A year after BMW ended production of the second-generation Z4, a new Z4 has made its debut at Monterey Car Week 2017. The striking Concept Z4 Roadster wears some of the creased, angular bodywork previewed on the Concept 8 Series on its compact roadster body, creating an open two-seater that begs equally for straight, open strips of traffic-free desert road and furious, bluff-hugging twists high above smashing waves.
Like the Concept 8 Series, which is also at Monterey Car Week making its North American debut, the Concept Z4 Roadster previews a production model and wears the latest hints of BMW's evolving design language. The styling is considerably crisper and more angular than what we're used to seeing in BMW dealerships, defined by neatly pinched edges and character lines and precision-sliced aerodynamics.
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.
The Z4's compact body is set on a long wheelbase, a short hood keeping the driver positioned closer to the center of the car to add to the dynamism and drama. The car's plunging, forward-rushing lines give it much the same feeling of springing forward off the rear wheels that we get from the Concept 8.
Those lines and curves eventually wrap their way into a shark nose with a broad, mesh-filled kidney grille working as a set of huge flared nostrils. The vertically stacked four-eye headlamps rise up and out toward the sides, in contrast to the usual horizontally set BMW headlamps.
The heavily sculpted rear-end stretches wide and low, its L-shaped taillights wrapping around into the bulging rear fenders. The upper edge of the trunk is pinched gently into a smooth spoiler, and sliced air vents provide an exit for all the heat being generated below the skin.
The Concept Z4's interior raises the bar on driver-focused design and mirrors the exterior colors and angles. Two high-contrast colors create a very defined split between driver and passenger, the black with red accents providing a sporty, dynamic feel on the driver side and the body-matching orange creating a more sedate passenger compartment.
The driver-passenger divide is furthered by the empty, uncluttered design of the passenger area, hosting little more than the seat and single air vent. All of the controls are neatly contained inside the black edge of the driver's area, a sharply angled border around the infotainment display putting a final punctuation mark on the division of active and passive. BMW has placed the digital instrument panel and infotainment screen close together at virtually the same height to create the impression of one seamless digital information cluster. A head-up display adds an upper layer.
BMW debuted the Concept Z4 Roadster at its Monterey Car Week press conference on Thursday and says the car's appearance on the Pebble Beach Concept Lawn on Sunday will be its only North American public showing. Much as it's done with the Concept 8 Series, it's letting the Z4's styling stand on its own without details about the powertrain or other systems.
The Z4 successor has long been the subject of speculation, the expected fruits (along with a Toyota Supra successor) of the ongoing collaboration between BMW and Toyota. The two automakers announced that team-up way back in 2012 with very general stated goals like "joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle" and "joint research and development on lightweight technologies." Neither automaker has made public many details about the efforts since then, leaving things open for a steady stream of rumors, spy shots and speculation.
BMW says the production Z4 will arrive next year. The car is expected to have four- and six-cylinder engine options, along with a possible all-wheel drive hybrid option.