BMW’s Next-Gen Roadster Will Not Be Called the Z5


BMW and Toyota are jointly producing a new sports car, but contrary to popular belief, the BMW model will not be called the Z5.

Details about the sports cars are as scarce as honest politicians, which is why internet speculation about these two models has been rampant for years. Automotive journalists (including us) have been reporting that these cars would be called Z5 and Supra, respectively. But that is dead wrong, at least for the Bavarian half of this partnership.

“There’s no such thing,” said BMW Americas boss Ludwig Willisch during an interview with If anyone’s familiar with the top-secret sports car project, it’s him.

Tempering any fears that this highly anticipated duet of vehicles has been canceled, he clarified, “There will be a sports car, yes, but it’s not going to be a Z5. That’s something that someone else has made up.”

When pressed for details Willisch said, “It will be called Z… probably 4.” Of course, the last roadster BMW built carried the same name, but the Z4 unceremoniously went out of production around the middle of 2016.

During its multi-year production run, this roadster offered a range of engines including a base turbocharged four-cylinder as well as an upmarket inline-six that also benefited from exhaust-driven forced induction.

Is a straight-six going to find its way under the hood of BMW’s upcoming “Z probably 4”? Willisch said, “I would call it a Z4 [and] that’s no indication of the number of cylinders.” That sounds like a confirmation that an inline six will at least be on the menu for this upcoming machine.

As for hybridization or all-wheel drive, things are a bit murkier. Willisch noted a partially electrified drivetrain might benefit a modern sports car, but he said, “not so much,” for the availability of four-corner traction. Hybridization is Toyota’s area of expertise. One element of their corporate tie-up is they share electric secrets with BMW while the Munich-based firm delivers diesel engines to them.

Another element of the next-generation Z4 that’s also unclear is whether a manual gearbox will be available. BMW may offer more standard transmissions than anyone else, but the future of driving with three pedals is murky.

Even for the brand that prides itself on building Ultimate Driving Machines, the take rate for manuals in America is, at best, in the single digits. “Even a lot of people say… ‘That’s great, you still have them,’” said Willisch. “But you ask them, ‘What do you drive?’ (and they say) ‘Well, I have an automatic.” Not even BMW is immune to market forces; they can’t send out loads of cars equipped with manual transmissions that will sit on dealer lots for months on end. “If the customers don’t want it, we don’t have to offer it,” said Willisch, which is a painful truth. We sincerely hope plenty of drivers will want to row their own gears in the upcoming “Z probably 4.”