BMW E89 Z4 sDRIVE23i (2010)


The Z4 roadster is one of BMW’s iconic models in its current lineup. This second generation model was launched last year and is redesigned with smoother curves and lines. The result is a car that is more 6 Series like than its predecessor, perhaps having wider appeal than the earlier model which had sharper and muscular lines.


The sample model is the entry level Z4 for the Malaysian market, ie the sDrive23i. Through my various checks, I found out that sDrive simply meant rear wheel drive. I am not certain why BMW created this prefix since most if not all of its models are all currently rear wheel drive. Perhaps, in the near future this is to differentiate it from other models which may have xDrive (all wheel drive)?


This Z4 sDrive23i comes with a retractable hardtop which takes around 20+ seconds to completely fold/unfold itself. Included in this model is the Brake Energy Regeneration feature which is basically utilizing unused kinetic energy from braking or cruising to generate electrical energy that is being fed into the battery. This system enables fuel savings as conventionally this electrical energy is fed from the alternator.


There is no iDrive, no M Sports Package (and therefore no M Adaptive Suspension) but it comes with Dynamic Driving Control which allows you to alter the car’s driving dynamics at a flick of a switch. The car has the usual host of safety features plus a Rollover Safety System.



With the hardtop on, getting into the car maybe a challenge, depending on how the previous driver left the seat position. The seats can only be adjusted manually and headrest can hit the rooftop if you unwittingly adjust the seat height without sitting on the car seat itself. When that happens you will need to squeeze yourself onto the seat to enable the re adjustment downwards. So it is best to do all your seat adjustments when you are seated for this model!


That aside, the seating position is unique as it very low, almost like being seated in a single seater racecar. The standard leather seats offered good all-round support and are comfortable. Depending on your body height, you may have a restricted view of the front. The car’s hood is actually longer than it looks from the cabin and it pays to give some allowance at the front especially when you are parking against the wall.


It was a relief to see a redesigned dashboard on a BMW for a change. The layout is refreshing with circular control buttons at the centre (instead of the usual square buttons which are looking dated). The entire dashboard design gives a classy and sporty appearance to the interior. The glove compartment is lockable and in place of the missing iDrive display is an extra storage compartment.


The sports leather steering wheel is quite light but provided a good balance between weight and feedback. The electric power steering system enabled precise turns and easy maneuverability. There are useful multifunction buttons on the steering wheel and gear shift paddles to engage Steptronic function of the 6 Speed Automatic Transmission. The handbrake is operated via an electronic switch below the gear lever.


The car is powered by a detuned N52 engine block which has a lower max power output of 204hp @ 6,300 rpm compared to the usual 218hp @ 6,500 rpm. Max torque remains at 250nm @ 2,750 rpm. Upon ignition, the engine note was surprisingly loud and quite unlike the 6-cylinder N52s which usually has a pleasant metallic hum. The observed idling speed was around 800rpm. Engine temperature gauge showed around 95ºC once the car warmed up.


Nevertheless, the car’s performance was not affected by the lower power output as the car was very responsive on tap and was hardly sluggish. I think the multi-stage intake manifold which probably produced the unique engine note help maintained engine response at a high level. The car accelerated quickly with smooth gear changes.


The Dynamic Driving Control system allows you to switch between the options of Normal, Sport and Sport Plus driving modes. Even in the Normal mode the car provided a very direct feel to the driver. When I switched to the Sports Plus mode and deactivated the DSC, I felt the rear was unleashed, the steering tightened and the transmission more dynamic. Push the car hard into a corner and there is a slight oversteer which can be easily corrected.


Fuel consumption was a bit difficult to gauge. The specs stated a combined average fuel consumption of 8.2 litres per 100 km. However, over the test run, the on board computer recorded average fuel consumption of around 11.1 litres per 100 km up to 13.1 liters per 100 km. My guess is that driving more in the Sports mode will probably incur a fuel penalty. Based on the spec sheet, the car’s CO² emissions is at 192g per km.


The sound insulation is top notch with the roof on and there was not much wind or road noise. The tyres are 17 inch Bridgestone Potenza runflats with wider and narrower rear tyres (255/40 R17) than the front (225/45 R17). The tyres provided good levels of grip and acceptable levels of road noise.


As expected, the ride quality for this type of vehicle is on the firm side. There is some harshness if road conditions are not ideal but not to bone rattling levels. The car was not equipped with the M Adaptive Suspension system but the suspension set up provided sufficient damping to ensure a comfortable ride over average road conditions.


Being a roadster there is limited storage space. Boot space is about 180 litres with the top down and about 310 litres with the roof on. There are some storage spaces behind the seats but these would only fit slim items like a briefcase, document holders, CDs or umbrellas. There is an option of a ‘through-loading system’ which essentially allows longer items to be place from the boot into the cabin, but this would take up space on the arm rest.


The car’s high fidelity system comes with a 245 watts digital amplifier and 11 loudspeakers. The system was tested with the roof on to discount external noises. This system is probably one of the best sounding in car entertainment system among the BMW cars which I have sampled so far. Even at its base settings there is sufficient depth and the right amount of projection from the speakers. The overall sound is rich, balanced and lively, and there is hardly any need to tweak the sound further.


The internal lights package includes storage compartment lighting, ambient lighting, reading lights and footwell lighting. The overall internal lighting was a bit dim but gave a cosy ambiance. The doors provide handle area illumination which is activated when you unlock the vehicle. The car comes with Xenon headlights as standard.


Driving the Z4 sDrive23i is a unique experience. As expected, there is luxury, comfort and finesse. However, more to it is that unique feeling of the car intertwining with the road as you drive which you seldom get to experience with other vehicles. The design of the car is such that it can definitely take in more power and it would be interesting to experience the car again with a more powerful setup and with the add-ons of the full M Sports Package.


A simple animation of the folding and unfolding of the hardtop!



Engine: 6-cylinder in-line petrol engine with Valvetronic
Capacity: 2,497cc
Max Output: 204bhp/6,300 rpm
Max Torque: 250nm/2,750 rpm
Top Speed: 239km/h
Acceleration 0-100km: 7.3sec
Fuel Consumption: 8.2ltr/100km (combined)

Source: BMW Brochure

Note: Please reconfirm the above specifications with an authorized BMW dealer



Click on these to sample sounds from the car!

Z4 Ignition (Outside)

Z4 Acceleration (Outside)

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