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BMW Z3 Published: 11th Aug 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Classic British sports car looks - Strong value - Great choice - It’s not a MX-5…

With its classical long flowing bonnet, short tail, and a lusty big six up front, there’s a distinct touch of the Healey about BMW’s MX-5 rivalling Z3. Available in a variety of four and six-cylinder engines to suit all pockets and speed freaks, yet all are as easy and economical as a 3 Series saloon to run and maintain – and as durable.


The Z3 is a mix of good and not so good. On the one hand, all are as sweet and smooth (and easy) as any 3 Series saloon. On the other hand, they’re not as overtly sporty as the MX-5. This is due to the Z3 being essentially based upon the original budget Compact hatchback and saddled with the old style rear suspension format. It’s not as tidy and tactile as the later 3 Series’ platforms although, for many, it’s sporty and satisfying enough.

With engines spanning 1.8-litres to 3.2-litres, performance varies from spritely to supercar status and some versions come with an automatic option.

Best models

To our minds, the silky smoothness of a ‘straight six’ engine is well worth having even if you don’t yearn for performance so we’d pick the 2.8 or 3-litre (from 2000) as it generates a very healthy 192/231bhp which is enough for 136mph pace while the M Roadster or Z3 M Coupé (a sort of evolution of the much missed MGB GT), with its 3.2 M3 engine, kicks out an outstanding 321bhp that would show the hottest Chimaera the way home. That said, the early 150bhp 2.0 ‘six’ and its 170bhp 2.2-litre ‘four’ (from 2000) provides ample zest and is particularly frugal.


You can pick a half decent Z3 for under £2000 and enjoy it as much as any MX-5 but budget for around £3000 for a nice well kept alternative. M Roadsters and Coupés are a different kettle of camshafts and command handsome money; in excess of £30,000 for the Coupé and 20 grand for Roadsters and think the thick end of £50K for the S54 specials when they crop up – Big Healey money in other words! Also look out for rare ‘Speedster’ kit available with the 1999 facelift models.

Buying advice

If you’re buying at the lower price end of the market then expect age and rust depending on how much you intend to pay – they are over 20 years old to be fair. Rot attacks the diff and subframe mount areas and can require welding once the axle is removed but other than this the tin worm is mainly cosmetic.

The engines are typical BMW durable although on six-cylinder cars watch for Nikasil bore coating wear (smoking, poor performance etc) and failing VANOS timing systems (also clarified by lack of smoothness and punch). Water pump impeller and head gasket failures are common to all engines. Discs and calliper corrosion not uncommon as are rattly seats in their runners, but there are aftermarket bushes to cure the latter. Interiors are sturdy and even on early cars should still look inviting.

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