What Car? Car of the Year awards 2011 - Open-top winner

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What Car? Awards 2012 website

The winner
List price £29,695 Target Price £27,486

The name Z4 is suitably short for a car that, at heart, is relatively straightforward. An in-line six-cylinder engine up front drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox – it’s a classic sports-car recipe.

That engine is a 2.5-litre unit developing just over 200bhp at 6300rpm and 184lb ft of torque at 2750rpm, and it has a mere 1405kg to move (plus whatever weight the driver and passenger add), so it certainly has a healthy power-to-weight ratio – another classic sports-car ingredient. Mix in BMW’s talent for making cars that drive well – and, on this occasion, even ride well – and you’ve pretty much got everything you’ll ever need in a two-seater convertible.

This is not one of your back-to-basics roadsters like the Mazda MX-5, though.

BMW’s aim with this second-generation Z4 was to make a car that’s a little easier to live with away from the world of sunny country lanes that the advertising people like to portray.

In other words, the car maker wanted it to be a bit less blokey. That’s why it gave it a slash-proof folding hard top in place of canvas and toned-down the muscle-car looks, albeit with a characteristic long bonnet and stubby tail. It’s anything but girly, though.

So, it’s more secure if you have to park it somewhere you’d rather not, and more snug when there’s frost in the air or it’s raining stair rods. To emphasise the point that it’s a car for all seasons, it has a luxuriously trimmed interior and the kind of accoutrements you’d expect to find in a premium saloon, helping to justify its price.

Make no mistake, though: it’s a driver’s car first and foremost – as direct and agile as you’d expect of something with its weight concentrated within the wheelbase and with a low centre of gravity. BMW’s adaptive chassis control lets you tweak the steering, traction control and throttle response to make it even sharper.

During that fortnight in June that we call summer, when you can drop the top and not have to crank up the heater to full blast, you’ll understand perfectly why we’ve chosen it, but it’s also a car you’d be equally happy to take out the other 50 weeks of the year.

What Car? Car of the Year awards 2011 - Performance car contenders


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