By Alex Taylor III
July 23, 2009

It is rare that the appearance of a car isn’t diminished by the addition of a retractable hardtop roof. The storage requirements for all that metal and machinery usually dictate a wider and higher rear end than is esthetically desirable. Check out the Chrysler Sebring convertible for an especially egregious example.

Not so with the newly grown-up Z4, which may be the best-looking BMW of all. Its tightly-tailored butt is balanced by a long, long front end, with attractive accent lines on the flanks. The effect is to create a modern car with classic proportions. Think pre-war Mille Miglia.

The Z4 interior closes the deal. It combines intelligent functionality and helpful info-graphics with a stylish touch not seen in earlier models, which to my eye were obsessively Spartan.

The Z4’s good looks are combined with stylish road matters. My test car was powered by a 3.0 liter, 255-horsepower inline-six. (The 300 horsepower twin-turbo six is also available). With the automatic transmission, the 3.0 is reported to get the car to 60 miles per hour in six seconds flat. The steering is typically precise, and the suspension produces a nice blend between a sporty ride and one that is comfortable. Mileage is a none-to-shabby 19 miles per gallon city/29 mpg highway.

All of this excellence comes at a price, both financially and functionally. While the base price of the Z4 is $45,750, my test model with the smaller engine came in at nearly $60,000, which included $500 for heated front seats and $350 for a high-definition radio.

That helps explain why Z4 sales are less than robust: BMW sold 361 in July. By comparison, it sold 427 X6s and 807 7 series.

Then there is the matter of trunk space. You’d never get a bag of golf clubs into the trunk of a Z4, but with the top down, you’d have a hard time even squeezing in a shaving kit. That puts a limit on the places you’ll go.

Sadly, the combination of price and space limits the appeal of the Z4 to a very small number of owners. Too bad. A car this good deserves a wider audience. Perhaps this leaves an opening for BMW to bring back the old cloth topped, four-cylinder Z3, with a smaller price tag and more room in the rear.

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