The 2012 BMW Z4 faced a real crisis of confidence. While overall roadster sales have fallen off a cliff since 2009, the Z4’s problems are even more severe. From an all-star BMW style icon … into a niche-within-a-niche model that tallies sales in the hundreds per year?
But was the styling of the fourth-gen car partly to blame? The original Z3 was such a smash hit – I can clearly recall being smitten with this humdrum four-banger roadster. Even on steel wheels, it look fantastic.
Even with just a 20-second James Bond Goldeneye cameo its only claim to fame at the time: the Z3 defined modern BMW style and success throughout the 1990s.
A far cry from the low-volume, high-price Z1 from the late 1980s, the Z3 got real in terms of offering cab-backward roadster thrills to the masses.
But that long hood and chopped rear end style has not aged gracefully. Even worse, owners know that the tiny rear overhang and trunk area is a triple edged-blade:
– Tiny /nonexistent roominess for golf clubs with top down
– Flinty ride as your bum sits almost right atop the rear axle
– Lackluster performance stats versus even BMW’s basic 335i sedans
So what the new Z4 needed for 2013 – when this latest and very handsome model was launched – was a firm style reboot.
The old hands at Zagato in Italy are famous for their making their wild style a reality via rebodied custom models. Most notably for Aston Martin, the Zagato brand is perhaps best known for breathing new life into handsome — but exhausted — designs. See the Aston V8 Vantage versus V8 Zagato for proof — the cars look almost nothing alike.
The Z4 makeover is more subtle – likely due to the always-taut leash from BMW’s Munich base. Even so, the Zagato team’s restyle of the previous Z4 is important for a few reasons:
— first off: the Zagato Z4 is not an immediate success in drawing the eye or peaking the brain’s interest. It does not really look any “better,” objectively speaking, than the normal BMW Z4.
The coupe Zagato Z4 is even less appealing.
So why would BMW commission these one-off recreations? First, to gauge what buyers actually want the next Z4 to look like.
— Secondly, to identify areas where the Z4’s style could mature and become more high-fashion.
Thirdly, the Zagato concepts almost showed BMW what not to do with the Z4’s style. This lesson is seem clearest in the new Z4’s hugely and wide grille openings versus the tighter and more vertical kidneys in the Zagato cars.
Stay tuned for a full write-up on the current Z4, which learned many things from the Zagato cars — mainly that even the creative talent of Zagato struggled to make the previous Z4 seem new or interesting.