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Motoring: BMW's Z4 sDrive35is nearly perfect

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | September 13th, 2010

Recently I traveled to the American Le Mans Series race at Mosport International Raceway, north of Bowmanville, Ontario, and had the luxury of test driving two great cars.

There was the monstrous Ford Mustang Shelby GT500, equipped with their latest 550 hp motor. And then there was the BMW Z4, a car I didn't really care for when I tested it last year.

However, the engineers at BMW have been hard at work tweaking the Z4, trying to turn it from a lazy boulevard cruiser into a proper driver's car. The end result is the car you see here, the Z4 sDrive35is. What makes this new version different from the regular Z4 sDrive35i is all the added power. While the regular version has 300 hp, the new version has 335 hp. Add to that the chassis and suspension tweaks and what BMW has now given us is not only a muchimproved car, but a car worthy of being one of the all-time best cars I have ever tested.

To give you some idea how much I liked this new Z4, I had the Z4 for a whole week while I had the new Shelby GT500 for three days, yet still I preferred to spend time in the Z4.

Why? Because it is just brilliant at any driving scenario you can imagine. If you're looking for a comfortable highway cruiser with amazing fuel economy, the Z4 does that.

If you're looking for a fast, stylish coupe that can turn itself into a convertible in under 20 seconds, it does that too. If you're looking for a car that can turn every twisty road into an amusement park ride, it does that phenomenally well.

This is one of those cars that I can recommend to just about anyone, knowing everyone will like it. Really, it is that good. So if you can afford an $80,000 sports car, go out and buy this car.

This car is just beautiful to behold. It put a smile on my face every morning when I approached it. As I'd slip inside, seated on one of the most nicely contoured seats in the business, I'd smell the luxurious leather. I'd hit the “Engine Start” button, then I'd slot it in gear and head down the road. It all seems very pleasant and polite at first, until I'd switch its drive setting from “Normal” to “Sport.” This sharpens up the throttle response and stiffens up the steering, and the driving experience gets even better.

This car responds beautifully to all your inputs, and repays you by turning each drive into an event to remember. Trust me, you won't be bored in this car.

After all, how can you ever get bored of a rear-wheel drive, twoseat roadster that has a threelitre, twin-turbo, straight-six engine that produces 335 hp and 332 lb/ft of torque? Couple that with an amazing seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox with the fastest shifts I have ever experienced and you get the feeling that BMW spent a lot of time fine-tuning this product before releasing it to the public.

It isn't perfect; however, the gripes are rather small. For instance, I do not like the configuration of the steering wheel mounted pedal shifters. Rather than having one pedal to shift up and one to shift down (like in the new BMW 5 Series), the Z4 has the old dual-function pedals on both sides, so you pull up on the pedal to shift up and press it down to shift down.

My other complaint is regarding the space in the boot when the top is folded. Since this roof goes in the trunk, it takes up most of the luggage space. BMW should look at the solution Mazda came up with for their MX-5 with the retractable power hardtop, which folds down into its own compartment and thus does not affect its practicality.

But these really are minor issues in an otherwise sensational car. After all, how many cars can you name that will sprint from 0-100 km/h in under five seconds, top out at 250 km/h, and yet still average under 12- litres/100km?

This year still has a few months remaining, but I think I might have already picked my favourite car from 2010.
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