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If you're lucky, you can get hold of a BMW Z3 at a good price these days considering the age of them. I was lucky enough to pick up a 1997 BMW Z3 1.9 litre, with 65,000 miles for £2,600 in 2011. There are some people who complain about the 1.9l for not being fast enough, which i think is a stupid comment to make. Of course a 1.9l wont rival your 3.0l+ cars, but it does have alot of power if you rev it, but i find it more pleasureable to do what it was intended for and cruise.
My girlfriend lives 1 hour 30 minutes away from me and this gives me a great reason to hop in my Z3 and use it as a roadster was intended for, sitting on the rear axle and crusing down the motorway, open top (providing the weather is good!) with the wind deflector on, because, boy, does that thing make a world of difference! Tonneau cover, clipped onto the rear of the seats, really making the car stand out and look neat and tidy with the top down.
Overall it's a great car and not too expensive to run on the whole, i've only had one problem and that was the water pump that feeds the engine needed replacing. Petrol can be a little on the expensive side depending how you drive the car, but with the fun of open top driving, it all seems worth it, especially since you'll turn heads in your BMW.
Read all the reviews before buying this car and repeatedly saw the 138hp 1.9 described as under powered. Quite how anyone thinks a small 2 seater sports car is underpowerd with almost 140 hp on tap seems a mystery.
I've owned a 1.6 MX5 before, with a lot less power, and found it great fun, as long as you kept to A or B back roads and drove hard, so I didn't take a great deal of notice.
Turned out the 1.9 is plenty pokey enough for us. The wife drives the car in the week and I get the odd blast in it when I can. Engine is smooth and reasonably torquey. Let it rev out and it starts to fly along. Sure a 6 cylinder Beemer is alway going to be that bit sweeter and more powerful - but you will pay for it at the pumps.
The reality today is that using the power properly in so many 'performance' cars is nigh on impossible. I've owned or had access to some serious cars in the past including the Saphire Cosworth, Nissan Skyline, M3 evo and more recently a 911 carrera. All these cars can rocket off the line but I know from experience that if you don't want to throw your licence away, the only advantage is a few seconds away from the lights. You can not use that all that power on todays roads effectively. (Remember a typical car needs about 40HP to maintain 70 mph on a motorway - so think how your going to use that 140Hp to the maximum and not get nicked!)
Another consideration is that the Z3 is a convertible. Convertibles with the top down aren't much fun at anything over 60-70mph. The whole point of the Z3 is top down, spirited driving - not trying to keep up with EVO's and the like and I'd say the 1.9 isn't bad at all in achieving that point. Get a good B road on a dry summer morning, top down and don't change up till you see the red line and a 1.9 driver on a 'mission' won't be far behind the Z3 M3 driver though I'd accept the M3 will be less work!
And thats what a small 2 seater sports car is all about - fun.
Which leads to another BIG Z3 point - handling. The Z3 is pretty good but never instills total confidence. Suspension, ball joints, bushes can all contribute to a slight vaguness and 'white lining'. I replaced the awful BMW front wishbone bushes with Poly bushes as soon as I bought ours, which probably improved matters two fold. But its still not brilliant when on anything except a perfect surface.
I suspect its little more than a feeling and the car will actually handle very well when pushed - it just doesn't FEEL as if it will. Having owned over 6 bemmers in the past - I can honestly say this is the worst beemer I've ever driven. Though I'm not comparing back to back , one of the over riding memories of MX5 ownership was just how brilliant the handling was at all times. I'd even suggest the MX is in a seperate league when it comes to handling.
Which brings me in a circle here. The 1.9 is capable of pushing the Z3 hard through the bends, but the handling never inspires. I find it hard to belive a much more powerful version could feel much better having the basically same suspension and handling set up. Doubt it or think I'm biased? Read the new owners postings on the Z3 forums.
No - driven hard, the 1.9 can easily keep up with most cars under most conditions. More importantly it can be fun. If you want a fun sports car then the Z3 will likely fit the bill. If you want a fast car, there much better out there.
I have had a T plate Z3 for almost a year now and have to say its a pretty average car as far as small convertibles go.
Full leather, manual roof, electric seats and windows, ABS, power steering, central locking and large enough boot space.
I paid £3200 for the car with 89k miles on. Not a bad price for the car really. Especially when you compare the price with an Audi TT min £7k or a Merc SLK min £8k (old model) It does however come with a number of bug bears.
1. Leaking roof - I havent had a convertible that leaks since I had a Triumph TR7 (and I have had a lot of convertible cars). No matter what the garage tried they couldnt get the window to seal the roof. This is a real problem and can lead to a puddle on the leather seats in heavy rain.
2. Dated interior - The interior is very dated and looks more 70s than 90s. Very square and plastic like.
3. Poor road handling in icy conditions - Although the car has traction control in the icy conditions last year the car really struggled and I therefore often didnt use the car on these occasions.
If you want one of these cars I would advise you to shop around and check the car in the wet and the dry. I also think that the MR2 is the better option in this price brand even if the brand isn't quite as good.
I have recently purchased a 1.9L BMW Z3, and I love it, its reasonably old being an S reg but cost just under four thousand pounds. To begin with i found the bonnet a little too long (I previously had a corsa). This caused me to be worried about driving at night as i didn't feel the road was as well lit. However, i have now had the car three months and i am so pleased i bought it. The miles to the gallon are much better than i expected, i am used to driving at night and it no longer causes me stress. I have had no problems and although its done nearly 90000 miles and has had 4 previous owners it seems to drive better than my friends brand new MX5. The boot space isn't bad either. I am a bit of a shopaholic and i have never been unable to fit all my purchases in the boot. My partner and i have also been camping in it, it was a bit of a squeeze but not really a problem. It drives beautifully and is so comfortable to drive. I am not the most experienced driver, this being about the 6th car i've ever driven. But i would definitely recommend it.
I went for this car for the looks which I have to say still look really nice to date. Inside were an array of features - power steering, electric windows, beige leather interior (worked very well with green bodywork) and was also equipped with a power roof (brilliant for those days where the sun used to just vanish and heavy rainfall ensued). The roof would completely retract within 20 seconds, which was average time for an electric soft top. The garage I bought this from also sold a hard top roof, for an extra £1200, which at the time was not viable. I must admit going for the 1.9 model, although economically sound, was possibly a mistake as this car was very slow and at high speed would often have handling problems. To top that off the scuttle shake when the hood was down was very apparent even at low speeds! However, despite this it comfortably sat two people. As far as maintenance it was no trouble whatsoever because it just never seemed to go wrong! The cost of a full service was £190, which is average for a BMW with a small engine like the Z3, however, if you compare that to say, a Mondeo's servicing costs, there is a very big difference. I would recommend this car but, if your budget permit's go for the 2 litre or above model.
If you want a BMW Z3 then do not go for the 1.9 version. The small engine, although provides some torque, is not up to the job to power a heavy 2 seater roadster.
I bought a 1997 model in blue, with 65,000 miles on the clock for £8,000 back in April 2006.
After changing jobs I fancied a change in car. I had always wanted a small two seater convertible and had considered the MX-5 and MGF. Although I like the look of both of these cars they are a bit.....well...... ponzy.
I wanted a 'mans' convertible. Unfortunately the SLK, Z4 etc were way beyond my budget, as was the Z3 - or so I thought.....
When I saw the Z3 I had to have a drive in it. It was a bright and sunny day, not too hot since it was April, but the rag top brigade were out in force.
The Z3 felt sluggish, but then I had just gotten rid of my 240bhp twin entry turbo'd Celica :( so most cars within my budget were going to be slow.
The build quality of the BMW is second to none. As you climb in to to the drivers seat and close the door there is a 'thud' as opposed to a 'twang' of a cheap MX-5. German engineering is something else.
Inside the Z3 was fully loaded - powerhood, aircon, traction control, electric windows, seats, 6 CD changer as standard etc. etc.
The bonnet looks like it goes on for miles and miles, and then you look behind you and....... where's the back end? Getting in to a 2 seater after driving the boat sized GT4 is strange. Reversing was so easy!
The 1.9 Z3 kicks out 140bhp - the same as 1.8 Focus. I was told that rear wheel drive cars are fun to drive - and I agree if they have a bit of poke to match. The Z3 does not have the poke. You can get the back end round, granted, but it is hard work since the initial oomph just isn't there. If you want to get some back end out action round roundabouts etc then get an MR2 - it is much easier.
Where the 1.9 Z3 wins is on really hot days and busy roads/roads where it is impossible to get over 50mph - such as the north Norfolk coast road. It is a real pleasure to get the hood down, put on some music don the shades and just.... er pose.
The Z3 taught me that driving slow can be pleasurable and that you don't have to drive flat out every where.
The Z3 feels much faster than it actually is. Being so low down to the ground the feeling of speed is enhanced greatly. The book speed is around 130mph - but there is no way I would want to drive that fast in a 1.9, that is on the assumption that it can actually reach that speed - I am definitely sceptical over that. I had mine up to 110mph on the run what you brung day at Bruntingthorpe testing circuit and I am not scared to admit that I nipped up and lost my bottle.
At that speed the Z3 felt like it was all over the place. The wind from cars going in the other direction blew my car all over the road. At 110mph my Z3 felt like it would not go any faster. so 130mph? I would like to see it.
The reliability of the BMW is, again, second to none. The engine used to purr and never miss a beat. BMW parts are expensive, granted, but nothing major happened to mine, ever. There are loads of non genuine parts around, if you look in the right places, that keeps the price down when parts are required.
The fuel economy is great. I used to get nearly 40 mpg in mine, however, what you get in economy you lose in performance. I know what I would rather have ; )
The Z3 attracted a lot of races, especially in my home town of Norwich. It is amazing how many boy racers in their Saxo VTRs and treved up Honda Civics felt the need to drag away from every set of traffic lights. It was in these situations that you have to be the bigger man - the 1.9 is not up to the job.
In addition to the boy racers you find the 30 something males in their M3s, Evos etc are also always up for a race. Once again - it is not worth bothering.
The Z3 also attracts a lot of attention and most of it is unwanted. Chavy young girls used to scream at the car as you drive past, other motorists would stare at lights and never let you in at filter lanes or cut you off etc. etc. I would frequently find spit on the wind screen, or Macdonalds milkshake or food items. A favourite in Norwich appears to be jelly sweets which are sucked and then spat out on the bodywork where they would stick.
My Z3 was also vandalised a few times. The wipers were frequently pulled off, I had 2 wing mirrors knocked off and the final straw was when it was screw drivered - all the way from the bonnet to the rear quarter panel with a big scrape in the boot lid for good measure. That was the only reason I got rid of mine.
When I purchased my Z3 a friend of a friend (who was an old man going through a major mid-life crisis) bought a 52 plated 3 litre Z3. This is a totally different animal. There is power by the bucket loads, the handling is much better and it retains the Z3 pose factor. If you want a Z3 then plump for the larger ones. I would have done if I had £15,000+ to spank on a car.
I have mixed feelings over the Z3. I had many good experiences in mine and used to love driving it, however these are clouded by the bad experiences. The last bout of vandalism resulted in a £2,500 insurance claim.
If you own one of these then you definitely need a garage to keep it in, or have off road parking in a quiet village somewhere where these jealous low lifes cannot damage it.
I havent had the pleasure of driving this car yet but i would like to sometime in the future. I have admired this car for about 5 years now. I have collected models of the Z3 convertable and i also have the limited edition James Bond Z3 which featured in one of his films, which i recieved for my birthday a year ago. The look of this car is brilliant and is very sleek, the designers of this car should be given a big round of applause for churning out this amazing car. The interior of the car is brilliant and is very comfortbale to ride in, even though i didn't actually drive the car. For a little car there is quite alot of leg room and alot of space for the rest of your body so there is no chance of getting cramp in the car. You can purchase this car with either a soft top or a hard top, but i think that th soft top looks nicer and suites the car better then a hard top. The car cost between £19,000 for used cars and you can pay anything up to $35,000. Overall i think this is the best car in the market and would definately purchase it when i have the money.
My dad bought one of these as a perk for himself. He had never had a BMW before and pretty much shocked my entire family when he got it. But he knows cars.! He's worked in the industry for 40 years and has a passion and collection that is unrivalled. This car is stunning. From the moment you slide into the leather interior you feel like you have control of an animal. The 1.8 litre was a nice car but the 2 litre has that something extra.! The steering is precise, the acceleration great and the engine noise godly.! Apart from you and your passenger there is not much space left although the boot holds more than you would imagine. Fuel consumption is not too bad and top end speed is very good. I accidentally took the revs too high a couple of times (as we are running it in) but hey when you do 0-60 in what feels like an instant you are going to slide up towards the red a couple of times. Comfy with great handling - nice.!
This car looks the part, it does not matter if the basic one is slow. Cars like this are not just about speed, just sit in one and you will know what I mean. I had a test drive of one recently (it took some pursuading). It really was was easy to drive and great for posing. Better still if it was not raining. No rear wipers is a bit of a shame, but how many sports cars have rears! Fuel consumption? How can I tell in a test drive, but it's not that heavy a car so should be fine.
From the minite you see this car it says one thing to you, "get inside me five times aday and take me to heaven and back". This is a trully stunning car, with styling much improved since the Z1 hit the streets in the 1980's, BMW have taken a rare slant on automotive styling of the 90's and gone for the retro look. The car is the now classic 2dr roadster design with subtle and under emphasised lines ( akin to all BMW's of late), and the air vents on the side are straight off of an ME-109. Now restyled the "new" Z3 is more muscular in appearance, from inside the car it has a leaning towards the AC-Cobra, but certainly from a much more refined and confortable perspective. The version I drove was the new 1.8 and while it did contain £5000 of extras this certainly didnt make the car seem worth £25k once attempting to wind up the engine. Maybe however I was missing the point for this car makes you feel like driving around at a fairly leisurly pace on a nice hot day and just saying hey look at me i've got a Z3. Over all a stunningly goodlooking and great vehicle to drive, but with the hefty price tag of the bigger engined models, along with vertually no practicallities I have to question whether you may take a trip to your local Porsche a dealer and fork out for a boxster. For the MX-5 buyers- dont be silly put your hand in your pocket and get a Z3!
I had the chance to rent the Z3 on a trip to Germany. I picked up the car in the Stuttgart aiport, and then had a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me. Given that I was a little late for my meeting, I decided to rent a Z3 to see if it would help me get there faster. The car looks pretty nice, although I much prefer the looks of the Porsche Boxter and the Mercedes SLK. Since my trip was short, all I had was a typical carry on. Unfortunately, this did not fit the trunk, and so I was forced to put it up front. Once I got on the highway, it was great, I reached 190-200Km/h without a problem. I think that is about as you want to go with that car. A bit faster and the roof would start making a lot of noise, and it felt that it wasn't meant for this speed. The car in general is ok. Definitely worth renting. But if I were to go as far as buying a speedster like this, I would rather save a little more and get me the Boxter.