2023 BMW Z4: Photos, Specs & Review – Forbes Wheels

Open air roadsters are a rare breed these days, but the 2023 BMW Z4 almost occupies a niche of its own. Yes, it’s a classic two-seat, rear-wheel drive, open-topped sports car; but it also sells on luxury and comfort. It isn’t “affordable,” but it’s also cheaper than nearly all of its luxury-brand droptop competitors. Its mission is the joy of driving for driving’s sake, and it’s very talented at that, but behind the wheel, one gets the impression that it’s better suited to enjoying weekends driving the Grand Corniche or Pacific Coast Highway than local track days.

That’s no bad thing, because the Z4’s strengths are both performance and usability. By sports car standards, it’s practical, comfy and easy to live with. But these days, the type of affluent enthusiasts who bought BMW Z3s and Mercedes-Benz SLKs in the DotCom era are smitten with off-roading, electric sports sedans and high-performance SUVs, all of which can double as family vehicles. Sports cars sell in such small numbers that the only way BMW was able to revive the Z4 in 2019 (after a two-year hiatus) was to share costs with Toyota.

Under the skin, the Z4 is quite similar to the Toyota GR-Supra, though the two look nothing alike and feel different behind the wheel. The Supra comes only as a coupe with a workmanlike and somewhat confining cabin, while the Z4 is a plush, roomy roadster. The Supra’s lower price, tighter performance focus and slightly faster speeds have largely overshadowed the Z4, and that continues in 2023. While Toyota has added a much-requested manual transmission this year, underscoring its enthusiast appeal, the automatic-only Z4 gets only modest equipment changes and a new grille.

New in 2019, the BMW Z4 has seen very few changes since. 2023 sees subtly redesigned grille inserts, new colors including Thundernight (seen here) and more performance equipment for the base sDrive30i model. BMW

The Supra simply offers more performance for less cash, but if there wasn’t a connection here, the Z4 might be compared to more appropriate cars like the Porsche 718 Boxster, Jaguar F-Type and Lexus LC. The Z4 is just as capable as the Supra even if its convertible form means slightly more weight and less speed, but in six-cylinder, 382-horsepower M40i form, the Z4 makes a credible budget alternative to those pricier cars. The Porsche is lighter and more of a pure sports car, while the Jag and the LC pack V8s and more luxury.

While it’s a really fun performer and satisfying to drive, the Z4 excels on providing its occupants with space and convenience. Even drivers as tall as six-foot-five will be comfortable all day in this car’s supportive seats, and with the top up the interior still feels roomy and quiet. They also won’t tire you out the way some sports car chairs will. 9.9 cubic-feet is actually a pretty big trunk for a roadster and there’s lots of small item storage too. Both the four- and six-cylinder Z4s also get good gas mileage.

Inside, the cabin is full of nice materials and intuitive, easy-to-use controls. The Z4 uses iDrive 7. It’s not BMW’s latest, but the system works very well and the graphics on the twin 10.3-inch displays are bright and crisp. Outside, the styling is polarizing, but that’s normal for BMW. Despite all these positives, the Z4 doesn’t sell and BMW doesn’t plan to continue building it after 2025. The Z4’s niche might be too narrow for today’s tastes, but it’s still a delight to drive, and worth trying before it’s history.

2023 BMW Z4 Review1
The Z4’s interior is an excellent mix of digital systems and traditional controls, with BMW’s intuitive iDrive 7 running on a pair of 10.3-inch screens, easy-to-use analog controls and lots of storage space. Alex Kwanten

Performance: 13/15

At the heart of every Z4 is one of two excellent powerplants. The base-model sDrive30i uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the M40i uses the sonorous “B58” inline six making 382 hp and 369 lb-ft. Both are rear-drive only and use an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and paddle shifters.

Both engines team well with a chassis that’s happy to attack curvy roads, but the Z4 also straddles the line between softer-edged grand tourer and pure sports car. It rides very smoothly despite its short wheelbase, big rims and fat Michelin Pilot Super Sports, and where the Supra and Boxster feel edgier and more performance-focused, the Z4 is frisky but civilized.

This isn’t to say the Z4 isn’t fast or reactive, because it’s both. A proper sports car, it feels very well-balanced, its steering is precise, and it’ll follow whatever line you choose through the twists and turns. There’s a reasonable amount of steering feedback too, though it isn’t as communicative as a Miata or Boxster. The sDrive30i’s 5.2-second zero-to-60 sprint isn’t so special these days, but the M40i will get there in 4.4 seconds. It’s also easier to break the back end loose with the six’s brute force.

Sadly, there’s no manual, but the transmission shifts quickly and precisely. BMW’s drive modes make a real difference in personality, particularly Comfort, Sport and Sport+, the latter two firming up the suspension damping and sharpening throttle response. Even Sport+ won’t wear you out though, which sports cars can sometimes do, particularly when you drive them in traffic every day.

Many drivers might like a roadster with sports car moves and sedan-like civility, but sports car purists and track day warriors might want something edgier.

The Z4’s convertible body, so perfect for the sensory delight of open-air motoring, makes it slightly heavier and less rigid than the closely-related Supra, which is a little faster model-for-model and quite a bit cheaper. The Boxster is also lighter and faster, to the extent that the six-cylinder M40i is really the direct competitor for the four-cylinder Porsche. On the other hand, the Z4 M40i isn’t much slower than the V8 F-Type convertible and quite a bit cheaper.

Fuel Economy: 14/15

Both the four and six-cylinder Z4s return pretty good gas mileage, unless of course, you’re flooring it in Sport+ all the time. Which you might. The EPA rates the four-cylinder sDrive30i at 28 mpg combined (25 city, 33 highway) and the six-cylinder M40i at 26 mpg combined (23 city, 31 highway), although in our real-world test, the M40i returned closer to 24 mpg combined. Still, a bad mpg day for the Z4 is a good one for many of its direct competitors.

The GR-Supra loses about 1 mpg in every measure from the Z4 and is the closest analog. The four-cylinder Audi TT Roadster comes close at 25 mpg combined (23 city, 30 highway) while the four-cylinder Boxster does 24 mpg combined (21 city, 27 highway). The six-cylinder Boxster can’t do more than 21 mpg combined but is much faster. The V8 Jaguar F-Type and Lexus LC Convertible won’t do more than 19 mpg combined, though both have an edge in glamour.

Safety & Driver Assistance Tech: 9/15

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have tested the BMW Z4, but the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP), an EU agency that performs similar evaluations, gives it five out of five stars. It also, notably, performs better on some of EuroNCAP’s systems evaluations than some larger BMWs that IIHS and NHTSA do test, like the X5.

Most of the Z4’s competitors are light on active-safety features, but BMW does include, at least, forward collision warnings and forward automatic emergency braking. Lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts (all features that are especially helpful with the top in place) are part of a $700 Driver Assistance package, while parking sensors ($200) and adaptive cruise control ($550, without lane centering) are additional extras.

It looks snug in pictures, but as roadsters go the Z4 is hugely roomy inside. It’s a great long-distance touring companion. Alex Kwanten

Comfort & Room: 14/15

The first question most sports car newbies ask is “can I fit?” In the Z4’s case, the answer is usually yes—and comfortably. While the Supra’s similarly-sized but close-coupled cabin feels confining, the Z4’s feels huge inside, even with the top up. Somehow BMW has shoehorned in an SUV-like 38.9 inches of headroom with the top in place, which is probably best in class although not all competitors quote an official statistic. The Z4’s 42.2 inches of legroom are about average.

Thanks to all that space, two six-foot-five adult can ride comfortably all day in this car. The seats are supportive, comfortable and grippy without being too aggressively bolstered as in some other performance cars, and they have a wide range of adjustments, as does the steering wheel. Thick-rimmed, grippy and weighty, the wheel itself is just what you’d want in a car of this type.

Infotainment: 12/15

Every Z4 gets a 10.3-inch digital instrument panel and a similarly-sized infotainment screen. The system is powered by BMW’s iDrive 7 software and navigable by the touchscreen, steering wheel controls, the big iDrive click wheel on the center console or voice control. Though there’s a learning curve for people new to BMW and iDrive7 is gradually being replaced by iDrive 8, we actually think this older system is more intuitive and easier to use, particularly in a sports car where massive touchscreens are a distraction. There are physical controls for most functions, happily.

BMW’s displays look great, and most functions (including standard navigation that displays points of interest and generally understands voice inputs) are easy to use. If you don’t like BMW’s interface, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. A USB-A port and Bluetooth are included as well, as is Sirius XM satellite capability, though you’ll need to buy a subscription to use it.

2023 BMW Z4 Review2
Just shy of 10 cubic-feet of space, the Z4’s trunk is one of the biggest in its class and provides plenty of luggage room for long weekends or road trips. Alex Kwanten

Cargo Space & Storage: 12/15

Nobody ever buys a roadster for cargo room, but by the standards of such cars the Z4 is extremely practical. The 9.9 cubic-foot trunk is much more useful than the 7.3 cubic-feet in the F-Type convertible or the Porsche Boxster’s 4.4-cubic-foot frunk, and indeed its bigger than some much larger droptops like the Chevrolet Camaro convertible (7.3 cubic-feet). Though the opening is a little small, it’s also about as useful a cargo hold as BMW’s own 4 Series Convertible (10.6 cubic feet) or the Supra’s 10.2-cube hatch.

Inside the cabin there are also lots of storage solutions. There’s a pass-through to the trunk fronted by a tiny cargo net, fairly large door pockets, a little room behind and beneath the seats, and a clever center console bin that preserves the driver’s armrest while making room for cupholders. The Glovebox isn’t huge, but most competitors aren’t either.

Style & Design: 7/10

Like many recent BMWs, and certainly this car’s two previous generations, the Z4’s styling is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. However, compared to the original “land shark” Z4 and its 2008 replacement, this version is positively conservative, with much more conventional but still wedge-shaped lines all around. The big headlights are a bit caricatured, but the big twin-kidney grille looks the right size and the whole car looks muscular and purposeful.

Inside, the cabin feels more luxurious than Porsche or Toyota, and attractive, high-touch materials are used throughout. It looks and feels expensive, and its digital systems blend well with the design. The standard upholstery is BMW’s high-quality, leather-like SensaTec, but several hues of Vernasca leather are available, sometimes with cool contrast stitching (for $1,250 or $1,500), and even with that option checked the Z4 is still less expensive than some of its rivals.

The Z4’s styling splits opinions, but its wedge shape has some great angles and looks nothing like Toyota’s GR-Supra. The Misano Blue paint seen here has been replaced with a darker shade, Portimao Blue, for 2023. Alex Kwanten

Is the 2023 BMW Z4 Worth it? Which Z4 is the Best Value?

Looked at in isolation, the Z4 is a really good package. It’s more expensive than the Supra model for model, but it’s cheaper than the Boxster and much cheaper than the F-Type or LC. Its main problem is that there are many other non-roadster performance cars that do similar things, including BMW’s own 2 Series and the convertible models in the larger 4 Series. Like the Supra, those cars also use the same engines and some of the same systems as the Z4 and they’re more practical.

The base Z4 sDrive30i starts at $53,795 (including a $995 destination fee) and now includes all of the gear from the former M Sport package, including the more aggressive-looking bumpers, M Sport suspension and other performance and interior bits that are shared with the M40i. It’s not as fast as the six-cylinder version by any means, but the sDrive30i is still plenty of fun. The main argument against it is that the six-cylinder Supra starts at $54,095. It’s not nearly so luxurious, but speed matters.

We think the best value in the Z4 lineup is the $66,295 M40i. It’s a big jump in price, but if you’re going to buy this, it’s better to go big. This is about the same price as an entry-level Boxster ($66,950), but much less than the comparable Boxster T ($76,050), the F-Type P450 Convertible ($75,650) or the LC Convertible ($103,650). It’s less athletic than the Porsche or the Jag, but more fun than the LC and more practical than all of them.

BMW’s typically lengthy options list is a little more controlled on the M40i, but even with the driver assist gear and a cool color you might escape for less than $70,000 total.

Editor’s note: Some of the photos used in this review depict a Misano Blue Z4 M40i, a shade no longer offered in 2023, while others depict a European-spec M40i in Thundernight (purple). The only differences on the M40i from 2022 to 2023 are color availability and front grille designs.

How Much Does it Cost to Insure the BMW Z4?

The Z4’s is surprisingly less expensive to insure than you’d think. According to our research, a typical 30-year-old female driver with a clean record can expect an average annual premium starting at $2,655 for the sDrive30i and $2,957 for the M40i, though this averages all 50 states. For comparison, a Porsche 718 Boxster T would run $3,079, a Jaguar F-Type P450 Convertible $3,311 and a Lexus LC $4,167. For a more accurate picture of your potential insurance expenses, visit our car insurance calculator.