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Masculine New 2010 BMW Z4 Designed By Ladies Team


By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

BENIDORM, March 20, A first glance at the new BMW Z4 immediately shows that this is not a ‘Barbie car’. So you might be surprised to know that two young ladies designed the in- and exterior. Up till now, women are mainly involved in interior design of new models, but so far only one female exterior designer saw her work go into production. This time however, the complete car was designed by women.

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Anders Warming, head of exterior design BMW Automobiles said: “It’s really unique in the industry: the first time women designed a complete car. And then, a roadster. For a designer that is the ultimate chance.”

The project for the new Z4 started with a character workshop for a large group of desinger and, as usual, continued with an the internal design competition among BMW’s stylists in Munich and California.

In the meantime, exterior designer Juliane Blasi(31), who started in 2003 as an intern in Munich and later got employed, had entered the competition and was sent to Designworks USA, BMW’s design studio in California.

It was the intention that she would get experience in working together with an interior designer. So far, exterior and interior designers only got together in a later stage, after the exterior had been designated.

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Juliane was teamed up with Nadya Arnaout (36), who works for DesignworksUSA since 2002 had done did several projects for the studio’s non automotive clients. She penned a cockpit for the new roadster. Both ladies worked closely together but could never have guessed what would be the result of the ‘test case’.

“When several final design propositions were presented to the board, the members did not know whose they were,” says Warming and we will have to believe him. “So it was pure coincidence both designs were choosen.”

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Of course, both women are very proed that their efforts of matching their in- and exterior styling ideas was so successful that it resulted in the new Z4. The coupe convertible made its world premiere at the Noth American Auto Show in Detroit in January, where Nadya and Juliane were still a bit inconvenient with the publicity.

But now, during the driving event for the media in Spain, they show not only joy, but much confidence when taking the stage and explaining the styling details of ‘their’ car.

The Z4, that was the first car design Juliane Blasi ever did, has the looks of a masculine roadster with a low and wide front, a wide air intake, the typical BMW kidney grille and dual corona rings in the bi-xenon headlights. Led lights are used for the direction indicators and in the rear lights. The classic touch comes from the V-shaped lines running from the emblem across the long hood and all the way along the roof on the deck lid.

“The design is a combination of sharp lines and creases,” says Juliane. And almost apologetic: “But there are also soft surfaces. The biggest challenge, however, was how to put te roof in the trunk.”

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That mission succeeded, with the new roadster’s aluminium roof retracting automatically and disappearing in some 20 seconds, even leaving a lot of luggage space in the trunk. With 10.9 cubic feet (310 liters) this represents a huge improvement compared to the current Z4 that had 6.3 cu.ft (180 liters), while the maximum load has been increased by 66 lbs(30 kg) to 728 lbs (330 kg).

It speaks for itself that there is a safety cover so that you cannot stow too much luggage when the roof is closed and forget about it during opening the top. With the optional through-loading feature, it is possible to take two golf bags and enjoy open air driving.

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In the cockpit, Nadya Arnaout made sure to provide a comfortable atmosphere. What you notice first, is the light and sophisticated atmosphere, that not in the last place provided by the light material used for the lining of the hard top. But also of influence are the extra inches that mark size inside and out of the new Z4. The roadster is 166.9 “ (4.24 meters) long, 70.5 “ (1.79 m) wide and 50.8” (1.29 m) high, while the wheelbase measures 98.3” or 2.50 m. The interior offers 0.79” (43 mm) more elbow space

Thanks to the higher roof line + .20” or 50 mm all people fit in well, without looking like sticking out with the top down. It also provides easier access in combination with larger door openings (increased by 1.02” or 26 mm).

In the cockpit, all-around visibility is 14 percent larger than before with larger side windows and a better see through are in the rear window. During our first test drives we never had the feeling of our view being blocked, neither when backing up.

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Another advantage of the new design is that the wind shield is not too much raked and hanging over the cockpit, so that when getting in you have to watch your eyes being hurt on the pointy connection of the A-pillar and the roof bar.

The dashboard and the asymmetrical center console are driver oriented, while the instrument panel shows some design details of the Z8.

Nadya: “The interior now ‘embraces’ you by the design of the dashboard continuing in the door panels.”

She is right. When you step behind the wheel, you feel immediately at home. The elegant and well executed cockpit had a lot of room, but wraps around you. With the top up, the light lining of the aluminum roof enhances the space. Behind the steering wheel it is easy to find the ideal seating position in a couple of seconds. Ready for some serious driving time through the mountains along the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

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Again, Heinz Krusche has done an outstanding job in fine tuning the chassis of our Z4 sDrive 35i. This model has the 3.0-liter twin-turbo engine with 300 hp and is a pure joy to drive. The engine responds instantly to orders of my right foot and if I push the buttons in the center console to switch from Comfort, to Sport, to Sport+, I can feel the engine being more eager by every step of the setting. Those are part of the optional Adaptive M Suspension that lowers the car with 0.4 inch and features electronically adjustable dampers.

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But I should not forget to mention that the engine was teamed to the new 7-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission, that can be shifted manually through the paddles on the steering wheel. This shifts gears while you hardly notice any interruption of power. This top version is in one word: top. Starting my test drive in Comfort mode and Drive, I could not only enjoy driving, but also enjoy the looks of nature and the small villages. In Sport the Z4 feels more firm, not only the suspension, but also when steering. You can enjoy going fast and feel the back come out a little bit, before the ESP interferes. In Sport+ there is more room to play: “Hey, I can do it myself… Let me decide myself how much I want to play!”

The car reacts very fast and gentle to any unforeseen reaction mid-bend. That happens when you ‘cut’ the corner a little bit and suddenly there is a car coming on. It’s a very safe feeling to be able to get out of the way so quick and so nicely. In Sport+ gearshift is faster and acceleration is more powerful. BMW says in this set up acceleration to 60 mph takes only 5.0 seconds…. BMW expects fuel consumption to be the same as of the manual gearbox. Figures have not been announced yet.

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I could drive endlessly long distances topless, or with the top up. I could also continue with praise for the engineers who worked on the development of the engine, chassis, body, drivetrain, electronics and all parts involved in the technology of the new Roadster. But I should not forget to congratulate the two designers on an excellent styling job.

The masculine package is a perfect match for the sporty character of the new Z4. Prices begin with $ 46,575 for the 30i and $ 52,475 for the 35i (including $ 825 destination) . Both versions of the new BMW Z4 are standard with 17-inch light-alloy wheels with runflat tires and a tire pressure monitor. The sport suspension is part of the Sport package that includes sport seats and 19-inch wheels on the 35i and 18-inch wheels on the 30i. On May 9, the new Z4 will arrive at the dealerships worldwide.

Click PLAY to watch The Auto Channel's RoadTrip in-depth look at the new Z4

HHR March 2009