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BMW Concept Z4: Presaging the Next Bimmer Roadster (and the New Toyota Supra)

JENS MEINERS

The nascent sports-car partnership of BMW and Toyota is taking shape with the launch of the Concept Z4 during the festivities leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. So far, the brand has been mum on details about the upcoming roadster, its version of a jointly developed platform that has a reborn Supra for Toyota as its other offspring.

While the Supra, judging from the spy pictures we’ve seen so far, will be characterized by round and bubbly shapes, BMW has gone for a far more chiseled and angular look. One thing is for sure: Nobody will confuse the two on the road.

We are told the Concept Z4 is a faithful preview of the upcoming production car, which is slated to launch as a 2019 model by this time next year. And we must say we like what we see here. Reaching even further than the X2, the Z4 (it won’t be called Z5, as once rumored) marks a clear departure from BMW’s current, all too conservative styling language, both inside and out.

The revolution begins in the front, where the Concept Z4 displays the most aggressive shark nose since the original 6-series. The air intakes are low and wide, and the headlights have their light signatures stacked on top of each other. BMW tries to pass off this look as a nod to the Z8. The Concept Z4’s grille replaces the typical vertical slats with a three-dimensional mesh pattern that might not make it into production.

The side view reveals a new take on a roadster’s proportions. The front and rear overhangs are short, and the cabin moves slightly forward, doing away with the cartoonish proportions of the Z3 and the first two generations of the Z4, in which the driver and passenger sit almost atop the rear axle. The vertical air outlets on the front fenders shape the entire side, and the taillights evoke the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid. We love the faired headrests that hide the roll bars. The 20-inch wheels on Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 rubber underscore the roadster’s wide stance.

Carbon-fiber elements grace the front and the rear diffuser, and the front spoiler displays Z4 lettering. The clamshell-style hood can be interpreted as a nod to the entire 2002 series—one also appeared on the Z3—but in reality, it was probably necessitated by pedestrian-protection regulations.

The BMW Concept Z4 is painted in a BMW Frozen (matte) color, Energetic Orange, a hue that is repeated inside the car. Most of the dashboard on the passenger side is covered in orange suede, but in front of the driver it’s finished in black leather, as is the driver’s seat. BMW speaks of a "cone of vision," and this approach to color is supposed to be a fresh take on driver orientation. The driver’s seat sports additional wild decorative patterning that we attribute to the conceptual nature of this car; it is unlikely to reach dealerships.

By itself, the dashboard is a convincing evolution of BMW’s current interior design. It’s cleaner, but it retains familiar elements such as the iDrive control knob and the vertical screen protruding from the center console. Instrumentation is displayed via a TFT screen, with a clockwise speedometer on the left and a counterclockwise tachometer on the right. The ultrasporty steering wheel has a recessed center section and is fitted with red paddles to operate that automatic transmission, which we hope won’t be the only gearbox choice in the production car.

The option of a manual is pretty much our only ask at this point. BMW, please, don’t change anything else!