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The 2014 BMW Z4: Like Oktoberfest every day of the year

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When you think of BMW owners most often you think of white shirts and plain colored neck ties; of executives commuting to huge skyscrapers with glass facades and parking garages. Once there the executive spends the day making important decisions such as where to have a two cocktail lunch, and will we golf Thursday or Friday? All the while ogling the secretary, or as they are called in today’s politically correct world, an “administrative assistant”. At some appropriate time later in the afternoon, the executive will drive the BMW sedan to wherever in suburbia they reside there to spend the evening watching financial shows and whatever is on PBS.

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Then there are the German’s who make the BMW; they too are thought of somewhat as stuffed shirts. Germans are known as detailed, meticulous… and not very much fun. They live according to exact rules and a rigid schedule.

If you thought this way about BMW owners and Germans however, you may just be very wrong.

We must admit that we too thought of BMW owners, and Germans for that matter this way. A few weeks ago we drove a BMW X5 for a week. Good car, just very plain; a white shirt with a black necktie. Well built, of course, drives very well, sure… but was it fun? Hardly.

BMW owners and our friends in Deutschland might have gone down in infamy in our eyes as boring, fun less souls, had we not been given something very different in the BMW line to try out: A 2014 BMW Z4.

You see one thing we overlooked about Germany is that one special time of the year when Germans throw caution to the wind, let down their hair and have a little fun: Oktoberfest, that beer guzzling, knee knock dancing, “oopmha” time of the year when Germans are anything but boring. And so it is with the BMW Z4, which is a roadster in the truest sense. It’s a knee jarring, feel every bump and rocket down the road machine that defies the myth of the average BMW owner and the Germans who make it.

For 2014 BMW didn’t make any changes to the Z4 other than some minor cosmetic tweaks. These include a row of LEDs over the front headlamps, changes in the 18-inch wheel design and a new side lamp configuration that looks more swept.

If one keeps in mind that this is a two-seat roadster and like other roadsters interior space is at a premium, than you can sit back and admire the well made interior with a screen that disappears in the center of the dash and appears unobtrusively when the engine is fired. There are gauges that are well placed and easy to read, dials and knobs that feel solid all set into wood trim that races along curves that are as right as Marilyn Monroe is in a one-piece.

BMW’s ConnectedDrive suite of features is updated for 2014 to include web-accessible features like the BMW Online Portal, real-time traffic information, and iPhone-based BMW apps that can scan Twitter or Facebook posts and read them aloud (an idea we find questionable from a safety standpoint). The BMW Apps feature also enables many music streaming services. And BMW's various remote telematics services are also now included in the ConnectedDrive package. Navigation, satellite radio, heated front seats, and more are available as separate or package upgrade options.

Underneath the Z4 is offered with several different engines. For the base model the Z4 sDrive28i (Base: $49,875) gets a 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder powerplant; the Z4 sDrive35i (Base: $57,875) gets a 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder turbocharged engine; and the Z4 sDrive35is (Base: $66,725), the model we had for the week, gets a 335-horsepower in-line six-cylinder turbo. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual and an eight-speed automatic for sDrive28i models, while the sDrive35i substitutes a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission for the automatic. The sDrive35is is only available with the seven-speed DCT. The seven speed we had for our week performed flawlessly.

The convertible hardtop is nothing short of pure genius allowing for a quiet cabin on the road while it’s up and the look of a hardtop when setting still. It can stow at speeds up to 25 miles per hour and that’s where you will want it as often as possible; stowed away. Because while the Z4 is fun to drive with the top up, with the top down it is nothing short of pure joy. This is after all a well-built roadster and a roadster is meant to enjoy the experience. You’re not simply driving from point A to point B, you are having a hell of a lot of fun in between. You won’t be carrying a lot of groceries, nor the soccer team, but you will be flying along with the wind in your hair yelling “oompha”.

Okay maybe you won’t be yelling all the time. Because the Z4 is a bit more refined than some of the other roadsters we’ve driven. The Nissan 370z for example or the Porsche Boxster, its main rival; both are fine, but the 380z falls a bit short, while the Boxster seems a bit more unleashed and seems to need ones complete attention. In contrast, the Z4 is more controlled experience than the Boxster; both are fine, and fun, on the road but the Porsche seems a bit more ragged around the edges when pushed. By the way fuel mileage isn’t something to be discussed here; after all you don’t drive a roadster to worry about that (for the curious however it’s a respectable 22 city, 33 highway and 26 combined).

Overall the Z4 is a great roadster. It’s nimble, quick, quality built and fun to drive. If you picture a BMW family as stoic, stone cold and frowning, the Z4 would be the cousin who sneaks out and gets in trouble from time to time grinning all the while.

Loosen those neckties, put on your lederhosen and get ready to have a blast. The Z4 is proof that owning a BMW doesn’t mean you have to be some stuffy executive in glass tower. You can indeed let loose, have fun and do more than sit in an office all day ogling your secretary, sorry administrative assistant.

The 2014 BMW Z4 sDrive 35is

MSRP: $64,800
Price as tested: $72,825
Engine: 3.0L I-6 twin turbo
Horsepower: 335 hp @ 5900 rpm, Torque 332 lb-ft @ 1500-4500 rpm
Fuel Mileage (EPA est.): 22 mpg City/34 mpg Hwy/26 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested in mixed conditions): 25 mpg

Weight Information
Base Curb Weight: 3263
Interior Dimensions
Front Leg Room (in): 42.2
Passenger Capacity: 2
Front Shoulder Room (in): 53.3
Front Head Room (in): 39.1
Exterior Dimensions
Track Width, Front (in): 59.5
Width, Max w/o mirrors (in): 70.5
Wheelbase (in): 98.3
Height, Overall (in): 50.8
Length, Overall (in): 166.9
Cargo Area Dimensions
Trunk Volume (ft³) 8

Warranty
Basic Miles/km 50,000
Basic Years 4
Corrosion Miles: Unlimited
Corrosion Years 12
Drivetrain Miles/km 50,000
Drivetrain Years 4
Maintenance Miles/km 50,000
Maintenance Years 4

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