What's New for 2001
Engine displacement in the 2.8 Roadster and Coupe is bumped from 2.8 liters to 3.0 liters. An associated horsepower and torque increase, along with bigger brakes and larger 17-inch wheels and tires, accompanies the new engine. The base 2.5-liter engine also sees a 15 horsepower increase. An optional five-speed Steptronic transmission with manual shifting capability is now available.
The Z3, introduced in 1996, has seen unfaltering popularity with young and old alike even as the line has grown to include more models. It seems that wherever we take these cars, a crowd quickly forms to ask questions about performance and to drool over their lovely shapes.
The Z3 lineup consists of three sportsters: the base Z3 Roadster 2.5i, Z3 Coupe 3.0i and Z3 Roadster 3.0i. The Z3 Roadster has an upgraded 2.5-liter, six-cylinder engine that now makes 185 horsepower while meeting low emission vehicle (LEV) standards. Z3s outfitted with larger, 3.0-liter, 225-horsepower six-cylinder engines are available as coupes or roadsters.
Z3 Roadsters feature L-shaped taillights with clear turn signal lenses, fully lined tops, and sculpted rear flanks. The capable sound system is actually audible at speed and clear instrument gauges, plus an analog clock, give the interior a classic look. Some carefully chosen upgrades in interior plastics would go a long way toward improving the Z3's value equation. And what's with the plastic rear window on roadster models when a $12,000 cheaper MR2 provides glass and a defroster?
The 2.5i gets four-wheel disc brakes, a limited-slip differential and 16-inch V-rated performance tires as standard equipment, while the 3.0i cars have larger brakes and new 17-inch wheels this year. A smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission is standard on all Z cars, but this year a five-speed Steptronic automatic, capable of being manually shifted, is optional. All Z3s have a leather-wrapped M-Technic sport steering wheel and standard Dynamic Stability Control, which senses when the car is veering from its intended path and selectively modulates engine torque and the antilock brakes to bring the car under control.
Driving BMW's Z3 cars is a phenomenal experience. Even the most basic Z3 Roadster, with its powerful inline six and ventilated front-disc brakes, is a blast. Only at high speeds does the 2.5 feel winded, but opting for the larger displacement 3.0-liter six in the 3.0i Roadster solves that problem. And for those who must have a rigid structure and protection from the elements, the 3.0i Coupe is a hoot.
With superb steering and excellent brakes, any Z3 is fun to drive and own. Despite their prowess, however, pure performance freaks will want to step up to the M Coupe and M Roadster, which offer increased power and superior handling.
Slotted comfortably between the bargain Mazda Miata/Toyota MR2 and more expensive machines from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, there is a Z3 to suit anybody's needs. Certainly the thrill of open-air motoring in a European two-seater is appealing to any baby boomer who owned a sporty little convertible while in college, but those seeking a scalpel sharp roadster this price range will want to check out Honda's ultra-capable S2000. The Z3 Coupe 3.0i makes sense for Snowbelt dwellers who have greater storage needs and like a bit of "funk" with their "sport."
Thirty-somethings are attracted to Z3s because of their undeniable sex appeal and attainable price. But let's face it: Everybody who loves to drive loves the Z3.