Cars > Driven

BMW Z4 sDrive20i M Sport (G29 LCI): A two-faced roadster

A comfortable and fun drop-top cruiser

Roadsters are impractical, but often provide the most engaging driving experience for the driver. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

If most non-enthusiasts wonder why enthusiasts buy roadsters in the Philippines despite the pollution, the heat, and the traffic, it’s because they want to feel connected to the world outside them.

When everything lines up (the perfect weather, time, and conditions), there is a certain bliss—an automotive nirvana that only these can deliver.

And if you’re looking at snagging one brand-new, your cheapest option would be the venerable Mazda MX-5. But what if you wanted something a little more luxurious and grown-up?

Don't call this a Supra. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Enter the BMW Z4. The Zukunft has been a mainstay in the brand’s product lineup, and is one of the more affordable mass-market offerings that you can get today (especially in this sDrive20i trim).

But is it a sporty roadster or a comfy cruiser?

With the sharp, sleek lines and the aggressive styling elements, it has the looks of the former, especially in Portimao Blue with this M Sport package. What it isn’t is a tiny sports car. It may be low-slung, but it dwarfs the likes of the MX-5 or the GR86/BRZ twins.

This means more interior space for the two lucky occupants.

The cabin is wide and well-insulated with the roof up. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The sports seats are well-bolstered, and it’s easy to find the perfect driving position with great forward visibility, but your rear view will be slightly hampered with the roof up.

You won’t be rubbing shoulders with each other the entire trip, and there’s enough legroom to recline and lie back. Taller occupants may brush the headliner with their hair, but it’s thick enough to be an excellent respite from the heat and the rain.

It should take around 10 seconds for the roof to go up and down. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Operating the roof takes around 10 seconds both ways. While you must hold the button down during the entire movement—which can get annoying—at least it can be safely done at speeds of up to 50km/h.

The top-down driving experience is excellent. With the roof down, the windows up, and the wind deflector in place, you can easily hold a conversation at highway speeds. Otherwise, the traditional roadster pitfalls of so-so NVH performance and wind noise with the roof up are present.

Who thought putting this much piano-black trim was a good idea in a convertible? PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

With the roof down, you can understand the choice of hard-wearing black Vernasca leather upholstery and the familiar last-generation iDrive 7-based dashboard layout.

With everything exposed to the elements, the last thing you want is your only touch controls acting up due to dust or water ingress. Oddly enough, I don’t understand the choice of putting piano-black trim, which would obviously hold up well with all the cleaning you’ll do with al fresco driving.

The unbranded audio system sounds great regardless of roof state, and the two 10.25-inch screens are crisp, bright, and easy to read in direct sunlight. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is a bonus, but there’s no wireless charger.

These are all the storage spaces you'll get in this cabin. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

In-cabin storage is a weak point—minuscule door bins, a small glove box with a net underneath, a center console cubby that houses a single 12V socket and a USB-A port, and confusing armrest storage.

It has to stay open if you want to use either of the two cupholders or the only USB-C port to charge. The tiny partition in the middle is only enough to hold the key fob or a wallet.

My recommendation? Just chuck everything on the shelf behind the seats. It houses the rest of the speakers, a net, and a ski hatch that allows you to load longer items from the generous 281L trunk.

No wonder this engine can haul and be thrifty at the same time. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Perfect for easy, long-distance touring. It’s easy to feel comfortable in this car, especially on the highway. But also, you can tell that the car wants to be driven harder.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged, mild-hybrid four-banger (B48B20) is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. BMW calls this the Steptronic Sport, meaning it has been purposefully tuned for powerful, jerky shifts (regardless of drive mode) that will make you feel all the 197hp and 320Nm going to the rear wheels. Great for spirited driving, but can be disconcerting in the city.

You will also hear that power, as the exhaust has been tuned (in Sport mode) to tastefully burble and crackle upon shifting. Despite all of that, it’s very frugal. Fuel figures of 14km/L on the expressway and 9km/L in the city are very easy to attain.

It's nice to see good rubber and sports suspension on a roadster like this. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Remember the M Sport package mentioned earlier? It includes the M Sport suspension. It’s a stiffer, sportier ride that does wonders for handling, allowing you to carve corners with confidence, which works great with BMW’s renowned chassis tuning.

As a side effect of the 10mm reduction in ride height, navigating the city becomes a stressful ordeal as ground clearance sits at a supercar-low 114mm.

The brakes are grabby and produce a lot of dust (typical of a European car), but it’s very confidence-inspiring. The staggered 18-inch M Light Alloy wheels are also shod in sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.

It even has the bare minimum of driver-assistance systems, including automatic headlights, manual cruise control, a speed limiter, and a reverse camera with parking sensors. Very driver-focused indeed.

A luxury roadster worth its price tag, if you can get over it not having a straight-six. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

In fact, it can be just as engaging to drive as its Toyota sibling despite not having a six-speed manual or as much power and the exalted B58 six-cylinder.

This is the most BMW-feeling BMW that I have driven, as its siblings have traded some driving feel for the pursuit of luxury and electrification. Its price tag of P4,890,000 for the sDrive20i is a good deal for the experience it offers.


Engine2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline with 48V mild-hybrid system
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power197hp @ 4,500-6,500rpm
Torque320Nm @ 1,450-4,200rpm
Dimensions4,324mm x 1,864mm x 1,304mm
Drive layoutRWD
UpsideVery engaging to drive hard, but also great for open-top, long-distance cruising.
DownsideAnxiety-inducing ground clearance with M Sport suspension. Very limited interior storage options.

Sam Surla

Sam is the youngest member of our editorial team. And he is our managing editor (believe it or not). He specializes in photography and videography, but he also happens to like writing about cars a lot.