The Staff of Motorsport Marketing
The Staff of Motorsport Marketing Writer
10/19/22 9:54 a.m.

Want a two-seat roadster from a beloved brand that’s a tick outside the norm? Why not a BMW Z3?

It’s fun, it’s sporty, and nearly any BMW shop can maintain it. Performance can be fierce, and in Q Branch trim it was cool enough for James Bond. 

Another attractive point: The …

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wspohn SuperDork
10/19/22 10:05 a.m.

The Z3 is less expensive than the much better developed Z4, but the handling is not up to that model - pretty loosey goosey feel to them.

The Z3 coupes, particularly the M versions are a niche car that has attracted a following though - people either hate or love the look (they have been likened to an economy sized hearse (they share that characterization with the even rarer Jensen GT).

The four cylinder cars aren't all that exciting, but then you could say that about other classics like the Bugeye Sprite, which has a faithful following.

mbrouill New Reader
10/19/22 11:33 a.m.

Great little roadster to tool around those windy roads.  If you can't buy a M, I would buy either a 3.0 or a 2.8 for the most ponies under the hood.  The 3.0, which was only built 2 years seem to be increasing in value more than the other non M versions.

bimmerbob New Reader
10/19/22 12:07 p.m.

I've owned a number of these sweethearts. Beware the M version when buying, for the reason already given: floor pan failure is more prevalent than you may think. I've owned 5 of the M's, and I loved them all. Two of them I bought cheap due to cracked floor pans (subframe mount points) and had a BMW mech remove the entire rear suspension/drivetrain to repair the damage. He was/is one of the best BMW mechs I know, worked on BMWs in his home shop in the evenings, so his labor rate was tolerable (thanks Joe!). And one other was found to have cracks starting, but was not found until 6 months after I had sold it. I offered to help with the cost of repair, but the owner decided it was not bad enough to concern him, so it may still be out there. Another area worthy of mention in the roadsters is the ability to collect water in the floor due to top/seal leaks. With age, all these convertibles will leak water into the floorpan. On the driver's side, under the carpet, are two inertia sensors that do not work once wet. The yaw sensor will set you back about $1k for a new one, figure $100 for a used one. You need these switches for the traction control to work properly, so if the T/C lite is lit in the cluster, take that cost into consideration when purchasing. I've gone on long enough, I really do love them, but one other safety issue I want to mention: these cars are small and low to the ground, cannot be seen in rear view mirrors of big SUVs and trucks, so be aware as they will try to occupy your space with "they win" obnoxiousness. I've actually seen them coming over and twice had to exercise the traction control in the ditches to avoid them.

wspohn SuperDork
10/19/22 12:12 p.m.

I've seen that same weakness in the Z4 - water gets into the well where the top mechanism folds into and can cause all sorts of havoc.  I own a Z4M coupe and a friend has a Z4M convert - the coupe is twice as torsionally stiff as the convert (which isn't a 'flexy flyer' like the Z3s could be) - wonder if that contributes to the Z3 chassis issues?

rdstr New Reader
10/19/22 12:34 p.m.

IMO the 3.0 (m54) motor is the best all-around combination, more reliable, less mainteance and fast enough for interstate travel.

BimmerMaven New Reader
10/20/22 10:02 a.m.

Many good points already made.

The M chassis cracking is nicely repaired with the Randy Forbes kit.  I ve done my Coupe and Roadster.  I'd offer the opinion that the evolution of more and more torque being delivered by the ever-increasing drivetrain was the underlying flaw.  A problem we see in all "big engine into a small car" swaps.

My only crash ever (on the street!) was when a tall SUV  was in the middle of line of sight at an intersection.  The prius turned in front, not seeing me, and I didn't see her...boom.   Many other times I was invisible, but I saw the other car.   

This also happens in my E30s and MR2s.   When I walk out to the parking lot, my cars seem like GT40s or Europas in a sea of SUVs.

I have S50 in an E30, S52 in E30 convertible, and S52s in both Zs.   Super reliable in all places over 25 yrs and about 300,000 mi.

Bradlee New Reader
3/25/23 10:03 p.m.

Tiff Needell demonstrated performance manouvers in this car years ago. Mighty strong and reliable roadster.

CoupArrr New Reader
7/18/23 3:02 p.m.

You need to put the Pontiac Solstice GXP in the mix, it's quick and attractive.

wspohn SuperDork
7/19/23 12:29 p.m.
CoupArrr said:

You need to put the Pontiac Solstice GXP in the mix, it's quick and attractive.

Good suggestion - as it happens, I have one of each.  Stock, the Z4 is quicker (330 bhp vs 260 bhp) but my Solstice now has 375 bhp so reverses that order.


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