BMW's new Z4 or Mercedes SLK?

PUBLISHED: 12:13 05 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:14 20 February 2013

Here in Britain we love our convertibles and ever since TVR stopped making tail-happy monsters, we've had to look elsewhere. BMW's new Z4 ups the ante with a folding hardtop - is it as good as Mercedes' SLK? We find out...

Here in Britain we love our convertibles and ever since TVR stopped making tail-happy monsters, we've had to look elsewhere. BMW's new Z4 ups the ante with a folding hardtop - is it as good as Mercedes' SLK? We find out...



Rain is at the very heart of our nation. A physical expression of national disappointment, complaining about the weather is a national sport at which there are no winners, only contented participants. But given the UK's propensity for rainfall, it's odd that more convertibles are sold here than almost any other European country. There's only one explanation - when the sun shines, we know how to make the most of it.



And it's cars like this new Z4 we've always had a soft spot for - small, light two seaters with a foldaway roof and a devil-may-care attitude.



This one is pretty. Very pretty. Sharper all round, it takes some cues from its bigger brother and but still looks like a Z4 evolution. Don't let the looks fool you though, this is no nip 'n' tuck effort; it's a whole new car, but the biggest difference is the Mercedes SLK-style folding hard top.



Inside is typical BMW - a touch austere (unless you go to town on the options list), it's beautifully screwed together and devoid of squeaks, rattles and anything to worry owners.
On the move, it handles the way it looks like it should. You'll run out of talent before you run out of grip and, if that's all a bit tame, a sharp prod on 'Sport+ mode' button will make the car more tail-happy. There's no body roll in corners and with a 204bhp base model, whichever one you opt for is going to be a barrel of laughs.



Entry to the Z4 club starts with the 28,650 23i, but we'd take the 35i. It's not cheap (40k+ with a few extras), but with 306bhp on tap and a well-sorted chassis, you'll be heading straight for the B-roads. Bury your foot in the carpet, the rear tyres claw at the tarmac and slingshot you forward at a pace bordering on the hedonistic. It'll do 155mph, 0-62mph in 5.1sec and BMW even suggests than you might get 31mpg if you're saintly with the throttle.
What's the catch then? Well, there isn't one really. It's only a two seater so you'll need to learn to pack light, but you don't buy one of these for load space. You buy a car like this because when the sun's out, there's nothing better than having a good-looking rear-wheel-drive convertible to hustle down country lanes. And the new Z4 is one of the best.

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