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Just drove a Z4 in BMW Performance Driving Clinic

Guest Anonymous

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Guest Anonymous


Dateline Turner Field, Atlanta. BMW brought in the Z4 roadster with Sequential Manual Gearbox and the 330i sedan automatic. Obviously I chose the 3.0 liter Z4.

This event which is similar to Mazda's RevItUp with the major differences that it is FREE and they don't give you a car if you win. It is intended to allow you to touch and feel BMW automobiles in a performance-oriented environment. In that way it was successful and it changed my perceptions, some positively, some negatively.

The Z4 is fat. It feels much heavier than a Boxster and really almost as porky as a TT. It feels like a ponderous elephant compared to a Miata. It has good power so it moves out well but it just feels big and heavy. This is not good. It makes me long more for an impractical Elise. The Z4 would be a great touring car because it is well balanced, powerful, comfortable, and would perform very well in sweeping turns. When it gets to the real twisties (think Deals Gap) you just can't hide it's gut under a slim-fitting outfit.

The Z4 is not ugly. It has grown on me - like a fungus perhaps. I can't say I like the styling but I will stop calling it ugly. I was surprised that the interior controls did not feel more solid. They were by no means cheap but not up to the level of my dear departed S4. More on par with my Toyota truck but prettier.

The SMG is intriguing. It is a clutchless manual gearbox that works sequentially like a motorcycle. You select first gear and it automatically lets out the clutch when you step on the gas. As you select new gears it clutches for you. They didn't let us use it much but I think I like it. There is a slight delay at the start while it engages the clutch but I am sure I would learn to anticipate that. There is virtually no delay between gears. Pretty slick piece of kit as the Brits might say.

The new 5 series is a winner. Not classically beautiful but ruggedly handsome, even with the Dame Edna eyes. I didn't drive it but I believe that BMW has managed to mix their old and new DNA into a great new machine. They have also halted the pork onslaught - it is actually lighter than the previous model.

Thanks BMW. You build good products and I really appreciate that many people buy your expensive cars so that I can get free autocrosses!

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