2020 BMW Z4 vs. 2019 Alfa Romeo 4C

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Z4’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The 4C doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The Z4 has standard City Collision Mitigation, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The 4C doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

The Z4 has standard Post-Crash Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The 4C doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

The Z4’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The 4C doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Z4 offers optional Park Distance Control to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or in front of their vehicle. The 4C doesn’t offer a front parking aid.

The Z4’s optional blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them. The 4C doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

To help make backing safer, the Z4’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 4C doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Z4’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The 4C doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

The Z4 has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The 4C doesn’t offer a GPS response system, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Z4 and the 4C have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

The BMW Z4 weighs 800 to 970 pounds more than the Alfa Romeo 4C. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

Warranty

The Z4’s corrosion warranty is 8 years longer than the 4C’s (12 vs. 4 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the Z4 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Alfa Romeo only pays for the first scheduled maintenance visit on the 4C.

There are almost 2 times as many BMW dealers as there are Alfa Romeo dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Z4’s warranty.

Reliability

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Z4’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the 4C’s camshafts. If the 4C’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Z4 has a standard 800-amp battery (900 M40i). The 4C’s 500-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Alfa Romeo vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 20th in initial quality. With 16 more problems per 100 vehicles, Alfa Romeo is ranked 29th.

Engine

The Z4 sDrive30i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. produces 18 more horsepower (255 vs. 237) and 37 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 258) than the 4C’s 1.8 turbo 4-cyl. The Z4 M40i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cyl. produces 145 more horsepower (382 vs. 237) and 110 lbs.-ft. more torque (368 vs. 258) than the 4C’s 1.8 turbo 4-cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

Regenerative brakes improve the Z4’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The 4C doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

The Z4 has 3.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the 4C (13.7 vs. 10.5 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the BMW Z4 higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Alfa Romeo 4C (1). This means the Z4 produces up to 47 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the 4C every 15,000 miles.

Transmission

An eight-speed automatic is standard on the BMW Z4, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the 4C.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Z4’s brake rotors are larger than those on the 4C:

Z4 sDrive30i

Z4 M40i

4C

Front Rotors

13 inches

13.7 inches

12 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

13.6 inches

11.5 inches

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Z4 has larger standard tires than the 4C (F:225/45R18 & R:255/40R18 vs. F:205/45R17 & R:235/40R18). The Z4’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 4C (F:255/35R19 & R:275/35R19 vs. F:205/45R17 & R:235/40R18).

The Z4’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 4C’s optional 40 series front tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Z4 has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch front wheels are standard on the 4C. The Z4’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch front wheels and 19-inch rear wheels optional on the 4C.

Suspension and Handling

The Z4 offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The 4C’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The Z4 has standard power steering to make quick and controllable low speed maneuvers easy. The 4C doesn’t offer power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Z4’s wheelbase is 3.5 inches longer than on the 4C (97.2 inches vs. 93.7 inches).

The Z4’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (49.9% to 50.1%) than the 4C’s (41% to 59%). This gives the Z4 more stable handling and braking.

For better maneuverability, the Z4’s turning circle is 4.5 feet tighter than the 4C’s (36 feet vs. 40.5 feet).

Passenger Space

The Z4 has .9 inches more front headroom and 4.5 inches more front shoulder room than the 4C.

Cargo Capacity

The Z4 has a much larger trunk than the 4C Spider (9.9 vs. 3.7 cubic feet).

With its convertible body style, valet key and remote trunk release lockout, the Z4 offers cargo security. The 4C’s non-lockable remote release defeats cargo security.

Servicing Ease

The Z4 uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The 4C uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The engine in the Z4 is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the 4C. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The Z4 offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 4C doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

When two different drivers share the Z4, the memory system makes it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver and front passenger’s seat positions, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The 4C doesn’t offer a memory system.

The Z4 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The 4C doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The Z4’s front power windows open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The 4C’s power windows’ switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully.

The Z4’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 4C’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

If the windows are left open on the Z4 the driver can close them all from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can also lower the windows the same way. The driver of the 4C can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Comfort Go standard on the Z4 allows you to start the engine without removing a key from pocket or purse. The Alfa Romeo 4C doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The Z4’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The 4C’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

The Z4 has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The 4C doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Z4 detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The 4C doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Z4 offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The 4C doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The Z4’s sun-visors swivel front-to-side to block glare from the side windows. The 4C’s visors are fixed into the windshield header.

The Z4’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 4C’s power mirror controls are on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

When the Z4 is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The 4C’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Z4’s standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The 4C doesn’t offer the luxury of automatic dimming mirrors.

The Z4 offers optional heated front seats, which keep the driver and front passenger extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated seats aren’t available in the 4C.

On extremely cold winter days, the Z4’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The 4C doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Z4’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The 4C doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

The Z4’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The 4C doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

A built-in pollen filter removes pollen, exhaust fumes and other pollutants from the Z4’s passenger compartment. This helps prevent lung and/or sinus irritation, which can trigger allergies or asthma. The 4C doesn’t offer a filtration system.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Z4 offers an optional Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The 4C doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

To help keep the driver’s hands on the wheel, the Z4 has standard steering wheel controls for the radio. The 4C doesn’t offer steering wheel audio controls.

To direct the driver from any location to a given street address, a GPS navigation system is standard on the Z4. The Z4’s navigation system also has a real-time traffic update feature that offers alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The 4C doesn’t offer a navigation system.

With standard voice command, the Z4 offers the driver hands free control of the radio, climate controls and the navigation computer by simply speaking. The 4C doesn’t offer a voice control system.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the BMW Z4 offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The 4C doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

The Z4’s optional Parking Assistant can parallel park by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The 4C doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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