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BMW Z4 sDrive 28i: The Rich Man's Miata?

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On: Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 11:35AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

BMW Z4 sDrive 28i: The Rich Man's Miata?

Maybe I'm just growing up, or maybe I'm just understanding the world a little better these days, or just maybe it's a little bit of both. When I wasn't much younger than I am now, I thought that everyone who was into cars had to love big horsepower, loud exhausts, and blaring from stoplight to stoplight. I thought that loving to drive meant that you had to be able to do a big, smokey burnout – that was essentially a member's card for the car club I was in. That's not to say I have done anything like that in almost a decade, but I certainly have had the ability to -- just in case the need ever arose.  But now, I see that not every route home from work has to be measured a quarter mile at a time. 

I also have come to the realization that not every car needs to have 400-horsepower to be respected, and that some cars can offer up a sporty, fun drive, even if they aren't the fastest ones out there. Beyond that, I now see that there are plenty of guys (and girls) out there that are in much different circumstances, and stages of life than I am. Some of those guys have had their big horsepower cars, and now just want something fun to drive (and have amassed a bit more disposable income than I currently possess). Enter the 2012 BMW Z4 sDrive 28i -- the car that every one of those guys (and everyone else that can afford it) should take a look at before making any decisions about a next car.

If we're being honest, when BMW gave the Z4 a face lift two years ago, they got it right. The exaggerated long hood/short deck, updated head and tail lights gave the second generation Z4 (code names E89) a ton more posh and polish, not to mention street cred. Now, instead of the outgoing inline six, BMW has chosen to compliment the current 335-horsepower sDrive35is with another turbocharged motor. The naturally-aspirated inline six is jettisoned in favor of a 2.0-liter inline four. Although the code-named N20 is down two cylinders from the motor it replaces, this little motor puts down an incredible 120-horsepower per liter (for a total of 240 ponies for the mathematically challenged), and a whopping 260-lb-ft of torque. The twin-scroll turbo motor utilizes direct-injection and variable-valve timing to maximize efficiency, and still comes in twenty pounds lighter than the inline six. It sits further back in the chassis, which helps the weight bias of the Z4 shift rearward for a 47.3/52.7 front/rear split, and provides the sDrive 28i with even more sporty handling than ever before.

With this new engine, there will be a choice of transmission between a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic. The smaller motor combined with no less than six forward gears helps give the sDrive 28i one of its most attractive features -- its fuel economy. Although Bimmer has yet to release official numbers, they claim that the new car's mileage will be about 20% improved over the 2011 model -- not bad timing in the era of $4 gas.

Base price for the Z4 SDrive 28i is $49,525 which is not pocket change, especially for a four cylinder. But this Bimmer doesn't act like a stereotypical four banger. Thanks to a substantial amount of torque, a strong powerband, and a curb weight of only 3,241 pounds the 28i hustles to 60 mph in a very respectable 5.5 seconds. That's actually quicker than quite a few V8 cars from less than a decade ago. But then, the Z4 sDrive 28i isn't about tire-spinning performance. It's not about hot-rodding or racing around town. This Z4 is for the mature buyer who just wants a nice, responsive drive in a sporty car that looks pretty damn good and doesn't want to pay a gas-guzzler tax. Of course, if you do decide on the sDrive 28i and that mature, grown-up version of yourself gets smoked by a younger version of you at the next stoplight, you could always get a bigger turbocharger once the warranty runs out.

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