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BMW Z3 (1997-2003) Buying Guide

BMW Z3 (1997-2003)
BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)BMW Z3 (1997-2003)Pictures shown may not represent exact model specified

by Richard Dredge

Whether you want to use it occasionally or every day, the Z3 makes sense on so many levels. It's utterly usable and well screwed together, although it isn't quite as sharp to drive as you might expect. For economy buy four cylinders and for fun choose six - while for the ultimate in fun, track down an M Roadster.

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We LikeWe Don't Like
Build quality
Safety features
Reasonable running costs
Wheezy 1.9-litre engine
Not a sporty drive
Key Dates 
1/97Z3 introduced in 1.9-litre form.
12/97First six-cylinder Z3 is available; the 2.8.
1/98M Roadster features M3 engine, but major suspension changes.
9/98Z3M Coupe on sale.
4/991.8 and 2.0-litre engines supersede 1.9-litre version; former engine has same 1895cc displacement as original 1.9. Mild facelift brings restyled wheelarches, boot lid, rear lights and bumpers.
6/003.0-litre engine supersedes 2.8-litre unit.
10/002.2-litre engine replaces 2.0-litre powerplant.
2/012.2 and 3.0 Sport Roadsters offered, with sports suspension, 17" alloys, electric seats.
6/011.9 Sport Roadster available; spec as 2.2 and 3.0 editions.
  • Hard tops are desirable but pre-1999 examples didn't seal properly; modifications are available though.
  • Check the soft-top doesn't leak and isn't damaged.
  • Be wary of personally imported cars, especially 2.8-litre examples which may have cylinder bore wear problems because of the Nikasil lining eroding.
  • Fuel tank can get damaged if the car has grounded.
  • Lower ball joints and inner bushes wear in the front suspension.
  • The service indicator can be reset without the work being done; ask for receipts

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