Since 2020, the reincarnation of the fifth-generation Toyota Supra has garnered almost as much attention as Tom Cruise’s box office reprisal role did as Maverick in the sequel to Top Gun, nearly four decades later. But most people don’t realize that the car that the newest Supra was based upon has been around longer and offers up a package that is arguably more exciting and better looking.
Almost unbelievably, the BMW Z4 has been around since Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn into office as the Governator of California. Not so coincidentally, the Z4 is the fourth installment of BMW’s Z-car lineup, which began with the limited edition Z1 from 1989-1991. The incredibly successful Z3 got produced from 1995-2002 and even had a starring role as James Bond’s car in GoldenEye. The subsequent Z8 also had a role as a Bond car. However, after approximately fourteen seconds, it was destroyed by a helicopter, making its limited numbers less by one.
When the Z4 came along in 2003, it picked up more so where the Z3 left off than the exotically expensive Z8 and offered an exciting, attractive, and drivable mass-produced drop-top. Currently in its third generation, the Z4 is not only the fastest it has ever been but, arguably, the most aesthetically appealing, and the 2023 BMW Z4 M40i is here to show it is not only the latest but the greatest in the lineage of the Z4.
The M40i uses the same powerplant that helps the Toyota Supra live up to its legacy. A successor to the popular N55 engine, the B58 engine in the Z4 is an all-aluminum 3.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled direct-injected inline six-cylinder engine that produces a magnificent 382 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. That power is then routed through a slick-shifting ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, unlike Toyota’s decision to finally reintroduce a manual transmission in the Supra 3.0 a year ago, BMW has not been so forthcoming regarding the Z4, opting to stick with only the auto transmission. Presumably, BMW still feels that the ethos of the Z4 is that more of a grand tourer than a true sports car, so an auto transmission is more appropriate. However, we would argue that with an open-air coupe and nearly 400 horsepower under the hood, a manual transmission would be the perfect dancing partner for a long and windy back road along the mountains.
Although time has a way of slowly adding weight to all of us, cars included, the Z4 still only has 3,636 pounds of curb weight to haul around. That heft works with the Z4’s M Sport suspension and adaptive dampers to provide a smooth, confidence-inspiring ride. That power gets sent out to an M Sport differential and then to the rear wheels, where 19-inch rims await shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires measuring 275/35ZR-19, while narrower 255/35ZR-19 sit up front.
For a car that is as good-looking as it is from a company as prestigious as BMW, somehow, it feels like the Z4 gets underappreciated by getting overshadowed by Bimmer’s high-flying M-cars. But, the Z4 can also brag to anyone that will listen that it is the quickest Z car ever to wear a BMW badge. Sprinting from 0-60 mph takes just 3.5 seconds, while 0-100 mph comes and goes in a scant 8.8 seconds. Keep your foot on the gas and watch as the quarter-mile flashes by in just 12.0 seconds at 116 mph.
Big 13.7-inch vented disc front and 13.6-inch vented disc rear brakes helped bring the Z4 down from 70-0 mph in just 149 feet. Thanks to a nearly perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the BMW Z4 is not only predictable and easy to drive quickly, but it also manages to pull an incredible 1.00 g of lateral grip around the skidpad. While its handling and acceleration numbers are awe-inspiring, the Z4’s fuel economy dazzles as much, if not more. With a 23/31/26 city/highway/combined, the M40i allows drivers to have a blast around the twisties and never have to worry about waiting for the fuel gauge to ruin the party.
While the 2023 BMW Z4 M40i isn’t cheap, with a base price of $66,295, it doesn’t break the bank either. The Z4 offers a much more fun, open-air experience than its Toyota-built cousin. Compared to something lavish and sportier, like a C8 Corvette, the BMW costs thousands less and provides enough excitement to keep both passenger and driver grinning from start to finish. So while the Supra may garner the lion’s share of the popularity, the Z4 M40i might just be a bit more super than the Supra after all.
Photos: BMW Group