BMW Z4 M40i: Z to the core and roadster to the brim

2,998CC 340BHP 500NM

Roadsters… ah… what cars. Driving a roadster is perhaps the closest you can come to feel like riding a motorcycle but with four wheels and a steering wheel. The wind in your hair, the organic oneness with nature, and the gasps on the road are part and parcel of the roadster experience. And while there are many cars that try to pull off this ‘sacred’ act, not many come close to the OG- Z. BMW Z. In this particular case, the new BMW Z4 M40i that we recently got to drive. 

That is a tall claim but the stature and the legacy of the BMW Z4 is more than enough to stake that claim. How many times have you seen 007 go topless (in perhaps the only way it matters to us petrolheads)? Not many. And the few times it has happened, Bond found himself at the helm of a BMW Z. The Z3 in Golden Eye (1995) and the Z8 in The World is Not Enough (1999).  

Heck, even our desi Greek God found himself driving one in probably one of the most iconic songs of the 2000s. In the blockbuster film that we shall not name, the better Hrithik Roshan drove a BMW Z3. I think just these 2 examples are enough to ascertain the popularity that the BMW Z series has been enjoying for a while. Now before we start to talk about the latest iteration, let’s talk a little bit about what the Z is all about. 

Starting with the name itself, Z in the name stands for Zukunft which is German for the future. Pretty self-explanatory. If it isn’t, Google BMW Z1 and you’ll know. That is a car from 1989, mind you. It was then followed by the aforementioned Z3 which we believe has been the most popular Z. Of course, there was the Z8 which is arguably the best looking Z, but it was a limited run. In fact, it was touted to be just a styling exercise but the foundation laid by the Z3 and the fresh design of the Z8 meant that the demand was high and the propeller Marquee had to oblige. 

And finally, the BMW Z4 came out in 2002 and since then, there have been 3 generations of the car with the 3rd being the latest and the one that we got to drive. We have driven the Z4 quite a few times before both, in India and abroad. We’ve always been fond of the German seriousness mixed with the roadster playfulness and the overall approach of the car. Not a lot of things in this world can evoke that guttural feeling of happiness. Not a lot of people even know that feeling but take the Z4 for a drive on some scenic routes and you’ll know exactly what we are on about. 

The new Z4 was a long time coming and it sure took its own time. It seems like a lot if you consider the fact that it has been in development (jointly with Toyota) since 2013! But then, the kind of brand that BMW is and the level at which they play, it is justifiable that they spent a good amount of time on a car that is supposed to carry forward the Z legacy. 

Coming to the visuals, the usual identifiers of the Z4s of the past have been the long snout, a short tail, sharp-ish headlamps, slightly rounded lines and, of course, the kidney grille. The latest Z4, especially the Z4 M40i, is perhaps the most significant overhaul of the design across all the prior generations. The Z4 of the today is more angular, more aggressive in both stance and design elements, and quite a bit more purposeful looking. 

The easiest change to spot is the kidney grille which instead of vertical bars from the past, uses a mesh design. There are sharp style lines everywhere, from the hood to the sides and all the way to the back. It is a much busier looking design which, since executed tastefully, works in expressing the aggression that the new Z4 supposedly flaunts. 

The highbrow headlight with beautiful DRLs complement the sporty front bumper very well and with the top down, the Z4 M40i looks the most like a supercar among its predecessors. The roof this time around is a retractable soft-top instead of a hardtop. And since it is black, it gels with the ‘Frozen Orange’ M40i that we got to drive. 

Having a retractable hardtop may have its own advantages, but none trumps a lower centre of gravity and less weight. Form and function come together and the only place where form seemed to have jumped off a cliff is at the rear. Yes, it retains the iconic Z silhouette but it could have been done a little differently. 

Personally, we really like how the design flows and more importantly, it has a lot of potential. In the past, BMW has used the Z4 as a base to make GT competition cars and a big-a** spoiler on the rear and a wide-body kit is the potential we’re talking about. It’ll probably be the sickest-looking Z competition car ever made! 

Moving on to the performance, because if cars only had to look good, they would probably stay in the concept stage and we’d see a new one every day. They have to go like that too. In the case of the Z4, we have the ‘basic’ sDrive variants and their ‘basicness’ shows as well. What we drove, the M40i is the cream in both looks and, of course, performance. 

Before we even start this bit we’ll have you know that the sDrive variants are roadsters, lookers, and have decent performance so if you want your roadster for flaunting, that’s the direction you head towards and save some money in the process. If you’re serious about driving… serious driving the M40i is what you want. The ‘M’ explains a lot but we’ll try our best as well. 

Let’s talk engine first. The BMW Z4 M40i is powered by a 3.0L twin-turbo inline 6. It is good for 500 Nm of torque which is very well spread between 1,600 rpm and 4,500 rpm where the peak is. The peak power, 340 bhp of it, arrives between 5,000-6,500 rpm. That is lofty for a car but anyway, the car can rev up to 7,000 rpm, a spot you’d like to visit very often because of the aural kick. And because you’re in a roadster, it is even better. 

The power and torque figure are ample for a car of this class and it shows in the real world. The Z4 M40i is capable of a lot of fun if you want it that way. BMW claims 0-100 km/h in 4.5s for this car. We neither contested that claim nor tested it. We just had fun. It accelerates briskly and the 8-Speed Steptronic Sport transmission is more than enough to keep the fun going. 

The way this engine has been tuned, it seems BMW tried to give you the best of both worlds where you get actual drivability because of the torque available from just 1,600 rpm and then some rev-bombing fun as high in the rev-range is where you find the proverbial ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’. 

Rear-wheel drive means that there’s a lot of power being transmitted to just one set of wheels so you may have to hold those horses back a hair so as to avoid seeing the tail of the car. It can be done voluntarily but we are not sure if we have the roads for that. At any rate, the engine is more than capable of delivering some tail-out fun in addition to actual, civil, leisurely driving. 

We’ve come across quite a few people who were not big fans of the multi-faceted engine and took the comparison straight to an M2. So, a somewhat similar engine (with generational differences probably) powers the M2 so you know that the engine is capable of producing power north of 400 horses. 

The M40i makes less but honestly, we’ve driven an M4 so we can tell you how focussed those cars are. The Z4 M40i is not a full-fledged M but is garnished with some M performance bits to just enhance the experience a little more. It is not a racetrack demon and it is not supposed to be. What you expect a vehicle to do and what it is meant to do may never coincide unless you try to understand and adapt. Once you do, the Z4 is nearly flawless. 

Onwards to handling then. We consider ourselves lucky in the sense that we got to drive the Z4 of the prior generation in the Alps and this one in the ghats of Maharashtra. Both are places where you can experience the engineering that goes into making these cars so much fun to drive. And the new Z4 is undoubtedly the better one. Simply put, it is down to the lighter weight and lower CoG because of the soft top and the M-Performance parts as well, of course! 

We found the steering of the Z4 to be pretty well sorted. It is quick and it is easy to point the front of the car wherever you want to go and the Z4 tracks the line of your choice effortlessly… well, almost. It is not all nervous and darty, it is simply responsive. 

We just wish it was a little more communicative but we are of the opinion that the electrification (not the powertrain) will keep chipping off at the organic driving experience. Personally, we’d take more safety over that any day but still, a car that looks this good and with an engine that good, one would want it to talk a little more.

The suspension system is where you fall in love with it. It firms up and eases down depending on the modes and the driving style and it works surprisingly well both ways. In flowing corners, it is taut and devoid of that shaky feeling and on bad roads, it is so supple that it is perplexing. Those who compared this car to the M2, show it some bad roads and you’ll know what you want. Brakes come from the M-performance bin and therefore, there is nothing more you could ask for. You ask and it stops. 

So the Z4 M40i is much better in terms of engine and dynamics when compared to the older Zs but even in general, this is a very enjoyable and a very approachable sports car. Accelerates well, sounds awesome, is composed during spirited rides and keeps you composed on less-than-ideal surfaces. There’s not a lot more you could ask for but BMW will give it to you regardless. 

What we mean by that is the loaded interior. Let’s start with the most obvious bit, the roof. With the top down, the wind management inside the cabin is surprisingly good and despite being ‘open’ to nature, you are fairly well cocooned. The innards are spacious as well. We feel that the Z4 M40i will be fairly accommodating for people up to 6-feet tall beyond which things may get a little stuffy. 

Predictably, with the roof down, things are even better inside the cabin and luxury car connoisseurs will not find a lot to complain about. We aren’t that and we prefer to keep the top down. Another good bit is that since it isn’t a hardtop, it does not eat into the boot space which is already pretty generous. The fabric roof folds into its own compartment and you have all of the 281 litres of the boot space to yourself. That private compartment for the roof is perhaps the reason for the slightly odd rear. 

Moving on, the rest of the cabin, from the dash to the seats are also typical BMW. What we particularly liked is that the whole cabin feels bespoke to the Z. It isn’t your typical parts bin salvage job. We are hard workers and we like hard work. And there’s a lot that has gone on in here. 

And finally, we have the iDrive system which is exactly the electrification we referred to earlier. A system with two screens (one for the instrument and one touchscreen for car controls) is what occupies the dash and it is beautiful to look at and intuitive to deal with. It may take a while though because the plethora of features it boasts of are not for impatient ones. Though a regular speedo and tacho with actual needles would have been more… full of feeling. We miss analogue stuff sometimes. 

And hey, let’s not forget the 12-speaker Harman Kardon speaker setup. If you aren’t driving it like a sports car and there’s no engine noise to giggle to, the sound system is enough for the best possible (with an open-top) experience of your favourite songs. We recommend Kurt Cobain singing the Nirvana song- The Man Who Sold The World… I searched for form and landFor years and years, I roamed… 

Anyway, so there you have it, folks. The lowdown of the Z4 M40i. But you know what, there’s something that we’d like to put out there. Many people have compared the Z4 to the M2 because of similar engines and whatnot without understanding the purpose of each car. The Z4 may not beat the M2 on the racetrack but take them both out for a leisurely drive in mixed conditions and let us know which one you enjoyed more. 

Another ‘very popular’ comparison is with the new Supra and why not, the platform is the same after all. Let us tell you this, the Supra was one of the spearheads of the Tuner culture or the Japanese sports car culture. And invariably, the new one also follows the same ethos and despite the shared platform, these are monumentally different cars in terms of the experience. Supra is a car that is more akin to its own culture ie Japan’s tuner culture and the Z4 more akin to its own European roots. You catch our drift… or should we say Tokyo Drift? In conclusion, a lot of people say that the Z4 is no Supra and we agree. But the Supra is no Z4 either and if even if you don’t concur, take a test ride you’ll know what we’re on about.

2020 BMW Z4
BMW Z4 M40i
Z4 M40i

Mahindra Thar: Is this the one that can stir a biker’s heart?

Being motorcyclists, we rarely veer towards cars. And the ones that we feel a certain way about are also supercars. But Mahindra Thar is a name that almost every petrolhead worth his salt has heard about. Naturally, that includes us as well. While we have been ‘aware’ of it, we did not pay much heed to it for the most part. That was until now… We recently got to drive the new 2020 Mahindra Thar and while it may be very difficult, we’ll try to sum up our feelings.

Before diving into the first drive experience, here’s a video of the Mahindra Thar with heartfelt words from a biker…

Sometimes it happens that a certain object brings about a halt in your journey, the destination of which you are so eager to reach. An object with a presence so utterly magnetic that you are willing to share with it a chunk of your time, every bit of which you hold so dear. In our case, it has happened both literally and figuratively. Literally in the thousands of kilometres that we have travelled, and figuratively as in the journey of xBhp? Well… right now.

xBhp is all about motorcycles but supercars have always caught our fancy and we have never missed a chance to experience one. But only supercars. The one we have with us is not a supercar in terms of the astronomical power figures and even higher bank balance figures they need. It is a supercar in spirit and that is simply because of the grandeur that it possesses. And the grandeur starts right from the name- Thar! 

Rarely has an indigenous vehicle carved a niche of its own and boasted of following which can be referred to as cult. Ruling the landscapes from treacherous terrains to urban jungles, it has left a mark on the market and the aftermarket as well. It has been a lifestyle icon for quite a while now and the modularity of the platform ensured that the buyers could project some of their own personality through the might of the Mahindra Thar.   

The Thar that we know and adore so much only came out in 2010 but it is much more deep-rooted than that. The spiritual predecessor of the Thar, the very first one, can be traced back to 1949. Mahindra’s first off-roader as they began producing the Willys CJ3A Jeep. And since then, Mahindra has never looked back as they became the premier SUV and off-roading car manufacturer in India with a presence globally pronounced. 

But during their rise to the top, Mahindra never forgot where they started from and kept building on the original Willys Jeep. All the iterations that came afterwards, were synonymous with strength and the ability to deal with tougher terrains than tarmac. There is a reason why it was a perennial law enforcement vehicle. The car itself was enough to enforce the law. Such was its mettle, that armoured versions of it are still in use in the Indian Army. 

But the very first commercial success for this line of cars from Mahindra came with the 1996 Classic. Right after the launch, it became an icon. A true macho car and a staple of Indian pop culture with pronounced and frequent appearances in music videos and in movies. Building on that very success, Mahindra introduced the Thar in 2010 amidst much fanfare. It did all that the Classic did for Mahindra… and then some. 

But time and tide wait for none and no one is immune to the adverse effects of ageing be it man or machine. The Thar was the most popular off-roader in the Indian market for a while but newer, hungrier contestants were already on the prowl. Fortunately, Mahindra did not wait too long to give it the much needed shot in the arm. And so, the prodigal son returns in the form of the 2020 Thar. 

Mahindra has done an amazing job with the new Thar by retaining the silhouette of the original but adding a modern touch to it. The car is wider, looks more poised, the edges have been softened just a little and the wheels… Those 18” wheels with exquisite design and all-terrain tyres scream the intent of the car out loud. 

Mahindra has built this car from the ground up, the design, the chassis, the grill, the engines, the gearboxes, the cabin, the instrumentation… everything is new. And kudos to Mahindra for still being able to salvage almost all of the things that made the previous Thar iconic.

About the colour that we have here, we have only this to say; A car does not choose ‘Red’, ‘Red’ chooses the car. While some may feel that the modern-ness has diluted some of the classic touches, we believe that the car still looks purposeful and deserving of that fabled off-roading capability! 

Step inside the car and it is not a Thar anymore and we mean that as a compliment. In the old Thar, the cabin possessed only bare-essentials and that too… barely. It was very salvation army but the new one… oh no no no. This is a proper car now. But some of it is also variant dependent. There are two, AX and LX. AX is more biased towards off-roading while the LX tries to give you the best of both worlds. 

The LX gets stuff like an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, LED DRLs, dual-tone bumpers, ESP… and even a tyre pressure monitoring system. In the LX, you have the choice of either a Petrol (Automatic), Diesel (Automatic), and Diesel (Manual) with options for either a soft-top or a hardtop. We have here, the more… Human… Thar. LX with a hardtop and a Diesel Manual. 

The driving fun that we have had in the new Thar is courtesy of the new all-aluminium block 2.2 mHawk engine. 132 bhp and 300 Nm are the official numbers but a brochure can never define a vehicle. The way the new Mahindra Thar drives is exceptional. The spread of torque is even throughout the rev range and the Thar pulls cleanly.

There are no spikes or drops, just clean linear-pull which does not fade till you hit the lofty rev-limit of 4,700 rpm. And it is uncharacteristically refined too for a diesel! Sorcery. The gearbox is not the quickest out there but that much torque tuned for fantastic delivery, you don’t need that.

And now, about the forte, there’s a 4×4 low-ratio transfer gearbox and you know what that is meant for. Serious mud-slinging and we cannot wait to try that. The tarmac is not its natural habitat and yet, it drinks its pride, and the disdain it has towards you for treating it this way and behaves. A truly civil-on-the-road Thar… it is a new day indeed. 

We are loving what we have been able to do with the car so far and we’ll continue having some more fun with it and bring to you more of the 2020 Mahindra Thar. And weirdly enough, even if we have a plethora of cars, and even supercars surrounding us, we may still look to the Thar for the pure, visceral, guttural fun and the dauntless character that it so proudly displays.

After all,  the Thar had a following because it had an attitude and that too in spades. The new one is overflowing with it! Probably that is why it comes with a removable drain plug for the cabin and a drizzle-resistant touchscreen… or maybe, it is for something more rugged and sinister. 

A biker’s car?- Sundeep Gajjar/MotoGrapher

I am a biker and you know, bikers are a little different. We’re a little eccentric and crazy. 

“Biking makes you one with the elements”- we have used this extensively to make fun of those who like cars. But it’s all good, they’re also our brethren, just with two extra wheels. So is there any car which can make me happy? 

Not supercars, I can’t burn a hole through my pocket.I don’t have the capacity to spend crores, and even if I did, I couldn’t possibly take them through mud, dirt and all kinds of terrains. But I don’t like commuter cars either.

I have the world’s fastest bike and I am on the lookout for a car that suits my personality. Something that can go wherever I want, something that can ‘wander at will’. Frankly, I’ve never liked any of the cars made till date, especially Indian made and neither had any car stirred me emotionally.  

There is nothing wrong with them, they’re technically perfect but they’ve all lacked a certain attitude, a character I wanted but could never find- dominating, majestic, tough and badass! A car which wouldn’t look out of place as I step out on the porch of a five-star hotel. A car which I can take out for a ride in the rain. It should look muscular, it should have that attitude. Do you understand what I’m getting at? 

I knew about Thar. I mean it’s next to impossible to be a petrolhead in India and to not know or to not have seen a Thar in real life. It had become a cult, a lifestyle. A lot of my friends, with big cars and big money, also had it. People say that the 4×4 off-roading world is entirely different. I am very far removed from that universe; my world has supercars, superbikes, and gadgets. 

However, Thar is the kind of car that inspires the same admiration from a BMW or Audi owner as from people in the rural areas of India. It is perhaps the only car which bridges the gap between the rich-urban, the middle class and the rural villages and this is a very incredible thing. It isn’t something which can be planned, it’s something that happens on its own and can often take years. 

15th August 2020. I was lost in my own world of fast bikes and supercars. Then, Mahindra dropped a bomb. Thar had only been in my peripheral vision and suddenly, the new Thar became this incredible object of desire. I tell you, it just blew my mind! I’ve never felt a desire to own a car like this except the Lamborghini Aventador or the BMW X6 M. 

But this is within my reach, without breaking the bank, and this car will elevate and complement my personality. Slow clap for Mahindra- you took a cult classic and made it even more beautiful and desirable for the urban millennials.

150 bhp, insane torque, automatic air-conditioning, a big touch screen- it has all the creature comforts. And what can I say about the looks! In the 3 days, half the population on the road went crazy just looking at the car- something that doesn’t happen even with an expensive luxury car. 

Perhaps, it’s because this car is approachable and the person inside, who is driving the car, is deemed to have a certain pleasing, no-nonsense personality that embraces the free independent spirit of the Thar itself. 

It has a tremendous presence on the urban roads, especially the hardtop, and when you take it to the villages, it seems like everyone is your friend. Even the cows and buffaloes feel close to it. In villages across India, people have been enjoying the Thar experience for years. 

So, if you want a technical review, you can find many others. I can only show you its beauty through pictures and tell you how I feel about it as a biker. It goes fast and the ride can feel bumpy but most importantly, it appeals to the biker in me. I swear, there’s no car like this in India. 

If you have 30 lakhs to spare, buy one superbike and then, Thar… The world will be at your feet.

2020 Mahindra Thar
2020 Thar
Mahindra Thar