Leaked patent sketches have unveiled the BMW Z4 roadster’s design ahead of its official unveiling. Despite their monochrome simplicity, they clearly show the two-seater soft-top will have a sharper nose, with stretched kidney grilles and a lower bumper that disappears at either side of the bottom grille. The production version of the Audi TT and Porsche Boxster rival looks less extreme than the BMW Z4 Concept, though, with a smoother appearance and no rear buttresses.
New headlights include a slimmed-down version of BMW’s hexagonal LEDs that appear to be stacked on top of each other, in a departure from other models. Another new feature is a large air vent just behind the front wheelarches, which has informed the Z4’s side profile. Now, prominent creases emanate from it and flow right back to the rear light clusters. Although we don’t yet know if the vents are functional, it’s likely they both reduce drag and cool the brakes by channelling air more effectively at high speeds.
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Viewed from the rear, the Z4 has wider LED lights and a prominent ‘ducktail’ boot spoiler with its own central brake light. The bumper features sharp edges and a black lower insert housing a tailpipe at either side.
BMW has already shown off images of its forthcoming Z4 sports car being put through its paces wearing camouflage at its dedicated test centre in Miramas, France – along with a few details about the new car’s engines, technology and design. The new Z4 is likely to be revealed towards the end of 2018, before going on sale in the spring of 2019.
BMW hasn’t revealed much about the car"s technical specification, but stated that the sportiest model – seen in these images – will be the Z4 M40i. It"ll feature a six-cylinder petrol engine, electronically controlled sports suspension, lightweight alloy wheels and a limited-slip differential. The model is likely to top the range when the Z4 arrives, with a number of less powerful versions and a full-fat Z4 M arriving later on.
Although heavily disguised, it’s possible to make out the car’s long-nosed, short-tailed proportions, trademark kidney grille and modern lines. The new BMW Z4’s design takes cues from that of the BMW Z4 Concept unveiled at last year’s Pebble Beach Concours, albeit with concessions to mass-production and shared underpinnings with the next Toyota Supra, which is set to be sold under that company’s Gazoo Racing sub-brand. The disguised test car wears a conventional soft-top, as opposed to the previous model’s folding metal item.
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Talking of the Z4’s sporty character, BMW’s head of application suspension, Jos van As, said: "The high level of body stiffness and the very rigid suspension attachment provide the perfect basis for a set-up that guarantees the performance qualities of a genuine sports car in terms of steering precision as well as longitudinal and transverse acceleration." In other words, the production Z4 is likely to handle well during enthusiastic driving thanks to its stiff body and considered suspension set-up.
BMW hasn’t forgotten practical considerations, though – the boot is 70 litres bigger than the last Z4"s and isn’t affected by the folding soft-top in either position. Just 10 seconds is needed for the top to fold up or down.
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Carbuyer was given the chance to drive the prototype Z4 M40i and despite the car’s pre-production state, first impressions were good. Its twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre engine produces 340bhp, with a 0-62mph of something around 4.5 seconds, while its chassis feels precise and feelsome enough to take on the Porsche 718 Boxster.
The car’s lighter weight (down 50kg from the last Z4), adaptive suspension, specially made Michelin tyres and electronic limited-slip differential combine to make it a joy to drive.
It’s possible that Porsche may have a fight on its hands; we estimate the Z4 M40i will cost around £38,000 when it goes on sale in March next year.