What It Is: At this point, we’re chasing Toyota rumors to find out more about the upcoming new BMW Z4, and hunting down Z4 odds and ends in the pursuit of educated conjecture re: BMW’s reconstituted Supra. The question on the minds of enthusiasts, however, is twofold: Will the Z4 finally be taken seriously as a sports car, something that plays in the Porsche 718 Boxster’s league rather than the Mercedes-Benz SLC’s? And will the new Supra be a worthy successor to the venerated mile-muncher of the 1990s?
Why It Matters: The previous Z4, attractive and pleasant as it was, wasn’t a patch on Porsche’s Boxster dynamically. And since its folding hardtop drastically impinged on trunk space, it wasn’t even as practical as the mid-engine, twin-trunked Swabian. Instead, the Z4 lived out its days as a blowsy boulevardier, subject to the same stereotypes that Miatas endure but without the little Mazda’s side rep as a hardcore racecar, no matter how many times the Bavarians took it racing. The next Z4 needs to fill the hole in the line vacated by the previous car, while also giving the Motoren Werke an honest performer in the segment.
Platform: The Z4’s platform, of course, is shared with the new Supra, but the concepts shown so far illustrate divergence of thought in the realm of aesthetics. While the Toyota FT-1 concept was nearly anime-grade in its racy excess, BMW’s Concept Z4 shown last year cribbed more than a little from the classic BMW 507, especially in the forward-canted nose. Judging from spy photos, however, the production Z4 will ease up on the retrofuturism and fall more easily in line with the latest models from the Bavarian manufacturer. While both the BMW and Toyota feature ducktail spoilers, the Z4’s unit seems broader and shorter than the Supra’s. Worth noting is that the power hardtop has followed Archaeopteryx into the fossil record, which suggests the new car might offer a bit more room in the trunk when the roof is stowed. (The Z4 only will be offered as a convertible, while the opposite is true for the Supra.)
Powertrain: Based on leaked specs out of Japan, it seems the Supra’s BMW-sourced 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six will be good for 335 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque, not counting a 37-hp overboost function. We imagine the BMW Z4 M40i will offer similar numbers from the same engine. The Z4 is set to offer a six-speed manual transmission as well as an eight-speed automatic, unlike the Supra, which supposedly will be automatic-only. The same transmission choices will be offered with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four (also a BMW-sourced engine) making somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 ponies in the Z4 sDrive30i. Rear-wheel drive will be the order of the day. We also wouldn’t rule out a full-on M version down the road, using the 425-hp twin-turbo six from the M3/M4.
Estimated Arrival and Price: The new Z4 should arrive sometime in the middle of 2018, carrying a starting sticker between $50,000 and $55,000.