The question with the new BMW Z4 18i, is how much does performance really matter in a sporty roadster? If the answer is 'a lot', then stop reading here because this 154bhp model is not going to set your world alight with its straight-line pace. If the answer is 'a bit, but it's not the main priority', read on.
The Z4 18i is a detuned version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre Z4 20i, and is intended to offer a more affordable way into BMWs swanky, two-seat, rear-wheel-drive roadster.
It achieves the same 159g/km CO2 and 41.5mpg as the 181bhp 20i, so its purely the saving you make on list price that you get for sacrificing the extra power.
Whats the 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive 18i like to drive?
Really quite good. Its not rip-roaringly fast, but it picks up well even at motorway speeds, offering sprightly and easily accessible in-gear response.
Our test car came with the springy, six-speed manual gearbox (an eight-speed auto is available for £1845), which youll be working fairly hard to make rapid progress on more challenging back roads.
Even so, the 18i delivers enough power to let you make the most of its enjoyable handling. The standard variable steering is weighty and predictable in its sportiest setting, while throttle responses can also be adjusted and are satisfyingly precise.
Like all the models using this lightweight engine, the 18i enters corners sharply and delivers delicate responses that are lacking in the heavier six-cylinder models.
Our car came with adaptive M Sport suspension (a £970 option), which results in a well-controlled ride. Its not the tightest body control in this class, but the progressive body roll is a worthwhile compromise for the planted, supple ride quality.
Whats the 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive 18i like inside?
Ever a strong point with this car, the Z4 makes you feel special when youre sitting in its low-slung drivers seat. The manual adjustment is a bit fiddly, but most will find a good driving position eventually, and theres a nice combination of material finishes.
Its starting to feel a little old in some areas mainly the slightly fuzzy, orange digital readout set in the dials but otherwise its still a lovely place to cover miles. Far more of a problem in this model is that it lacks the leather, automatic lights and wipers, and automatic climate control that is all standard on the Z4 20i, which adds up to nearly £1600 of equipment.
At least refinement is good. Wind flutter and tyre noise is noticeable on the motorway, but the Z4 is still one of the quietest cars in its class, and occupants are well protected from top-down buffeting.
Should I buy one?
This might be the cheapest Z4, but its also one of the best to drive. However, the 20i is the better bet if you're looking for properly zingy performance and is better equipped as standard. In fact, after kitting up the 18i to the same level, youre saving just £535 by opting for the lower-powered car. The 18i lives up to its sporting credentials, but poor standard spec makes it harder to justify.
By Vicky Parrott
What Car? says...
BMW Z4 sDrive 18i
Engine size Turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol
Price from £27,610
Torque 177lb ft
0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Top speed 137mph
Fuel economy 41.5 mpg
CO2 159 g/km