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2018 BMW Z4 spied winter testing

Bob Harper
24 Jan 2018

The production BMW Z4 will look very similar to Concept Z4 version shown at Frankfurt 2017

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Following on from the BMW Concept Z4's unveiling at 2017's Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Frankfurt motor show, the German brand's new roadster has been spied undergoing winter testing ahead of its reveal at the Paris motor show later this year and a market launch in early 2019.

It's fair to say that the concepts shown last year will give us a better indication of the new BMW Z4's styling than the disguised test cars, with BMW suggesting the concept's look was about 80 per cent equivalent to the eventual production model.

The latest images do show a well-proportioned shape with smooth curves like that of the concept, though the car's form is hurt slightly in its winter guise by unfashionably small alloy wheels and chunkier tyres. A wide grille and slim headlights and tail lights echo similar trends seen on other recent BMW models and concepts, and should give the car a distinctive look when it hits the road this time next year. The sharp rear spoiler too is very much like the unit we saw on the concept.

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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