLaren steering wheel, actually, which is a compliment. The instrument binnacle is completely digital, and similar to that of the 8 Series Concept as well, but is simple with just two digital dials. Looking down at the center console and you’ll see a lot of familiar BMW Concept traits. The starter button is not next to the shifter. The shift lever is new and not the same oddly-shaped level we’re used to today. And the iDrive controller is there as well.

Aside from those massive red paddle shifters add some flamboyance but this is a simple cockpit, overall. While this is a very concept-y cabin, it does have a lot of modern BMW elements that could make it to production. Just look at the triangular shapes on the dash and the way the iDrive screen meets the dashboard, it’s reminiscent of the new BMW X3 we’ve recently seen. Also, much like the current Z4 and old-school BMWs, the center stack and iDrive system seem angled toward the driver, proving that this is a driver-oriented cabin.

We don’t know how much of this design will make it to the final production car, though BMW insists that there are a lot of elements on this Concept Z4 that will make it to production. We’re hoping a lot of it does, as this is a very pretty car, indeed. It brings back the old-school roadster styling that we love from classic BMWs like the Z3 and Z4, yet adds a modern twist and BMW’s current design language. I think it’s safe to say that if the upcoming Z4 looks anything like this BMW Concept Z4, we’re in for a real treat.

The Design Process