Summer time is roadster time! So, here’s a rear-view look at a highly successful modern roadster, the BMW Z3. The Z3 broke new ground on many fronts for the revered Bavarian auto maker, which built almost 300,000 of them during a six-year production run. But there’s no need to feel glum “Bimmer” fans, a Z4 is on the way!
The all-steel body of the Z3 was first unveiled as the co-star in a 1996 James Bond movie called “Goldeneye”. It has a solid, ‘don’t mess with me’ kind of look with rear wheels that actually stick out a little more than the front (by design of course). Those big wheels also appear to stretch the Z3’s sheet metal to its limits of all corners of its stocky body.
Seating for two, a long hood and short trunk are traditional roadster styling traits. Easy to open and close the manual soft-top is made from a single layer of material and has a removable and scratch resistant polyglass rear window. The trademark BMW ‘kidney’ grille sits up front and the cooling vents along the side are reminiscent of the 507 roadster, built back in the 50’s.
The Z3 was actually the first roadster to be sold, by BMW, in Canada. Another surprise is where it’s built, at a BMW plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA.
The original Z3 came with a 1.9-litre engine, has good low and mid-range power, and is a modified version of the 1.8-litre engine used in the 3-series sedan. The claimed 0 to 100-km/hour time is a modest 9.2 seconds, but fuel consumption is an impressive 10.3L/100 km (27 mpg) in the city and 6.9 L/100 km (41 mpg) on the highway.
A throttle that may stick in an open or partially open position, of a 1997 or ’98 Z3, was the only safety recall. Dealers will install spring clips, on the outer throttle and cruise control cable tubes, to prevent the problem.
For the ’97 model year BMW added a 2.8 litre (190-hp) engine version. This car also has flared rear fenders and dual tail pipes. The battery was moved to the trunk to maintain ideal weight distribution and new options included traction-control, stability-control and a hardtop.
2001 BMW Z3 2.8, click image to enlarge
New roll-over bars were incorporated into the design in ’98, the stability and traction control systems became standard equipment and it got a new power-operated soft-top. Two new high-performance additions to the Z3 line were added late in ’98, an M-roadster and the strange looking and short-lived M-coupe (a car with collector potential). Both M-car versions come with gutsy 240-horsepower 3.2 litre engines.
In ’99, the base 1.9-litre engine version was replaced by a 2.5-litre inline 6-cylinder (rated 170-hp), but for some strange reason it was called the Z3 2.3. The first appearance change followed in 2000 with a new-look to tail end along with new wheels. And the soft-top got an inside lining.
Head for the curves in this baby, the BMW Z3 is low and light and loves the road. The manual transmission is so light you could finger shift it and with the top down this is motoring the way it’s meant to be, an invigorating driving experience.
Current Red Book Pricing (avg. retail) September 200:
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.