When it comes to famous models in BMW’s history, several models come immediately to mind. The one that just popped into your head more than likely began with an “M.” Or, if you happen to be something of a historian, perhaps the iconic Z8 came to mind. Or maybe even the other Bond car, BMW’s Z3, fired through your synapses. But, odds are, the car you didn’t think of (before reading the title of this article, anyway) was the BMW Z4.
Built as a joint venture with the Toyota Supra, for one reason or another, the Z4 has been the automotive equivalent of Liam Hemsworth. While objectively attractive, the Z4 has long been overshadowed by its more popular kin. But, the new BMW Z4 M40i may flip the script and have audiences everywhere cheering for the lesser-known sports car sibling.
When BMW’s nomenclature made a little more sense, it was easy to see that the Z4 was the direct follow-up to the popular Z3. However, the first E85/86 generation, produced from 2003 to 2008, did not quite live up to the original fanfare of its predecessor. While it did address some of the issues customers had with the Z3 (more size and better handling), its unconventional, quirky styling did not inspire nor elicit lustful thoughts of racing down an empty, twisting mountain road with the wind in your hair.
Things improved with the E89 variant produced from 2009 to 2016. A new hardtop convertible complimented the smoother lines of the second-gen Z4, but the real fun began with the most recent G29 Z4, unveiled in 2018 concurrently with its cousin, the J29 Toyota Supra.
While under different circumstances, we might ding BMW for using its omnipresent corporate motor in the Z4 M40i, but as it happens, that corporate motor is fantastic. The B58 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve inline-6 that pumps an impressive 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Highlighted by a forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods, the direct-injected B58 uses a twin-scroll turbo, eliminating lag. The double Vanos variable valve timing helps the inline-6 spin to an impressive 7,000 rpm.
The big news, however, comes after the engine. While the turbo six might be somewhat generic, the 2024 Z4 gets a rather unique feature when it comes to a transmission… a real three-pedal, six-speed manual. The ZF unit is essentially the same as the Supra’s, but BMW says that the Z4’s linkage and shifter are specific to the Bavarian version.
While some bench racers and internet trolls will surely point out that the automatic variant can shift quicker than you can, and because of that, the manual version will not be able to match or beat the auto’s 0-60 mph sprint of 3.5 seconds (credit to Car & Driver). And to all of those naysayers, we would like to respectfully reply… we don’t care. If sacrificing a couple of tenths of a second is all it costs us (plus about $3,500 for the performance package, which includes the six-speed), then by all means, call us slow because we’ll be too busy smiling like a crazy person to hear it.
C&D also ran a 2023 Z4 equipped with an eight-speed automatic from 0-100 mph in just 8.8 seconds, and through the quarter mile in a crazy-fast 12.0 seconds at 116 mph. Just for a bit of context, those times make the latest Z4 quicker than BMW’s even more powerful hybrid exotic i8. So again, even adding back a little bit of time to those numbers makes the Z4 more than fast enough to have more than enough fun on a twisty backroad or barren highway on-ramp.
So, although the Supra may be able to bring the thunder, the new BMW Z4 M40i is electric (in the pre-EV sense). Despite having flown under the radar of most sports car fans for the better part of the last couple of decades, as well as being woefully overshadowed by its furiously fast cousin from Toyota, the latest Z4 M40i is about to change all of that.
However you categorize driving, whether that be a sport, a hobby, a leisurely activity, or a passion, the 2024 BMW Z4 M40i exemplifies the most fun driving can (and should) be. With its long hood, short deck, striking good looks, nearly 400 hp, and now its six-speed manual all packaged in true drop-top fashion, the Z4 is truly the Ultimate Driver’s Machine.
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