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What Car? Awards 2012 website

The winner
BMW Z4
sDrive23i
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 its 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 BMWs talent for making cars that drive well and, on this occasion, even ride well and youve pretty much got everything youll ever need in a two-seater convertible.

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

BMWs aim with this second-generation Z4 was to make a car thats 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. Thats 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. Its anything but girly, though.

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

Make no mistake, though: its a drivers car first and foremost as direct and agile as youd expect of something with its weight concentrated within the wheelbase and with a low centre of gravity. BMWs 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, youll understand perfectly why weve chosen it, but its also a car youd be equally happy to take out the other 50 weeks of the year.