SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide
By Larkin Hill
Staff Writer, The Auto Channel
I must admit, initially I wasn't a fan of BMW's Z3 roadster convertible. I know, before many of you ask what planet I'm from, please allow me a few minutes to explain. The initial model introduced in 1996 seemed just not right. A bit underpowered, a tad long in the nose, and the rear…well, it looked like a dog with its tail beneath its legs.
However, since 1996, the Z3 has undergone several changes. The first major improvement was the introduction of the 2.8-liter, which upped the fun factor considerably and matched performance to the sporty stance (now, this was Bond's car!). Second was the replacement of the 1.9-liter with and 2.5-liter in-line six that proved to be immanently more exciting, and a better representative of the Ultimate Driving company. Now, for 2000, the third and final clincher that has made me a bona-fide supporter is the re-designed rear, which has not only eliminated the "shamed dog" look, but has balanced out the long hood.
Whilst the rear is still notably compact, the addition of "hips" on the Z3 gives the 2000 model a more aggressive crouched look. The redesign of the rear side panels that house the sport tires strengthens the balance between the robust nose, laid-back cockpit, and wide wheelbase. As one BMW representative put it "it finally looks like the it should have to begin with" and I could only agree one hundred percent.
Since the Z3 has been seemingly alternating between performance and design changes, the model year 2000 Z3 receives the majority of its alterations in styling.
To compliment the additional curves on the outside, the interior receives a fresh, hip look. Shiny silver surrounds the three circular air-conditioning controls and analogue clock that are positioned below the radio in the center of the dash.
Coordinating with the center console controls, the tachometer, speedometer, gasoline, and temperature gauges are also rimmed in polished chrome. The flat black leather surroundings with the silver highlights create a retro mood that mixes well with the uncomplicated interior.
Regardless of how well the 2000 Z3 2.3 flaunts its chic interior and athletic exterior, the true test of roadster worthiness remains under the hood. Equipped with a 2.5-liter DOHC 24-valve inline six-cylinder that pumps out 170 horsepower and 181 pounds per feet of torque, the 2000 Z3 is as zippy as ever. It still weighs in at 2899 pounds and is impressively dexterous and solid. Winding mountain roads, traffic filled streets, and never ending strips of desert proved equally as pleasurable. In fact, unlike many performance-oriented roadsters, the Z3 was as comfortable snooping around a crowded parking lot as it was speeding down a desert highway at 115 miles per hour. Needless to say I was impressed with its flexibility.
The Z3 got a little squirrelly with the top down, however, the steering remained sturdy thanks to BMW's "engine-speed sensitive assist." Double-tube reinforced A-pillar windshield frame and the integrated rollover protection bars located directly behind the passenger and driver's seat provide assured cover, assuming neither person is taller than the bars (watch out if you're over 6'2"). Four wheel anti-lock disc brakes with vented ones in front, along with BMW's standard Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), provided added protection, just in case I wanted to stop
On the down side
While the 2000 Z3 2.3 had numerous physical pluses, a few style-related questions remained. First of all, knowing Americans on average consume beverages in their vehicles, why are there no cupholders? Or, why include "M' nomenclature on the steering wheel and stick shifter if only those two components are "sport item" options only there to "decorate" the interior? If the suspension was spiffed up, would the "M" nomenclature be on the exterior of the car…but then what would visually differentiate the 2.5 liter Z3 from a "M" roadster? Granted, I personally agree with the belief that one shouldn't ear or drink in a sportscar, this is America and gosh-darn-it we like to! As for the "M" nomenclature, the "M" division is different than BMW's general brand and deserves the credit, regardless of how confusing (...and yes, it looks cool).
Inherently sporty and cute, in general, the 2000 Z3 provided little to complain about. Backed by a wide selection of exterior colors and interior options, the Z3's appeal is impressively universal. In fact, I noticed that during the week of testing, boys gawked, girls smiled, women did double takes, and men of all ages simply wanted one. And as much as I'd personally like to take credit for the attention, neither my looks nor charm played any part. The 2000 Z3 is unique yet appealing, rounded and small, with a distinctive nose, muscular haunches, and side gills to-boot.
Model year 2000 increased in price, from $29,950 to $31,300. Still price competitive, the new body style and retro interior will no doubt draw some converts...count me as the first.
Base Price $31,300 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve in-line 6-cyl engine w/variable valve timing Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in. Horsepower (SAE net) 170 @ 5500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 181 @ 3500 rpm Transmission 5-speed Manual Wheelbase / Length 96.3 in. / 158.5 in. Curb Weight 2899 lbs. MECHANICAL: 13.5 gallon fuel tank 16" x 7.0" 5-spoke alloy wheels 2.5L (152) DOHC 24-valve in-line 6-cyl engine w/variable valve timing 4-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) 5-speed manual transmission w/direct 5th gear 70 amp/hr battery 90 amp alternator All season traction control w/dynamic stability control (DSC) Direct ignition system w/knock control Front/rear coil springs, twin-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers Front/rear stabilizer bars Limited slip differential P225/50VR16 performance radial tires Rear wheel drive Semi-trailing arm rear suspension Spare tire compartment tool kit Strut-type front suspension w/arc-shaped lower arms Variable engine-speed-sensitive pwr-assisted rack & pinion steering Ventilated front/solid rear disc brakes EXTERIOR: 9-MPH body-color hydraulic energy-absorbing bumpers Chrome trim grille/headlight-ring Dual pwr mirrors Halogen headlights Manual lined soft convertible top Vehicle-speed variable 2-speed intermittent windshield wipers w/single wipe mode INTERIOR: 4-way pwr driver/2-way pwr passenger bucket seats Air conditioning Anti-theft AM/FM stereo w/cassette-inc: 8-speakers CD changer/cellular phone pre-wiring Central locking system-inc: double lock anti-theft Courtesy lights w/time delay fade-in/out Electronic analog tachometer LCD main/trip odometers Leather steering wheel/manual shift knob/handbrake grip/boot Leatherette upholstery Mast antenna Microchip dynamic encoded key anti-theft driveaway protection Multi-function digital clock Pre-wired for remote keyless-entry/security system Pwr windows-inc: 1-touch up/down, closing from door locks Service interval indicator EPA FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS: City 19/hwy 26 (2.5L engine/4-speed auto trans) City 20/hwy 27 (2.5L engine/5-speed manual trans) SAFETY: 4-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) 9-MPH body-color hydraulic energy-absorbing bumpers All season traction control Automatic locking retractors on all seat belts Driver/front passenger airbag supplemental restraint system (SRS) Fixed roadster rollover protection bars Front seat side-impact airbags Height adjustable safety belts w/automatic tensioners, force limiters