Steve Sutcliffe went to BMW's Miramas test track in southern France to drive a late Z4 prototype, one of the first two results of a joint venture between BMW and Toyota, with the other being the upcoming Supra.
Which brand did what exactly during a painstakingly long development process, we may never know. On one hand, I was told by a group of BMW engineers that they developed both cars, in return for some of Toyota's electrification technologies. Ask Toyota about it though, and they make it sound like they did the fine tuning, at least for their car.
But BMW's intentions are clear, and not just with their roadster. While the Z4 is lighter, stiffer and much more powerful than its predecessor, it also has a lovely balance thanks to its adaptive dampers, sharp steering and electronic rear differential. 340 horsepower may not sound like a lot today (, 382, thanks to a missing particulate filter), but Steve Sutcliffe reckons that thanks to its setup, the Z4 M40i is as quick around the Miramas circuit as an M2, without ever being as challenging to drive as a proper M car. And having driven their M850i prototype just recently, I know what they are on about.
The M40i will be followed by a bunch of less powerful Z4 variants, as well as a proper Z4 M. You also get 20 percent more cargo space, and a weight saving of 110 lbs. over the old Z4, a car BMW would like you to forget about right around next March.