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2018 BMW Z4 roadster prototype spied with the roof down

evo staff
16 Mar 2018

BMW’s new Z4 continues to creep towards production in what must be the final stages of testing


We’ve seen the concept, spy shots and even leaked engineering reports of BMW’s third generation Z4 roadster for what seems like years, no really. The Z4’s launch at the Paris motor show later this year can’t come soon enough, then, but for now here are the latest set of spy images revealing yet more precious details.

With only a wrap now covering the Z4's bodywork, we can now confirm that the new Z4 looks very close to the BMW Concept Z4 revealed last year at Pebble Beach. Breaking with many BMW design conventions, core design elements such the wide, low-set pair of kidney grilles look to follow the concept in shunning the usual upright slats in favour of chrome points (much like Mercedes’ diamond grille). BMW’s trademark double roundel headlights have also been reformed into a new shape, sitting in front of a new clamshell bonnet which flows down the car’s wings.

> Click here for all the latest information about the new Toyota Supra

At the rear, the design again closely apes the 2017 Z4 Concept, and fits in with other BMW concepts like the M8 Gran Coupe and 8-series Concept too. The eagle eyed amongst you will also note a disguised Toyota Supra in the background, not surprising considering the two are being developed in conjunction between both German and Japanese engineering teams.

We had a chat with Marc Girard, head of BMW concept design about the sleek new Z4 roadster at last year's Frankfurt show, and he was understandably enthusiastic. It’s a driver’s car, a sports car, it’s super agile, it’s light, it’s light-footed – and extremely dynamic’, he says.

While he was speaking purely in design terms, his enthusiasm provided hope that the striking aesthetics will be reflected in the car’s dynamic talents. In typical concept fashion the design features some bold details and despite the imposing stance, thanks to a high belt line, Girard confirmed the concept has a shorter wheelbase than the old Z4. 

> Click here for our drive of the BMW M4 CS

The nose features new-look kidney grilles – wider than ever before and with mesh rather than the traditional BMW slat arrangement inside. The headlights have been pushed up and out towards the front wings to accommodate the wider grilles, while the carbonfibre front spoiler that rises up at the sides accentuates the historical shark-nose look when viewed in profile.

Girard's Z4 design draws on bygone BMW icons and reinterprets them; ‘We definitely want to reinvent everything,’ he says, ‘We’re not doing retro though, we always reinterpret key cues such as the kidney grilles.’

Look closer and there are intricate design details that bring a cohesion and flow to the wedge shape, see the swage line that begins where the clamshell bonnet and front wings intersect, running up the side of car and finishing at the L-shaped LED rear-light clusters.

The 20-inch alloys, a reinterpretation of BMW’s twin-spoke design, sit in the front arches ahead of air-outlets which lead to scalloped sides rising up toward the rear. The pronounced ducktail spoiler integrated into the boot sits above a sculpted rear apron made up of a compilation of air outlets, dual exhausts and a carbon diffuser. 

> Click here for all you need to know about the new Toyota Supra

For this generation of Z4 the folding hardtop has been ditched for a fabric hood and for the Concept there are a pair of buttresses aft of the headrests constructed from milled aluminium and carbon fibre – they’re very striking and would look great on the production car but Girard won’t be drawn on whether they’ll make production.

Inside the cockpit is clearly driver-orientated with its black leather driving area and like the recent 8 Series Concept the Z4 features ‘islands’ of controls with the driving tools located by the stubby gear lever and the HVAC controls sited by the air vents and so on. The on-board monitor is larger and links up with BMW’s new-style dashpod to allow a flow of information between the two and Girard says this will feature on future production cars.

As the car we saw last year is still a concept car, albeit one that’s destined for production, BMW remains tight-lipped on engines and performance figures but expect BMW’s familiar four- and six-cylinder turbocharged petrol units to feature with outputs ranging from 190 to 350hp.

Will there be a Z4 M this time around though? There’s no doubt the M3 and M4’s twin-turbo S55 engine would fit… but it may be more likely we’ll see an M Performance version à la M140i/M240i. Either way it will be an intriguing prospect.

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