The BMW Z4 M40i is a bit of a hidden gem in BMW’s lineup. It’s all but forgotten at this point, with sales in the triple digits annually and nary a peep about it from automotive publications. Despite its obscurity, though, the Z4 M40i is actually a great car to drive. Is it as good as a Porsche Boxster? No but it’s different. It has a unique flavor, one that is fantastic in its own right. So the news that it will likely be getting the same six-speed manual transmission as the Toyota Supra is music to my ears.
As you likely already know, the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are mechanically almost identical. The main differences between the two cars are their bodies and interiors. So when Toyota announced it’d be putting a manual in both Supra models in North America, it suddenly made sense for BMW to do the same when it comes time to give the Z4 an LCI facelift. From what we’ve heard, just the addition of a six-speed manual turned the Supra from a good sports car to a great one. If it can work similar wonders for the Z4 M40i, BMW’s plucky little roadster will immediately become one of its best sports cars.
If I’m being honest, the Z4 M40i is better to drive than any non-M BMW. It’s far more fun than the M440i, M340i, and even the M240i. It’s all in the chassis, too. Rather than being built on the same modular CLAR architecture as ever other rear-wheel drive BMW, the Z4 uses a bespoke sports car chassis, designed from the ground up to be a lightweight, rigid, two-seat roadster. And you can tell. It feels far better connected to both the road and its driver than any other BMW product on sale. Sure, it’s steering is numb but it’s precise, its B58 engine has more power than its lightweight chassis needs, and its convertible top lets all the sensations of driving into your brain.
A six-speed manual to replace the Z4 M40i’s eight-speed auto will only add another level of driver engagement to an already criminally underrated sports car. At the moment, there’s no official word that a manual is coming but we’re confident it will. If and when it does, the BMW Z4 M40i manual will be the best non-M car in the brand’s lineup, potentially better than even many M cars, and almost certainly the last manual roadster in BMW’s history. I cannot wait to drive it.