What It Is: A new roadster that replaces the departed BMW Z4. The Z4, which itself replaced the Z3, ran for 14 seasons but was dropped from the brand’s U.S. lineup after 2016. With worldwide sales of roadsters weak, BMW has partnered with Toyota in order to reduce development costs of this successor, the Z5 (which may in fact retain the Z4 name). The program also will deliver a similar-sized sports car for Toyota, which is expected to revive the Supra nameplate.
Why it Matters: While the audience for roadsters is shrinking, the Z5 keeps BMW in the game against German rivals such as the Audi TT and the Porsche 718 Boxster. A sports car like the Z5 also provides a counterbalancing image boost as BMW lards its lineup with all manner of crossover SUVs.
Platform: Codenamed G29, the Z5 will ride on a platform shared with the Supra—although the Toyota will be a coupe and the BMW a roadster. And, as these spy pictures show, the BMW is reverting to a traditional softtop after switching to a retractable hardtop with the Z4’s 2009 redesign. In addition to a more classic appearance, a cloth top is generally easier to package, lighter in weight, and allows for greater luggage capacity when lowered. Strictly a two-seater, the Z5 will be built by contract manufacturer Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
Powertrain: As with the Z4, a version of BMW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four will be used in the base Z5, while a more-powerful model again will feature the brand’s turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six. At the top of the performance pyramid will be a hybrid, using technology shared with Toyota. A six-speed manual transmission will return, although it might be relegated to the base four-cylinder.
Estimated Arrival and Price: The new BMW roadster is still more than a year away, with an estimated arrival in late 2018. (Rumors suggest that BMW will show a concept previewing the production Z5 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in August.) Pricing may increase slightly from that of the previous model, which was right around the $50,000 mark to start for the four-cylinder version and roughly $60,000 for the six-cylinder. Higher-performance variants will be more costly.