Used 1996 BMW Z3 Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

BMW follows Mazda's lead and introduces a roadster. This dreamy two-seater made its debut in the James Bond movie, "GoldenEye," and has had enthusiasts across the country drooling over its smart styling and impressive refinement. Featured as the perfect Christmas gift in the 1995 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, BMW sold out of Z3s before the first one was released to the public.

Vehicle overview

We haven't driven BMW's latest offering. Chances are you haven't either. After starring with what's-his-name in the latest James Bond movie, the Z3 has gone on to international fame and fortune. Yes indeed, Z3 fever has hit the continent hard. Pre-orders for the peppy roadster caused a 1996 sell-out by February of this year. We find this extraordinary considering that few people outside of the automotive press have seen the vehicle in person, much less taken it for a test spin.

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 who owned an MGA, MGB or TR-6 when they were in college. Even better, the Z3 will undoubtedly be more driveable and comfortable than their counterparts of yesteryear. Twenty-somethings 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 wagon-load 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.

With summer nearing, and roadster excitement reaching a fever pitch, we longingly turn our eyes toward passing convertibles. We are certain that when the first Z3 passes us on the way to the grocery store we will turn green with envy. We won't, however, spend too much time pining over this year's Z3 sell-out; Mercedes, Porsche and Audi are releasing affordable roadsters within the next year, guaranteeing to add some excitement to a long-forgotten segment of the automotive industry.

As for the 1996 Z3, it is extremely attractive, the initial response from the automotive press has been great and we think that the minivan-saddled middle-class could definitely benefit from the loads of fun this affordable Bimmer has to offer. By the way, we'll take ours with the rocket launcher.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.