The James Bond franchise found itself in a spot of bother in the early ’90s. Not only was the series embroiled in legal disputes, but the main character lost significant appeal after Timothy Dalton failed to be more charismatic than a linen cupboard in License to Kill in 1989.
But in 1995, faith was instantly restored in the famous British spy series when Goldeneye put Bond back on the map with Pierce Brosnan assuming the role of 007.
The movie was historic in many ways. Not only did Judy Dench become the first women to portray the role of M, but Brosnan also became the first Bond to use a non-British production car as his primary mode of transport.
The film introduced the Z3, BMW’s first modern mass-market roadster, and the producers got some stick for giving the sexy convertible less than two minutes of screen time after the tremendous hype that was created beforehand. And although Brosnan never got to use the ejector chair, deploy the emergency parachute braking system and didn’t fire the stinger missiles hidden behind the headlights, the car’s sales did rocket while the movie soared to the top at the box office.
In fact, it proved so popular that the entire first production run of 15 000 was sold by the time the car was launched in 1996. To put the Z3’s success in context, its total sales of 297 088 from 1995 to 2002 almost makes up a staggering 70% of the entire sales of BMW’s Z Series.
The roadster series started in 1989 with the Z1, followed by the Z3, the Z8 and the first generation Z4. Now, for the first time, the Bavarians have broken tradition by not giving their latest offering a different name. The fifth generation Z Series model keeps the name of its predecessor, the Z4, of which 115 000 have been sold worldwide from 2002 to 2008. And Edward Makwana, manager: group product communications at BMW South Africa, says the new Z4 has all the makings of outshining its predecessor.
“This isn’t a car you need, but one that you desire. It makes a statement,” says Makwana. “It has been given a modern makeover and is a BMW through and through.” With its new-look mesh-design BMW kidney grille and sporting a vertical headlight arrangement, the car cuts an unmistakable figure from the front while the roadster’s proportions provide the most striking evidence of how the Z4 has been reinterpreted.
The new Z4 has grown in length by 85mm to 4 324mm; is 74mm wider at 1 864mm and 13mm taller (1 304mm). There is a choice of five exterior paint shades and the fabric soft-top comes in black as standard or anthracite with silver effect as an option. It is electrically operated and can be opened or closed in ten seconds.
The Z4 has two derivatives, the entry-level sDrive20i and the performance-orientated M40i. The sDrive20i’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder powertrain produces 145kW of power and 320Nm of torque, while the M40i is equipped with a 3.0-litre straight-six unit featuring M Performance TwinPower Turbo technology and the eightspeed Steptronic Sport transmission which generates 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque.
The M40i is claimed to go from 0 to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds.
Inside the finishes are premium with generous space, while boot capacity is 281 litres whether the soft-top is open or closed – an increase of more than 50% compared to the outgoing model. Standard safety equipment include Collision Warning, Pedestrian Warning with City Braking function and Lane Departure Warning system.
The options includes Active Cruise Control with Stop & Go function, distance information, the Lane Change Warning System, Rear Collision Prevention and – for the first time in a roadster – the BMW Head-Up Display.
We drove both variants on scenic oceanside roads and twisty mountain passes around Cape Town last week and were impressed with the car’s solid handling aided by it’s low centre of gravity. Not to mention the feelgood factor with the top down. It’s a pity Bond doesn’t drive BMWs anymore, as the new Z4 offer a healthy alternative to his more traditional British choices.