BMW, has a long history as a manufacturer of sports cars. The BMW Z3 draws on its own past to present a compact stylish two-seater with almost universal appeal following its launch in 1995.
The BMW Z3 is based on the E36 platform, incorporating the rear suspension of the E30, and was built from the ground up using BMW's proven formula. The Z3 was also one of the first cars to be manufactured in BMW's South Carolina plant.
From 1996 to 2002, the BMW Z3 was fitted with both four and six cylinder engines.
In the U.S initially the car offered only with a 101 Kw 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine. The following year a 2.8-litre in-line six-cylinder was made available raising output to 139 Kw which increased the performance considerably. A 2.5-litre four-cylinder was later added as the base specification, raising output to 125 Kw power, almost to rival the 2.8 motor, which was uprated to 142 Kw power in 1999.
Also new for 1999 was the Z3 Coupe, a shooting brake-style two-door hatchback.
A higher-performance version of the Z3, the Z3 M, or M Roadster, was also offered, from 1999 until the end of the Z3's run in 2002. With an upgraded engine displacing 3.2-litres, Z3 M models from 1998-2000 used the same engine used in the E36 M3, which produced 177 Kw power in North American specification.
The 2001-2002 Z3 M upgraded to the E46 M3's 3.2-litre engine, rated at 232 Kw power, significantly improving performance. Both coupe and roadster versions of the BMW Z3 M were produced.
If there was an area where the BMW Z3 range came up short, it was in the interior, particularly at the start of the model's run, but persisting throughout its term. Materials, design, and equipment weren't up to the standards of BMW's other models. Despite its shortfalls in creature comforts and interior design, the BMW Z3 won many fans--and keeps them even today.
The Z3 was succeeded by the BMW Z4, a somewhat larger and more expensive vehicle but also a more luxurious and well-rounded sports car. For some, however, the allure of the Z3--particularly the Z3 M Coupe--remains impossible to resist.