Tested: BMW's Z4 M40i is a ton of fun
Johannesburg - Sometimes you just want something that’s good to look at, makes a decent amount of noise and is a ton of fun.
No, not what you’re thinking, but a white knuckle roadster in the form of the BMW Z4 M40i.
It’s a pity that manufacturers have put “real” drivers cars on the backburner either as a result of customer preferences, the marketing guys, the swing to SUVs, or legislation.
So, if you look at the average car park on a Saturday morning one can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment that much of it seems to belong on the same WhatsApp group with owners comparing how much their car looks the same as the one in the bay next door.
It’s refreshing then to get behind the wheel of a car that will, if you’re not careful, quickly tell you that you’re about to run out of talent, or road, and smile while doing it.
That smile comes from the 3.0 litre six cylinder twin-scroll turbo under the long bonnet that’s good for 285kW and 500Nm and will propel you to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 250km/h with a very smooth eight-speed transmission.
In true roadster style, power is delivered to the rear wheels and despite the impressive numbers, when you give it a bit of welly in normal driving mode it kicks down a gear or two and picks up speed gracefully and deceptively quickly.
The fun, however, starts when you switch to Sport+, where it will gladly change from gentle highway cruiser to crazy car.
Floor the accelerator and expect a bit of smoke from the big rear tyres before backing off because you’re highly likely to attract an excited traffic cop or two waving you down.
Traditionally, convertibles, especially those with big output numbers, have suffered from a chassis that’s compromised because of the lack of a solid roof, but not so in the Z4 M40i, where the engineers at BMW have outdone themselves.
It’s a perfect combination of power and grip and more’s the pity that I didn’t have access to a track because that’s where I reckon you’ll really get to see what its true abilities are.
With the correct balance of power the back will willingly become tail happy before dynamic stability control and the electronic differential pull you back from the edge - it will be a brave driver who opts to disengage the stability control.
And it’s not only the handling and dynamics that make the Beemer a driver’s car.
Because of its size it’s a tight fit in the cabin, not in an uncomfortable way, but with everything wrapped around you, urging you to drive it like the designers intended.
I tried a bit of that on a deserted bit of road and had a ton of fun, not just because of the direct steering and forgiving nature of the car or the paddles mounted on the steering wheel allowing you to change effortlessly as you head into and out of corners, but the sound is every petrolhead’s dream.
It’s best experienced with the roof down late in the afternoon, where the big six cylinder will howl at the expected moon and every time you lift your foot or change down the snap, crackle and pop combines in a glorious cacophony of sound.
As with all BMWs, the infotainment system works a treat and once you’ve got used to the set-up it’s intuitive and easy to use.
The instrument cluster is digital and as I’ve said before, it’s all very modern and high-tech, but there’s something to be said for some old-fashioned analogue dials in a car like this.
A car such as the BMW Z4 M40i is refreshing in a sea of blandness and politically correct designs and non-offensive language and it’s going to be a sad day when the next generation won’t get to experience the thrill and stimulation of driving vehicles such as this.
It’s the type of car that gets someone in a Porsche 911 convertible next to you at the traffic light nodding his head and commenting about how cool it is. Pity it was in a built up suburban area.