Manual lovers rejoice! BMW has launched a new version of the Z4 roadster with a manual gearbox, and its heading for the UK market. And it seems like BMW really wants to appeal to the British audience, as the aptly titled ‘Handschalter Pack' (Handschalter literally meaning manual switch) features Frozen Deep Green metallic paint (lifted off the M5 CS) with a ‘cognac’ interior. To our eyes, it looks absolutely fantastic.
That is not all however, as the German giant has reconfigured the front and rear springs and dampers on the car to make the car more dialled in and giving it a more sporting handling balance. BMW has also adjusted the steering mapping for sharper responses to sway the enthusiasts. The new package also gets auxiliary springs all around to make it more precise in the corners, plus staggered 19-inch alloys at the front and 20-inch at the rear. BMW has truly pulled out all the stops to make this the most driver-focused Z4 we have ever seen, with its differential and traction control systems also being tweaked to improve traction between the tarmac and the wheels. Could this finally be a true successor to the Z4 M Roadster we've waited so long to see?
Maybe not quite as the celebrated B58 3 litre, as the turbocharged straight-six engine is unchanged, producing the same 335 bhp and 369 lb of torque as the regular Z4 M40i. But what's impressive is the manual is quoted as being a mere 0.1 seconds slower than the automatic in the 0-62 mph sprint, at 4.6 seconds. The top speed, as ever, remains limited to 155 mph.
Beyond the performance and promise of this new Z4, we're excited because it represents a return to BMWs key values; rear-wheel drive powered by a sonorous, silken straight-six mated to a manual transmission. This is the first time the Z4 has been offered with a manual gearbox since 2019, which will no doubt fan the flames of the constant comparison drawn between the Z4 and the MK5 GR Supra, which received a manual gearbox in 2022.
BMW however, is adamant the gearbox does not use the same architecture as the Toyota’s - which might not be an entirely good thing, given how sweet the Toyota's gearbox is as we found out in our review in Rush XP1, and the Bavarian firms less than stellar reputation for manual gearboxes. Nevertheless, the move gives long-term BMW fans the hope they have not been forgotten about as the brand pursues repositioning itself as a technology and "mobility solutions" leader. If BMW builds the Concept Gran Turismo at an affordable price, maybe all will be forgiven...
BMW states the Handschalter Pack is in response to customer feedback. It seems like there is a trend of manufacturers paying more attention to what consumers want, and it is certainly being greeted with positivity by us. Perhaps Toyota has been influencing BMW in all the right ways by re-introducing manual options in this automotive market sector that everyone thought was doomed with only generic automatics and EV options.
The Z4 now accompanies the M2 as the only two 2-door manual BMWs on sale in the UK today. Only time will tell how long these two promising enthusiast cars stay on the market, and like the optional manual gearbox on the M2, there is a price to pay for that quintessential British green over tan interior choice, as the Z4 M40i Handschalter Pack will be priced from £60,675. UK deliveries are set to commence from Spring, with production beginning in March 2024.