The grille itself is initially quite confronting, though Luk believes its subtleties will help the Z4 age better than its predecessor. “The Z8 is more of a retro idea and we went for a mesh in the grille [in place of the vertical slats] because it’s more contemporary. There is still the verticality of the kidney bars that we show, but it’s subdivided now. It’s also mimicking the Mille Miglia car. Get closer to it and they [the individual components in the grille] are like mini aeroplanes in the sculpting.”
There are other tricks up front, too. Though the car is still [like all cars today] cursed by the little circles of the parking sensors, the radar has been hidden, to the point where you can’t find it even if you’re looking for it.
“The radar does not stand out. It’s integrated into the design of the air intakes for the brakes on the M Sport model,” Luk said.
“It is a duct for the brakes and air curtains on the side, like all BMWs, so you can’t see it. Those parking distance control circles: they all work with specific angles so we can’t change them. The engineers dictate where they go for optimal coverage. Every designer hates them.”
There is something strong and cohesive about the Z4’s side view, but it doesn’t immediately hit you until Luk explains it.
“There is one key line on the car from the side. It runs from the bottom of the clamshell bonnet at the [front] wheel all the way along the side and into the taillights,” he said.
“It’s extremely three-dimensional. With that one line we can play a lot with variations in the surface. It’s facing down from the wheel before and it starts twisting, so the shadow goes away and it turns into the shoulder line. From the back it’s easy to see how the line twists and flips into the muscle of the rear wheel arch.”
There’s a light catcher along the door sills to ground the car’s visual look and the M40i scores a little extra notch in its air breather that will separate it from lesser Z4s. The car runs a lot of sculpting over the rear wheels, primarily to add to its muscle and to visually enlarge the rear wheels.
“We always try playing the lines pretty close to the wheels to make the wheels bigger optically,” Luk said.
“That’s how we play to the proportions of the car. That’s always the start of it. How much fender muscle do we want and how we squeeze it? It seems to work with the X cars better but with a sports car we want to squeeze it down a bit. The muscle above the rear wheel is to get the mass to look lower.”
Luk was given more scope to fiddle with the BMW design legacy at the rear end, where he’s turned the L-shaped tail lights into something more three-dimensional than usual.