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PRACTICALITY BE DAMMED (some text hidden)

June Neary revels in BMW's Z4 roadster

Will It Suit Me?word count: 71

As a second car, BMW's Z4 is hard to beat if you simply want a roadster for fun in the sun. It comes with the kind of image that you either love or hate: fortunately, I've always found this car rather appealing. The latest version has a proper fabric roof and looks more dynamic than ever before. The only problem of course is that this is reflected in the asking prices..

Practicalitiesword count: 307

Every Z4 I've tried has been screwed together as impressively as a top 7 Series. In truth, the Z4 could afford to be nothing less than perfect in this respect. Its job is as an image-maker for cars like the 3 Series, many of whose mechanicals it still shares. Inside, you get the nicest and classiest interior you'll find in any small roadster on sale; if anything, it's almost too sophisticated for what's supposed to be a back-to-basics sports car. Most of the fixtures and fittings are lifted from BMW's luxury saloons, including the 10.25-inch centre-dash and instrument binnacle screens that make up the Bavarian brand's sophisticated 'Live Cockpit Professional' package. Apart from that, what struck me most was the roominess of the cabin, which is one of the things that makes this car feel so everyday-usable. There's a reasonably-sized 281-litre boot. You won't really want to drive a car like this with the roof up any more than you actually have to. And once you fold back that top (in just 10 seconds), it's funny what fresh air does for you. Other likes include the positive steering, the snappy 8-speed auto gearbox on the sDrive20i version I tried and the excellent roadholding and grip. There's hardly any space inside of course - but then practicalities aren't much of an issue when you're considering a roadster. This is, after all, hardly the most logical means of conveyance. Roadsters are evocative, nostalgic and emotional. But they're also cramped, noisy and short of any kind of serious carrying capacity. As you'd expect for the premium money being asked, everything is beautifully built from the highest quality materials. Plus the extra head, shoulder and elbow room that have been built into this MK3 Z4 model give it a far airier cabin feel than rival Audi TT or Mercedes SLC competitors.

Behind the Wheelword count: 174

All three petrol engines certainly satisfy on the aural front, whether you choose the 197hp sDrive20i, the 258hp sDrive30i or the 340hp twin-turbo 3.0-litre M40i variant. From the crackle at start-up to the metallic-edged bark under hard acceleration, this Z4 sounds race-bred. The top M40i derivative sprints to 62mph in just 4.6s and has to be artificially restrained at 155mph. You're probably going to want to pay extra for adaptive damping - only the M40i gets the Adaptive M Sport suspension package as standard, along with an electronically controlled 'M Sport differential' for extra cornering traction. The way the suspension interacts with the steering, the throttle and the differential is key to the way this car responds dynamically, so proactive use of the provided drive modes is crucial if you're pressing on. Do that and you'll find that this car lacks the razor-sharp steering responses of a rival Porsche 718 Boxster but the helm is quick and accurate, which in combination with superb front-end traction means that corners can be attacked with surprising confidence.

Value For Moneyword count: 75

List prices suggest that, allowing for a few well-chosen extras, you'll probably be paying somewhere in the £37,000 to £50,000 bracket for your Z4, the same kind of money Mercedes will ask of you for a comparable SLC and much the same as you'd pay for a fabric-topped Audi TT Roadster. If you're looking at either the sDrive30i or the M40i, you'll find that you'll pay around £6,000 more for a comparable Porsche 718 Boxster.

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Category: Convertibles

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