Could this be third time lucky for the BMW Z4? The first generation 'E85' never quite delivered on the sports car promise, and its 'E89' successor was neither cruiser nor corner crusader. This third generation car, carrying the 'G29' tag and of course developed in conjunction with Toyota, aims to send BMW to the top of the sports car class - beating Porsche along the way.
PH has already driven a camouflaged, prototype Z4, describing it as "a welcome return to form no less", but this is our first chance to have a proper peruse of the finished production car. Of course we're not actually meant to, these photos having leaked from a Belgian website and then surfacing on Jalopnik, but this is hardly the first time a car has been seen ahead of schedule. It won't be the last, either...
What's clear is that this production version sticks reasonably close to the concept car revealed last year, albeit stopping short of what would have been a jaw dropping copy and paste. Truthfully, the Z4 sticks to the traditional roadster silhouette, all long nose and truncated tail, but - from here at least - without anywhere near the drama of the concept or the tautness of something like an MX-5, smaller car though it is.
It would be safe to assume we're looking at the 335hp M40i (see the blue calipers, and M240i-style wheels), which will be the fastest, most aggressive Z4 at launch. Expect the four-cylinder Z30i to come as standard with smaller wheels and slightly less sporting intent in its body addenda.
Perhaps it's the lighting; perhaps it's the colour; perhaps it's the weight of expectation, but there's no escaping the fact this Z4, for the moment at least, looks a little underwhelming. Fingers crossed for a more positive impression when the car is fully revealed (and we're all allowed to see it) at Pebble Beach.