BMW’s Z-series roadsters are arguably the epitome of the brand: punchy two-seaters, begging to be thrown at a curvy mountain road. The all-new 2019 Z4 – revealed in Z4 M40i form this week at Monterey Car Week – should follow right in those tire-marks, but not everybody is convinced. Only one route seemed fair: throw it open to your vote.
On paper, the 2019 Z4 makes plenty of sense. Two seats, a simple soft top – that opens and closes electrically – and 50:50 balance. The track is wide while the wheelbase is short; the classic roadster proportions of a long hood and a cabin pushed well back are all there.
What’s under the hood isn’t disappointing, either. The Z4 M40i First Edition gets BMW’s 3.0-liter straight-six engine, with 340 horsepower. Not a ridiculous amount of power for a sports car, but certainly comparable to what you’ll find in a Porsche Boxster. 0-60 mph is expected to come in at under 4.4 seconds.
If recent cars with BMW’s M-tuned sports suspension, with its electronically controlled dampers, and electronically controlled rear differential are anything to go by, the Z4 should be nimble and agile. Indeed, few seem to have an issue with the architecture, though the absence of a manual transmission will upset the purists. No, what’s proving divisive is the design.
BMW is no stranger to style controversy. During the Chris Bangle years, when the American auto designer was Chief of Design for BMW Group, the company’s traditional aesthetic was upended with a new language that remains polarizing to today. The first-generation BMW Z4, and its stark departure from the softer form of the Z3 before it, underscored the idea that the automaker wasn’t afraid of tearing up what had come before and replacing it with something very different.
Question is, will the new Z4 eventually be viewed as a classic or a crisis? Features like the stacked headlamp design, that pushes the clusters back into the wings and hood, are new territory for BMW. The flared nostrils of the traditional BMW grille now get a punchy 3D mesh, that gives it an altogether different look to what we’ve seen before.
The previous-gen Z4 was a smooth, shark-like affair; the new Z4 is more angular and technical. Eventually, when the Z4 30i is revealed, some of the scoops and sculpts might well be toned down. All the same, it’s a markedly different look to what we’re used to, and one which drops interesting – and, depending on where you sit on the design overall, either promising or ominous – hints about the next models BMW updates.
So, the big question is this: after checking out our gallery of live photos, do you like the 2019 BMW Z4’s design, or has this new aesthetic left you cold? Or, are you holding out until you see the car in the wild?