2024 BMW Z4 Review and Test Drive

The hands-on joys of this roadster might change the minds of those looking forward to self-driving cars.

Thom Blackett | 
Aug 9, 2023 | 12 min read

Front three-quarter view of a silver 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

I'll admit that I've never been a BMW fan. Over the course of my career, I've experienced firsthand the automaker's knack for blending exceptional handling with seamless power delivery. Despite this, however, no BMW ever felt like a good fit for me. Driving them was always memorable — the brand's occasionally questionable styling choices aside — and yet I never wanted one. It could've been the BMW image, anecdotal stories of poor reliability, or something else.

A week in the 2024 BMW Z4 changed that.

This two-passenger convertible ticked every box on my fun-car checklist, from style to driving dynamics, comfort, and efficiency. A manual-transmission option and available xDrive all-wheel drive would be nice, but nothing in life is perfect.

This was my first test drive of the Z4 since the car's mild refresh for 2023. Updates included a slightly restyled grille, new paint colors — my test car's Skyscraper Grey metallic, for example — and some equipment changes. Most notably, BMW discontinued the sDrive30i's M Sport Package and made most of that content standard equipment.

Rear three-quarter view of a silver 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

According to BMW, the 2024 Z4 carries over unchanged, aside from a modest bump in price. Still, compared with the only other entry-level German two-seat roadster, the Porsche 718 Boxster, the Z4 is a bargain.

The 2024 BMW Z4 comes in sDrive30i and M40i model series, and base prices range from the mid-$50,000s to the mid-$60,000s, including the destination charge to ship the car from the Graz, Austria, factory that builds it to your local dealership.

For this Z4 review, I test-drove the sDrive30i in western Maine. It came with a slew of options, including Skyscraper Grey metallic paint, a Magma Red leather interior, 19-inch M Orbit Grey alloy wheels, aluminum mesh interior trim, a wireless smartphone charger, and premium audio. In addition, it had the following packages: Driving Assistance, Dynamic Handling, Shadowline, and Premium. These extras brought the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $65,420, including the $995 destination charge. BMW provided the vehicle for this Z4 review.

Red and black interior of a 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

The Z4 Blends Attractive Exterior With Comfortable Interior

BMW has never been shy about stretching styling boundaries, as evidenced by the oversized upright grille on some of the company's latest models. In my eyes, though, the traditionally styled face of the 2024 Z4 is considerably more attractive than those avant-garde efforts, especially when balanced with the car's low and wide stance. Creases and body lines adorn the hood and flanks, giving the Z4 character without being overdone.

If flashy is more your style, my test car's optional Magma Red interior is worth a look. With it, you get soft leather on the seats and matching material on the padded door and center armrests. That's in addition to the bounty of soft-touch surfaces you'll find in the 2024 Z4's cabin, as well as contrast stitching, what BMW refers to as "mesh effect" aluminum trim, and shiny black accents on the dash and shift knob. Everything fit together well and remained free of squeaks and rattles despite hours of traveling over rough roads.

Side view of the interior of a silver 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

I have a habit of resting my right hand somewhere on the center console during long drives, and that's where automakers often place hard plastics that aren't all that pleasant to the touch. I was pleased to find leather (or imitation leather) in the Z4. That's a surprise-and-delight detail, but more important, the driver's seat kept me comfortable for 300 or so miles.

In addition to the usual electronic adjustments, my Z4 sDrive30i included power lumbar and side bolsters. A manual tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel allows you to fine-tune your driving position. Since my test car came with the optional Premium Package, it also had heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, neither of which I used on a hot midsummer day. That said, for evening drives or fall day trips, when you're trying to squeeze every possible moment out of top-down weather, the ability to warm your hands and backside jumps to the top of the must-have list.

Thankfully, those and other primary controls in the 2024 BMW Z4 are intuitive and well placed. Buttons on the steering wheel are well marked, the power window and mirror switches are located on the door as expected, and BMW has created a separate panel for climate controls, so there's no need to search through multiple infotainment screens just to adjust the fan speed.

The trunk space of a silver 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

To raise or lower the power top, push or pull a button near the shift knob and give the Z4 roughly 11 seconds to work its magic. Unlike a hardtop convertible, this softtop provides the same 9.9 cu-ft of cargo space, whether the roof is up or down. That's a decent amount of room for a two-seat roadster and enough for overnight bags, a couple of small suitcases, or a week's worth of groceries for you and your partner.

In addition, a pass-through from the trunk to the interior opens through the back wall of the cabin, though I'm not sure Z4 owners often transport lumber or other long items. For storing the usual items we all seem to carry in the car, the Z4 offers small door and seatback pockets, a narrow rear cargo shelf with a net to keep things in place, a lined glovebox and compartment by the driver's knee, and space for small items forward of the shifter.

Pop open the split center armrest and you'll find more storage and two cupholders. Unfortunately, you can't simultaneously use the Z4's only cupholders and that comfy armrest.

Infotainment screen of a 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

Technology Aplenty in the Z4

Part of the 2024 BMW Z4's appeal is its just-right approach to technology. Spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the various systems and you'll likely find the car has you covered with more than the essentials, but not so much that you'll be overwhelmed.

It starts with a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system positioned within easy reach atop the dashboard's center. The menus and icons are intuitive, and the screen doesn't thoroughly wash out in direct sunlight. That's a plus when the goal is to drive top-down on as many sunny days as possible. That said, consider packing an eyeglass cloth so you can constantly clear the screen of fingerprints. Of course, you can avoid that problem by using the central control dial next to the shift lever on the center console. Rotate or press the dial to make a corresponding selection on the display or tap one of several buttons to take you directly to the home screen, map, and more.

Radio controls are included in this setup, though I was pleased to find a separate collection of related buttons and dials on the dash, much like BMW has done with the climate controls. That's good news for those who favor an old-school preset button or volume knob. If you prefer tapping into your private music library, you can quickly and easily pair your smartphone with a wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connection. My test car included an optional wireless phone charger, USB-A and USB-C ports, and a 12-volt power outlet.

The voice recognition system is one of the more noteworthy bits of BMW Z4 tech. It works much like the "Hey, Mercedes" program I've tested and correctly responds to input commands such as "turn on the heated seat" or "find the nearest hospital." Since the weather was hit or miss the day of my test drive, I also directed the system to tune to a satellite radio weather station. For some reason, that presented the only stumbling block. Otherwise, I had no complaints and noted the helpful, friendly tone BMW had selected for the system's voice. I started every interaction with "Hey, BMW," and at least once, the car responded with a simple "Hey." BMW Z4, you're speaking my informal language.

Shifting to safety-related technology, the 2024 Z4 presented a mystery when I first drove it. For a BMW priced in the mid-$60,000s, I assumed adaptive cruise control would be standard equipment. But try as I might, I could not find a button to set the distance to maintain from vehicles ahead. A little preplanning would have told me the Z4 comes with basic cruise control, and adaptive cruise is an option my car didn't have.

Speed limit settings on the infotainment screen of a 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

I must've skipped breakfast on test-drive day because I was also puzzled by the Speed Limit Assistance settings. There's an option where you can select a specific speed limit. I set that at 10 mph, thinking I'd get a warning when I exceeded the posted limit by that amount. Instead, I was alerted every time I started from a stop. My misunderstanding led me to set my personal speed limit to 10 mph, so I adjusted that to 100 mph and didn't see or hear another warning for the rest of the day.

Driver assistance features on the infotainment screen of a 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

Otherwise, the Z4's safety tech was straightforward. You can set the sensitivity of the blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision warning systems to match your preferences, meaning they will alert you at the earliest sign of trouble or wait a little longer. Lane-departure warning works the same way, letting you turn the automatic steering intervention on or off. When it is active, you'll feel a decisive turn of the steering wheel to prevent an unintended lane departure, though it's not jarring or abrupt.

As of this writing, crash-test ratings are unavailable for the 2024 BMW Z4. Check the and websites for updates.

Engine compartment of a silver 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

BMW Z4 Turns Out to Be a Smooth Operator

BMW equips the 2024 Z4 sDrive30i with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. An M40i version of the Z4 supplies 382 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque to those who crave more power. However, the sDrive30i delivers enough performance for fast acceleration and spirited driving. Regardless of engine choice, an eight-speed automatic transmission powers the rear wheels. Sadly, you can't get a manual gearbox in the BMW Z4.

BMW includes several driving modes that focus on efficiency and performance to varying degrees. For the first part of my trip, I selected Comfort mode and headed north on Interstate 95. Along the way, I found the accelerator pedal easy to modulate, gear shifts smooth and timely, and extra grunt from the engine whenever I wanted to pass a line of cars in a hurry. When I finally pulled over about 63 miles later, the gauge cluster showed 36.1 mpg despite consistent 75 to 80 mph speeds.

Front three-quarter view of a silver 2024 BMW Z4 with the top upThom Blackett

I should also note that I left the roof raised for this stretch, and as expected with a soft-top convertible, road noise was evident. The Z4's cabin is not a respite of quiet solitude, but you can easily have a conversation without raising your voice or stopping off for a pair of hearing aids. Better yet, you can tune out all outside distractions by cranking up the optional Harman Kardon surround-sound system.

Outward visibility was less impressive, primarily because of the roof's position relative to the driver's seat. When driving with the top up and looking over my shoulder to merge left or right, much of my view was consumed by solid black fabric, which isn't ideal when changing lanes. Fortunately, my Z4 had a blind-spot monitor, and the interior rearview mirror provided a clear look out of the rear glass window.

Off the highway, I lowered the roof, selected Sport mode, and headed toward the mountains of western Maine. Without any predetermined route, I was free to turn onto any appealing road and took full advantage of opportunities to search for the 2024 BMW Z4's limits.

I immediately noticed that my choice of modes didn't seem to affect the steering. Instead, it always felt heavy and responsive, just as I'd want with a playful BMW. Sport mode did tighten up the suspension, however, which resulted in a stiffer setup and a more planted feel.

Read three-quarter view of a silver 2024 BMW Z4 with the top upThom Blackett

The Sport setting also holds transmission gears longer to keep the revs up, making the Z4 feel more responsive. At the time, it reminded me of taunting a dog with a stick, where he's just itching to launch at the slightest provocation. Plus, in Sport mode I'd get a burble from the exhaust when downshifting at high speeds. I selected manual shift mode to hear that as often as possible, which lets you change gears with a tap of the steering wheel paddles or the console-mounted shift knob.

As the sun set and sprinkles started falling on the windshield, I changed course and headed home. I'd traveled hundreds of miles, seen the beauty of summer in Maine, averaged an impressive 32.1 mpg (compared to an EPA-estimated 28 mpg), and officially become a BMW convert.

Side view of a silver 2024 BMW Z4Thom Blackett

Is the 2024 BMW Z4 a Good Car?

If you've read this far, you've realized I'm a fan of the 2024 BMW Z4. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good car. To qualify for that, it would also need to be considered a decent value within its segment, match or exceed its primary rivals in crucial areas, and earn a reputation for reliability.

When comparing the BMW Z4 and Porsche 718 Boxster, the Z4 comes up short in maximum available horsepower and does not offer a manual transmission. Still, it is more affordable, depending on which Boxster configuration you're considering. The BMW includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for three years, and, as evidenced by my test drive, the Z4 sDrive30i is remarkably efficient.

Still, the flavors here are distinctly different, and Porsche lets you customize a Boxster to an extent that is impossible with a Z4. If outright performance, the unique handling traits of a mid-engine sports car, and the ability to customize to your heart's content are critically important to you, it doesn't matter if the BMW offers a better traditional value equation.

The flip side of that coin is the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Is a base Z4 sDrive30i worth the price premium over Mazda's street-legal go-kart? To some people, yes. Others, no.

The 2024 BMW Z4 made me a fan of the brand. That speaks volumes about its ability to meet and exceed expectations in a two-seat sports car.

Written by humans.
Edited by humans.

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Thom Blackett

Everyone needs a few things to be passionate about in life. For me, cars are near the top of the list. I’m constantly searching the classifieds for that bargain-priced, one-owner Datsun 240Z barn find. I’m always up for seemingly endless conversations about the cars we wish our parents had kept, the benefits of EVs versus the lure of a thumping V8, or which reliable crossover SUV best suits your family and your dogs. Needless to say, I feel fortunate to spend my work hours analyzing vehicle data, test-driving the latest all-new or updated models, and sharing the knowledge and insights I’ve gained with readers.