Climbing into the southern extremes of the Swiss Alps, I muscle the ancient roadster into a corner, well aware of the way its skinny tires have begun to slide on the wet pavement. The guardrails are few, even though the drop-offs are becoming increasingly steep. As I steadily climb higher, the rain morphs into snow, the wind whipping it in through the open cockpit.
Spend a few hours behind the wheel of an antique BMW 315 and you understand the classic definition of roadster. Fun, absolutely, but it’s also primitive, cramped even dangerous when road conditions are less than perfect. So it’s not hard to understand why I jumped at the opportunity to swap out for the car my traveling companion had chosen for the day, a 2009 BMW Z4.
The name may be familiar, but the ’09 roadster is a very different beast from the one you might already know. It is, for one thing, the first complete makeover of the Z4 since 2002. Among other things, the Bavarian maker has opted, this time, for a foldaway hardtop, rather than the canvas roof that the old Z4 shared with BMW roadsters dating back to my pre-War 315.