This is not the next BMW Z4.
But it’s very likely an accurate portrayal of what the production version of BMW’s third-generation Z4 (and successor to the Z3) will look like when it goes on sale next year.
Love it or hate it, the BMW Roadster Concept that BMW will officially unveil in Pebble Beach later today is an eye-catching followup to the departing Z4 that appeared eight years ago. Now we wait to see whether the next Z4, which shares its underpinnings with the reborn Toyota Supra, will attract any buyers.
U.S. sales of the Z4 plunged by more than 90Â percent between 2003 and 2015.Â
Attracting droptop customers is an increasingly difficult task for all automakers â€” BMW isn’t alone in that aspect. Outgoing BMW sales boss Ian Robertson famously questioned whether the sports car market would ever revive following the depths of 2009’s recession.
In the U.S., specifically, BMW averaged more than 13,000 annual Z4 sales in the five years prior to the recession but thenÂ sold only 10,398 total Z4s between 2012 and 2016.
At the lower end of the sports car market, the launch of a new Mazda MX-5 Miata resulted in 16,897 U.S. sales in 2006. Another new Miata produced only 9,465 U.S. sales in 2016.
Closer to the Z4’s realm, Porsche sold 41-percent fewer Boxsters in 2016 than in 2006. Mercedes-Benz SLK/SLC sales plunged by two-thirds during the same interval. Audi TT sales rose to a seven-year high of 3,044 units in the U.S. last year, but that represented a 68-percent drop from 2002.
Over-the-top design might be just what’s required for the 2019 BMW Z4 to capture the minds of remaining sports car buyers. BMW’s kidney grilles are stretched wide. Massive intakes below the headlights appear fit for swallowing small mammals. The upswept character line along the doors familiar to Z4 observers is emphasized. The outlets aft of the front wheels are far larger. Horizontal taillights slide under aÂ wing incorporated into the trunklid. Double buttresses behind the headrests add interest to the otherwise flat rear deck.The concept cues are obvious. OutsizedÂ wheels fill the wheelarches to the brim. The side mirrors are unrealistic. The windshield surround is delightfully slim. The paint job appears more costly than your entire car.
But the Roadster Concept Â does a fair job of carrying the Z4 torch while clearly distinguishing itself from past Z4s.
It might not matter. The market has forsaken the BMW Z4.
Fortunately, because of a partnership with Toyota that will help both automakers allay cost concerns, the BMW Z4 has not forsaken the market.
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.