SEE ALSO: BMW Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 37,900 Price As Tested $ 40,995 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter I6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 184 cid/2979 cc Horsepower 225 @ 5900 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 214 @ 3500 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 96.3"/68.5"/159.4" Transmission Five-speed manual Curb Weight 3185 pounds Fuel Capacity 13.5 gallons Tires (F/R) 225/45ZR17 front / 245/40ZR17 rear Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Two-passenger/two-door Domestic Content 35 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) 0.40 PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 21/28/25 0-60 MPH 6.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 14.5 seconds @ 96.0 mph Top-speed 140 mph * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
The BMW Z3 could be the most well-known of that company's products. The James Bond movie Golden Eye immortalized this image-building roadster, and BMW has been cranking them out of its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant since 1996. It comes as the Z3 2.5, with its four-cylinder engine, or like our tester for the week, the Z3 3.0.
OUTSIDE - The Z3 is styled with a long, boldly styled nose and a short, stubby trunk, with smooth curves and very prominent character lines. Its low-slung silhouette echoes the classic sports car look, and the hood cascades down to a very familiar twin-kidney chrome-trimmed grille. Previously, its muscular rear haunches bulge distinguished the 3.0 model from the four-cylinder version but that changed last year when the look of the more powerful version was added to the more pedestrian model. The company added more pronounced bulges to the rear fenders, a slightly restyled trunk lid and L-shaped tail lamps. The standard wheel and tire combination consists of 17-inch alloy wheels with a webbed style that BMW calls "radial," and 225/45-series (front) and 245/40-series (rear) Dunlop high performance tires.
INSIDE - The Z3 has a new look for its interior. As expected in a performance sports car, highly bolstered front bucket seats coddle both the driver and passenger, while both lumbar and lateral support are excellent. Interior space is snug and our 6-foot, 4-inch associate felt it a bit tight in the legroom department. Also, the seating position is low and the dash top is high, so seeing over the dash and hood can be a challenge for some drivers. But the interior's eye appeal and ergonomics are nearly perfect. With the exception of the fog lamp switch, which is buried deep behind the steering wheel, all controls fall easily within reach. The chrome-rimmed gauges, rotary knobs and analog clock remind us of roadsters of yesteryear and a splash of brightwork on the shift knob and door handles looks equally retro. Standard Z3 3.0 features include cruise control, power windows, mirrors and door locks, power seats, leather upholstery, and CD changer pre-wiring.
ON THE ROAD - There's new power under the hood of the Z3. It's a 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine that takes the place of last year's 2.8-liter version of the same unit. The output of 224 horsepower is 31 more than last year's powerplant while torque is up eight pound-feet as well. It is all-aluminum in design, with double overhead camshafts, a dual resonance intake systems and variable timing on both the intake and exhaust valves. It's this sophisticated system that gives the car smooth power delivery and maximum torque at low engine speeds. This is especially helpful for off-the-line launches and when the Z3 is climbing mountain passes, where downshifting is virtually unnecessarily. A five-speed manual transmission delivers near-perfect gear changes, though we'd like to see a six-speed offered, at least as an option. A Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system is standard, and assists the driver in maintaining control if a "dicy" situation occurs.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Z3's chassis is rock-solid, with plenty of bracing and cross-member structural strength to overcome the lack of an overhead structure. With the engine located far back in the engine bay, an excellent weight balance assists in keeping the tail in line in corners. But with all that additional power, it's easy to overplay the throttle out of a turn and break the rear tires free. Its suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a semi-trailing arm independent rear setup. Both ends use coil springs, tube shocks and an anti-roll bar, while its speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system is precise and delivers plenty of feedback and road feel. Four-wheel disc brakes equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) provide stopping power.
SAFETY - Dual dashboard and side-impact airbags, ABS, DSC and automatic seat belt pre-tensioners are standard.
OPTIONS - "Atlanta" blue paint, $475; Sport Package, (sport seats, cross-spoke alloy wheels) $600; Power top, $750; heated seats and outside mirrors, $500; stereo upgrade, $200.