Take a look at BMW’s Z series, which stretches all the way back to 1989 with the Z1, and you’ll see a few common design themes across the entire lineup. But you’ll see a more obvious design lineage when you look at just the Z3 and last two Z4s. The 2019 BMW Z4 diverges slightly from that lineage, as it ushers in a new design language that’s distinct from its predecessors and even other modern BMWs. But is the brand’s roadster on the right track with this new look? Read on and decide for yourself.
When the production 2019 BMW Z4 debuted in Monterey this week, we only got to see it in M40i First Edition spec. We won’t see the lower 30i trim until closer to its spring 2019 debut, but we don’t imagine too much will change styling-wise. The new Z4 stays pretty true to the concept that debuted at Pebble Beach last year, continuing to sport a stacked headlight arrangement instead of the side-by-side layout seen on virtually every other BMW. The brand’s signature dual kidney grilles remain, but instead of vertical slats they get a 3-D mesh pattern finished in black. Several on staff have compared the look to the Kia Stinger’s “tiger nose” grille.
Looking at both cars from the side with the top up, you’ll notice one big difference: the Z4 has abandoned the power retractable hardtop of the previous model and gone back to a soft top. As such, the look is very different. For a soft top, the new Z4’s cloth roof does a reasonably good job of mimicking a coupe roofline. But it just can’t compete with the sensuous curves of the last-gen Z4’s folding hardtop. The last-gen car also benefits from a longer dash-to-axle, which gives it more cab-rearward proportions. And sadly, likely due to pedestrian crash safety standards, the 2019 Z4 gets a blunted front end instead of the shark nose that made the concept so good-looking. The pendulum starts to swing slightly in the new Z4’s favor when you look at the details, however. A large fender vent can be seen behind the front wheels, where character lines begin and sweep across the doors. Both cars have trunk lids with molded ducktail spoilers, but the one on the 2019 is more pronounced.
There’s no mistaking which car is the new model when looking at them from behind. The 2019 Z4 gets slim taillights that slant inward as they stretch across the trunk lid, but they also appear to slope off of the car’s rear end. In contrast, the outgoing roadster has rounder taillights that aren’t nearly as wide. Both cars feature heavily sculpted rear ends, but the new Z4’s is more dramatic. Time will tell if the look still holds up a decade or so down the road.
The 2019 BMW Z4’s interior is pretty standard fare as modern BMWs come, but there’s a new digital gauge cluster and wide touchscreen display to up the roadster’s tech game. Meanwhile, the old Z4’s cabin looks its age, with a last-gen infotainment screen and a radio display with red graphics, a trait that used to be a BMW trademark. But the outgoing Z4 was unique in how it laid out its HVAC controls. In the center of the dash are four circles, with the outer ones being dials for dual-zone climate control and the inner ones being clusters of buttons for fan speed, vent selection, recirculate, and window/mirror defrosters.