First drive of BMW’s new sporty Z4 convertible ahead of its UK arrival next spring

You’ll have to wait until the first stirrings of warming sunshine in spring next year to take delivery of BMW’s sporty new Z4 convertible.

But even as the leaves began to turn this Autumn I was able to savour the delights of wind in the hair open-topped driving in the German car-giant’s exceptionally capable new roadster which draws on generations of soft-top heritage including the Z1, Z3 and Z8 models and back as far as the pre-war BMW 328.

When the first photographic images of the Z4 emerged, it split opinion as something of a Marmite car. A bit of an ugly duckling. But up close in the metal and on the road, it really grows on you as something of a handsome beast, and almost a regal swan.

ZZ top down: We've been driving the all-new BMW Z4 roadster months before it lands in the UK The new Z4  roadster  draws on generations of soft-top heritage including the pre-war 328 (far left) Z1 (second from left), Z3 (third from left) and Z8 models (far right) Ray Massey travelled to Portugal for the official launch to test the convertible in sunnier climates BMW estimates that it will sell 2,400 Z4 roadsters in the first year it goes on sale in the UK While it's a significant style update compared to the previous model, it still has that traditionally long bonnet You can set up the car to suit your driving style and conditions, from an easy-riding comfort mode, into a more engaging sport mode right up to full-in sport plus Ray loved the comfrotable seats and said the cockpit was a 'cosseting' place to be We drove the top of the range Z4 M40i at the launch, which costs from £49,050 The entry level sDrive20i is priced from £36,990 and is powered by a 2.0-litre 197hp four-cylinder petrol engine There is also the sDrive30i costing from £40,690 with the same 2.0-litre engine but a higher 258hp that will accelerate from rest to 62mph in 5.4 seconds The model Ray drove has  a 3.0-litre turbo-charged straight-six cylinder 340hp engine matched to a very slick 8-speed automatic Steptronic gearbox The M40i can accelerate from rest to 62mph in 4.6 seconds. Top speed is electronically restricted to 155mph, with the speed displayed on this futuristic digital screen

Model: BMW Z4 M40i

Price: from £49,050

On sale from: March 2019

Seats: 2

Doors: 2

Length: 4,324mm

Width: 1,864mm

Height: 1,304mm

Wheelbase: 2,470mm

Engine: 3.0 litre turbocharged ‘straight six’ cylinder

Acceleration 0- 62mph: 4.6 seconds

Top speed: 155mph (electronically restricted)

Average fuel consumption: 38.7mpg

CO2 emissions: 165g/km

Fabric roof: Opens and closes within ten seconds at up to 31mph

Luggage capacity: 281 litres

To protect you while you are at the wheel there are a wide range of safety features including collision and pedestrian warning with brake assist, city braking and lane departure warning as standard.

The smart cockpit is uncluttered and packed with high-tech features including 10.5 inch instrument clusters and control displays. 

For the first time in a BMW roadster, the firm is offering the option of head-up display, which I find essential these days to help keep my attention on the road ahead.

Options, packaged up into various packs depending on the standard model spec, include a wind deflector, steering wheel heating for those frosty open topped drives, a through-loading flap when you want to slot your skis in, electric seat adjustment, Harmon-Kardon surround-sound loudspeakers, and active cruise control.

There are also all manner of parking aids, though frankly with the top down you can navigate perfectly well on your own.

But the clever reversing assistant stores where you have driven and automatically drive you back exactly along a given path for up to 50 metres where there is little room for error getting into a tight space.

You can also use your smart-phone to open the car using an electronic digital key which can be shared with up to five other people.

Although BMW is based in Munich, the new Z4 is being built under licence by Austria’s Magna Steyr in Graz, though to BMW standards. It’s also the product of a collaboration with Japanese car giant Toyota, who are producing their own sibling Supra model.

The first generation BMW Z4 was built at Spartanburg in South Carolina between 2002 and 2008.

The second generation Z4 was built from 2009 to 2016 at Regensburg in Germany and featured a retractable hard top.

The new third generation Z4 – a rival for the Porsche Boxster – reverts to a fabric top, paving the way for a potential hard-top coupe sibling.

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