It’s that first hint of a chill in the evening air. That first time in months when stepping out doesn’t feel like stepping into a Swedish sauna.
While folks everywhere north of Ocala are igniting logs and pulling out fleeces, we’re smugly thinking about beach walks, rounds of golf, and turning off the a/c.
Yes, fellow Floridians, fall is definitely in the air.
It’s also that time of year when our thoughts turn to driving a car with a top that drops; to feel the wind on our hair and the sun on our cheeks. We’re talking convertibles.
Yep, they’re still around, though sales are definitely on the decline. But everything from a cheap ’n cheerful $30-grand Mazda Miata to a new $236,000 Bentley Continental GTC is on offer to scratch that soft-top itch.
I’ve just spent a blissful week getting tanned in BMW’s brand new Z4 roadster. This thing is such a blast, so good for your karma, they should consider offering it on Medicare.
There’s an interesting story behind this latest two-seater. When it came to replacing the previous generation Z4, BMW’s bean-counters issued a definite “Nein!” Demand was going away, the cost of development would be too high, and profit margins too slim.
Then someone put in a call to Toyota, who were facing the same dilemmas justifying an overdue replacement for its iconic Supra coupe.
A plan was hatched to develop the two cars jointly, share costs, share technologies, share production lines, but make the cars totally different in character and driving dynamics.
Enter the 2019 BMW Z4 convertible and the 2019 Toyota Supra coupe. Mission accomplished.
As a convertible lover, obviously I get more excited about the BMW. At the flip of a switch, the Z4’s cloth top unlatches and powers back beneath a hard cover in a mere 10 seconds. Can’t do that with a coupe.
But anyone who remembers the previous-gen Z4 will ask the question: Where’s the folding metal roof? Seems that in a bid to reduce complexity, reduce weight and costs, and to provide more trunk space, the metal roof got replaced by a more simple cloth top.
I have no problem with that.
And whereas the Supra is offered with only one engine — a 335-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six — the Z4 comes with a 382-hp version of the 3.0-liter, plus a 2.0-liter turbo-four.
It’s the delightful 2.0-liter that’s powering our test car, and I have no problem with that either. Packing 255 horseys and a quite muscley 295 lb-ft of torque, this thing is livelier than a sugared-up 2-year-old.
Click the stopwatch, hit the gas and it will leap off the line and sprint to 60mph in a quick 5.2 seconds and top out — if you happen to be cruising the Autobahn — at 155mph.
But the delight of this new Z is folding back that well-insulated roof, dropping the side windows and just driving somewhere fun. Start with a sunset — I recommend Key West — and go from there.
The cabin is comfy-cozy with tight-fitting, well-bolstered seats. You sit low in the cockpit — as you should in a proper roadster — feeling part of the car. It’s a terrific driving position, with a thick-rimmed wheel and all the controls perfectly positioned. You don’t so much sit in the Z4 as wear it.
And if you can find yourself a twisty back road — difficult, I know, here in the Sunshine State — the Z4 rewards you with agile, responsive handling, laser precise steering and more grip than a case of Gorilla Glue. The standard 8-speed dual-clutch automatic shifts gears faster than flicking a light switch.
It’s the kind of nimbleness and agility and enthusiasm that’s guaranteed to put a mile-wide smile on your face.
Yes, the 3.0-liter Z4 40i with 382 horseys makes for a more serious sportscar. But pricing starts at a lofty $63,700, whereas the 2.0-liter stickers from just $49,700. In this case, less power means more fun.
The day I handed the keys back to BMW, it was all blue skies, 80 degrees and next to no humidity. All I could think was: Boy, do I need a convertible.
Test drive the new BMW Z4 sDrive30i at Reeves in Tampa, Bert Smith Euro Collection in St. Pete, Ferman of Palm Harbor, Fields of Lakeland, BMW of Sarasota.