Overview & Reviews
The BMW Z3 knew how to make an entrance. It claimed the gun-barrel-shaped spotlight along with Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond flick GoldenEye shortly before its introduction for model-year 1996. This celebrity-like intro, combined with the fact that the car was BMW's first modern mass-market roadster, gave the Z3 instant popularity. Neiman Marcus' 1995 Christmas catalog showcased the luscious sports car as the perfect Christmas gift, and it launched a sales stampede that resulted in sold-out Z3 numbers for BMW before the first model even hit showroom floors.
The Z3's romance with the public proved to be long-lasting. Although riding on an antiquated semi-trailing-arm rear suspension from the E30 3 Series, the BMW Z3 was nevertheless a stylish, fun roadster that re-energized the affordable sports car market. Initially offered with only a 1.9-liter 138-horsepower inline-4 engine, a 2.8-liter inline-6 making 190 hp became available in 1997. (They could be differentiated by wider rear fenders.) It was the straight-6 engine, with its flawlessly smooth power delivery and distinctive sound, that really made the Z3 come alive. Handling was impeccable. The Z3's ride was taut enough to satisfy enthusiasts, yet agreeable enough to make it a pleasant daily driver. And from a buying and owning perspective, the Z3 neatly straddled the line between entry-level roadsters like the Miata and more out-of-reach models like the 911.
Still, the BMW Z3 had its shortcomings. Some interior materials were subpar and its cabin could seem confining for larger occupants because of the big, non-telescoping steering wheel and oversize rearview mirror. Convertible models were also saddled with a chintzy plastic rear window that sullied the car's luxury image by clouding over time. Finally, the coupe's styling was highly polarizing.
But these imperfections are pretty minor. As a used sports car, its more reasonable prices place it within reach of those who may not have been able to afford its lofty pleasures had they attempted to purchase it years ago as a new vehicle. If you're in the market for a stunning used coupe or convertible that handles even better than it looks, you owe it to yourself to investigate this talented Bimmer.
Most Recent BMW Z3
As one of the first vehicles to roll out from BMW's Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant, the Z3 was built from 1996-2002. In its first year on the market, the Z3 came in just one flavor: a base-model convertible powered by a 1.9-liter inline-4 good for 138 hp. Standard features included an AM/FM/cassette player and cruise control. A five-speed manual transmission was also standard, but those seeking a somewhat less interactive driving experience could choose a four-speed automatic. Leather seats and traction control were available options. The following year is when the Z3 truly blossomed, thanks to the addition of another trim, the 2.8. As its name implies, this trim was powered by a 2.8-liter inline-6 the same lauded 190-hp six-cylinder that powered 3 Series models of the era. The Z3 also got a luxury upgrade, with the addition of a CD changer and heated seats to its options list.
With the 1998 model, this BMW became more readily adaptable to inclement weather, thanks to the introduction of an optional power convertible top. In 1999, the Z3 coupe arrived. Equipped with the 2.8-liter engine only, its hatchback design added extra body stiffness and versatility, but its strange tail drew guffaws of disgust and befuddlement amongst those who felt it was smearing the beautiful Z3. That year, the 1.9-liter four-cylinder bowed out in favor of a new 170-hp inline-6. Despite the 2.5-liter displacement, the model was strangely called a Z3 2.3 for 1999 and 2000. A Harman Kardon stereo became available, and a hardtop roof joined the options list on convertible models. Safety was enhanced with the addition of side airbags to the standard features list of all Z3 sports cars.
Minor exterior and interior refreshes were in store for the BMW Z3 coupe and convertible in 2000, and stability control joined the standard features list. For 2001, the 2.8 trim in both the coupe and convertible became the 3.0i, with the introduction of a 3.0-liter engine good for 225 hp and 214 pound-feet of torque. The logically rechristened 2.5i saw a power increase of 14 horses. Also, the Z3's optional four-speed automatic transmission was replaced with a five-speed automatic with manual shifting capability. For 2002, its final year on the market, the BMW Z3 added a CD player to its standard features list.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 224.00
Such a delight - 2001 BMW Z3
By gordon sheriff - May 7 - 12:44 am
You dont really step into your car but fall in (6ft 4). When I pull up to the lights I wonder what the weather is like up there with my fellow motorists? The interior wraps around you and its the driving experience most cars dont offer. The manual auto is driving heaven. The 2.2 is brilliant on the flat but dream about what the 2.8 might do and goodness that 3.2 well. I dont believe the z4s would interest me but thats a personal choice.
My first roadster, my first manual - 2001 BMW Z3
By Alexander Roe - October 10 - 10:51 am
I picked up my z3 some 5 months ago from a local Chevrolet dealership. The shop had to fix a rear main seal leak and would pass the cost along to me rather than selling the car at auction. The total loan was around 11k which is very steep, but what I had in front of me was an 01 2.5i with less than 70,000 miles. I couldnt help myself. A friend showed me the ropes as far as driving a manual transmission after inspecting it to make sure the clutch was in good repair. Now that Im fully accustomed to the transmission, I use this car as my every day commuter vehicle. Let me just say that the best part of going to and getting off of work is the drive to and from my home. Devilishly sexy, the car also has a smooth, but quick acceleration. Perhaps the most important aspect, though, is the handling of the vehicle. Taking a second to be a dumb kid, I took the car to the top floor of a parking garage with a friend, put the top down, and just floored the car. Revving high in lower gears and taking aggressive turns, the car never complained once and delivered the most exciting driving experience of my life. Cut to now, Ive put about an extra 2,000 miles on it. To be safe, I took the car into the local BMW dealership where theyd identify the same rear main seal leak that was supposed to have been fixed by the initial dealership. Other than that, though, the car is showing no signs of wear or breaking down and I have every reason to suspect this car will be with me for the long run. And I wouldnt have it any other way. Tremendous riding experience, a tad uncomfortable and not very fuel efficient (which arent factors that generally dictate a fun roadster choice), but all in all a lovely vehicle.
Lift your spirits - 1997 BMW Z3
By Tanya Magness - December 27 - 7:22 pm
A great, fun dependable car. I have enjoyed this car and still do. Feeling down, then put the convertible top down and hit the curvy roads.
older car new bmw fan - 1997 BMW Z3
By Paul - July 27 - 10:06 pm
Purchased this 1997 bmw z3 with 147400 miles on the clock and fixed lamps out and several small problems , just a little tlc along with struts and rear shocks, carrier bearing on the driveshaft had to be replaced to take care of vibration, tire balance is very important on this car . wal mart balance lifetime for 9.,00 per tire is a deal. long story made short after service we drove the car 2000 miles trouble free on the blueridge parkway most of the time in fifth gear, this 2.8 with the 5 speed gear box is simply the most fun we have had in a car in years and is still a head turner, the car now has 150000 miles on the clock and oil level is still full. this thing is a keeper.
Weekend car... Thats all - 2000 BMW Z3
By DiVa_3181377 - July 20 - 11:51 am
Bought a used one 3 years back with 112K. Most of the parts which last a longer than a VW or a Honda, this car needs replacement. I started from the struts, shocks, brakes, complete rear suspension overhaul (bushings, links etc), all fluids, then the DME (engine computer) and then the whole cooling system replacement. Replaced most of the parts and since the steering is not rock solid as the VW that i have with 118K. Also it whines (differential / central bearing) which is really annoying. Spend almost 5K on repair while doing my self and still not done. Except engine and transmission, everything else needs replacement at 100K. Now the car is reliable and can drive, but not silent (the stupid whine of some bearing) and the loose steering. City mpg is like 20+ with premium (with regular also it is same). AC barely cools in Texas summer. 2.5L I 6 engine produces 170hp with 181ft torque which is same as I4 engine of a VW turbo. Big engine, not that fast / high in specs. It sounds nice, looks cool. Thats all. If you know how to fix cars, this car is for you. It can last like 300k. Engine (except the VANOS seals and VCG), has been rock solid. Also the transmission. Just like all the BMWs, anything else is not reliable. It is a fun car (not so much for 0-60).
4-Star Car, 5-Star Fun! - 2001 BMW Z3
By bullz3 - March 8 - 4:43 pm
Im the third - and likely last - owner of our Z3. Paid well under the $7,500 asking price (125k miles) when a BMW Dealer pre-sale inspection (do this!!) found $6k in bad rear trailing arms and old/cracked/leaking critical engine parts/seals. A good independent shop did it for $4k. Was it worth it? OHMYLORDYES! This is the Roadster my old Miata always wanted to be. Takes my breath away every time I open the garage, and again every time I open the throttle. The S52 engine is the best of the bunch. Just be prepared to pay a premium to fix all the nits that crop up. Resale values are rising for later models in good repair. If you find one under $10k this looker is definitely worth a 2nd look.
Quite a ride. Worth the coin. - 2000 BMW Z3
By stevie63 - November 26 - 11:27 pm
Bought the car after servicing it for a client for ten yrs. What a great,great car. Reliable,fun,light, well made. I did pop for a Shark Injector plug in performance module. It was WELL worth the money. The M52TU benefited well from the upgrades. In short,fun and rewarding to drive and own.
Gotta Love this Car - 1996 BMW Z3
By festivator - October 6 - 8:10 am
I love the review that has a long list of problems with this car and then gives it four stars-you have own one these to understand. I find mine to be just like one of my grown kids - you love them dearly and they keep asking for money. When I brought my "new" car to my mechanic of 20 plus years he just smiled and said, "its gonna cost ya!" It has been a very long time since I drove a car just for the fun of it. Its my second roadster - the first was a new 69 MGB - and this one is even more fun.
Just purchased Z3 - 1999 BMW Z3
By 70yearoldmale - July 9 - 10:18 am
Just purchased 1999 BMW Z3, one owner with 94,000 miles. Fun to drive, very responsive, my 1st sports car and exciting for 70 year old plain vanilla guy. Far exceeds my expectations for performance and overall quality and condition of a 15 year old car. I may keep this one for a lifetime since NC resident and can been @ blue ridge mountains in less than 3 hours and beach less than 4 hours
12 years later and it still turns heads - 1999 BMW Z3
By jdisan - November 17 - 5:10 pm
I leased this car new in 1999 and it was so great I bought it at lease end in 2002. Now 2012 and all I have done is add a front strut brace (highly recommended and simple to install) and the car is still the best I have owned. Steel Grey, chrome package, with chrome wheels is unbelievable. I store it in the winter. Never seen snow, barely seen rain. 30k miles. And i drive it hard, run it to rev limiter regularly, etc. Its like driving a go-cart, not for all but for enthusiasts really great. Fun to drive, amazing exhaust note and the engine runs easy at 4k and will just hang there between shifts. Even today, as 12 year old car, people stop and look and ask. Timeless for sure.