What's New for 1998
BMW's Motorsport division creates a meaner version of the Z3 dubbed the M Roadster. The M comes with 240-horsepower 3.2-liter inline six and rides on a stiffened version of the Z3 chassis with sticky 17-inch rubber mounted at each corner. The result is something like a German translation of an old big-block Cobra.
The Z3, introduced in 1996, has seen unflagging popularity with young and old alike. It seems that wherever we take this car a crowd quickly forms to ask questions about its performance and drool over its lovely shape. Changes to the Z3 lineup for 1998 include the addition of the Z3 coupe (we have not yet received formal press information on this car) and the introduction of the M Roadster, a heavily breathed-upon version of the Z3 that is designed to compete with Porsche 911 Cabriolet head-to-head.
So, what's so special about this car? Obviously, the thrill of open-air motoring in a European two-seater is appealing to any baby boomer that owned an MGA, MGB or TR-6 when they were going to college. Even better, the Z3 will undoubtedly be more driveable and comfortable than their counterparts of yesteryear. Twentysomethings are attracted to the Z3 because of its undeniable sex appeal and attainable price. Everyone else loves it because it's a BMW; that means spirited driving and a wagonload of prestige. The fact that the Z3 shares the 3-Series platform, engine and many components bodes well for the car's performance and safety.
The editorial staff at Edmund's has had a number of good-natured arguments over the character of this car. Some of us look at the Z3 and see a Miata rip-off. Others see a car that will fit quite nicely into BMW's M division, giving us some of the most exciting drop-top driving to be found on this side of the Italian Alps. We all think it's cute.
The 1998 Z3 is beautiful, and the inclusion of new high-performance coupe and roadster models round out the lineup quite nicely. If you don't have kids to haul around and love to drive, this is the car for you.