BMW’s naming convention went all wonky (even wonkier, perhaps?) after 2010, as they moved away from the previous ‘iX’ moniker to the new ‘xDrive’ nameplate. To make normal models seem equally special, or perhaps to keep German badge makers employed, they then introduced a new model option – ‘sDrive’. While you might at first think this stands for ‘sport’, you’d be wrong. In fact, the ‘sDrive’ is like Audi’s ‘FrontTrak’ – a fancy name for a two-wheel drive model. Does that automatically mean rear-drive? No. You can, for example, get a brand new 2020 BMW X1 sDrive, which means front-wheel drive, but ostensibly the name is associated with the rear-drive-only Z4 roadster, as we see here.
The revised E89 Z4 launched in 2009, and gone were two things – the M variant, and the coupe, which was replaced by a folding hardtop design. Europe got a plethora of engine choices, but in America we got two, essentially shared with the E8x series – the sDrive3.0i and the sDrive3.5i. As with the E8x and E9x series, the “3.5” wasn’t actually a 3.5, but the twin-turbocharged N54 under the hood. Unlike both of those other models, though, the N54 was not replaced with the N55 single-turbo motor after 2010. Instead, the N54 soldiered on. Also unlike the E8x and e9x models, while there was a ‘is’ model launched that turned up the twist to 1M levels of power, in the Z4 that engine choice could only be had with a seven-speed DCT gearbox. That means that this car was the most potent form of the E89 you could get at the time with a manual transmission: