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2011 BMW Z4

This BMW Z4 roadster comes loaded to the gills with BMW’s performance technology, all surprisingly standard for a company that charges extra for every little convenience feature. But the Z4 sDrive35is also makes a few compromises for comfort that undercut its sporting nature.

The Z4 is a good-looking little roadster, and we noted a lot of attention from bystanders. Its retractable hard top is a best-of-both-worlds solution, offering the security and weather protection of a hard top plus the fun of open-top driving. The top folds into the trunk with Transformers-like mutability.

The retractable top doesn’t come without consequences, however. First of all, when folded away into the trunk there is very little storage space left, and what there is can be explored only with the type of robotic equipment being used on BP’s Gulf oil gusher.

And although BMW takes its sports car dynamics very seriously, the retractable top throws off the car’s balance one way or another. If BMW engineered the car for a 50/50 weight distribution with the top up, the front will be light with the top down, and vice versa. A soft top would have had less impact on the car’s weight distribution.

BMW compensates for the weight change with its dynamic suspension, an option on just about every other BMW car, including the M models, but standard in the Z4 sDrive35is. When set to Sport or Sport Plus, the suspension lowers by almost half an inch. This suspension uses sensor input to adjust each of its dampers independently, making them softer or more rigid depending on the road and what the driver is asking of it.

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