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(1995 - 2002)  Rating


The BMW Z3 is a well built and good-looking two-seater

Engine Engine power Fuel consumption Fuel type 0-100 (0-60) Top speed
1.8 115 hp 8.4 l/100km Petrol 10.5 s 194 km/h
1.9 118 hp 8 l/100km Petrol 10.4 s 196 km/h
1.9 140 hp 9.6 l/100km Petrol 9.6 s 205 km/h
2.0 150 hp 10.3 l/100km Petrol 9 s 210 km/h
2.2 170 hp 9.6 l/100km Petrol 7.9 s 224 km/h
2.8 193 hp 11.3 l/100km Petrol 7.2 s 225 km/h
3.0 231 hp 10.3 l/100km Petrol 6 s 250 km/h
M 3.2 321 hp ? Petrol 5 s 250 km/h

Body type Roadster
Number of doors 2
Number of seats 2
Engine position Front
Driven wheels Rear
Length 4 050 mm
Width 1 740 mm
Height 1 288 mm
Wheelbase 2 446 mm
Ground clearance 110 mm
Weight (normal) 1 300 kg
Weight (max) 1 570 kg
Boot space (min) 165 l
Boot space (max) 165 l
Fuel capacity 51 l


   The BMW Z3 was produced since 1995. It was available as a coupe or roadster.

   The best thing about the Z3 is its engine, and the gearbox isn't far behind. Whether four- or six-cylinder, all impressed in the Z3, pulling strongly across the rev range. All mate well to the slick five-speed manual gearbox (an auto was an option on most). The six-cylinder models give stunning performance and almost all are capable of 10l/100km/h.

   The Z3 was based on an old model, and it showed on the road. Rivals such as the Mazda MX-5 were more agile and more fun, so the Z3 is best treated as a smart tourer rather than an out-and-out sports car. The one exception is the M Coupe, which has some of the poise and balance the open-top cars lack.

   The Z3 is one of the better soft-tops for keeping out noise. The cabin is snug and quiet with the hood up or down, and refined enough for you to be able to live with it every day. A face-lift in April 1999 brought better insulation for the hood as well as some minor cosmetic changes.

   A coupe version was launched in September 1998 but it sold in very low numbers, and the Z3 range effectively consists of just the soft-top. It started out with only a 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine, but the range grew over time to include more fours and sixes and a couple of M performance models.

   The 2.2-litre version, launched in October 2000, strikes the right balance between showing off the chassis's abilities without demonstrating its weaknesses. Sadly, the latter outnumber the former, so avoid the bigger engines which tend to betray the car's limitations. That said, the entry-level 118 hp car may not have sufficient poke for some drivers.

   For the most part, the Z3 has proved a very solid and reliable car. The engine, transmission and running gear give little problems and, overall, it rates as better than average.

   The Z3 displays BMW's typical high build quality and, although the switches and dials weren't the last word in modern design when new, they're at least well screwed together. Taller drivers will want some adjustment on the steering wheel, however.

   No one buys a two-seat roadster with thoughts of practicality uppermost in their mind, but the BMW Z3 is at least one of the better of its breed. Space is good for passengers, as long as they're not too tall, and there is some stowage in the cabin. Boot space is not the best, but at least it's a sensible shape.

   All Z3s came with anti-lock brakes, power steering, alloy wheels (except the base 1.8 introduced in April 1999) and electric windows, but choosing a bigger engine brought more kit as well as more horsepower. So, as you venture up the model range, you'll find the likes of air-conditioning, leather upholstery and an electric hood.

   Production of the BMW Z3 ended in 2002. It was replaced by the BMW Z4.


   Advantages: Well built, good-looking two-seater; range of fine engines to choose from.

   Disadvantages: Cabin cramped for taller drivers; chassis doesn't live up to the promise of the car's looks, and it fails to excite a keen driver.

   Verdict: A nice roadster in the best BMW traditions.

   Also consider: Mazda MX-5, Alfa Romeo GTV / Spider.

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