1999 BMW Z3 Roadster 2.0 straight six


Great roadster but not 100% sports car


Plastic members of the cooling circuit have become very brittle and easy to crack after years of use and thermal aging. Expansion tank showed a hairline fracture, plastic vacuum return line to radiator cracked, both replaced in 2011 (120000 miles).

Exhaust flap solenoid vacuum valve not working, valve probably stuck, flap works OK.

Oxidation present on hood hinge bolts, completely covered by rust.

Both air shocks to hold the trunk hood open went around 80000 miles.

Cold start exhaust fumes enrichment valve went sometime after 80000 miles due to a cracked body.

General Comments:

In general, there is a feel that finish materials and quality are below German standards (Z3s were made in USA - Spartanburg). It is quite a bit better built than a Toyota MR-2, but obviously not as good as a Merc SLK or an AUDI TT.

Dashboard looks dated now, but feels generally solid. Trim in general took aging and use quite well.

Mohair soft top provides good insulation and soundproofing. Rear window is a plastic sheet and looks cheap, but works adequately.

The OEM sound system is mediocre, and an epic failure for a car of this calibre. Replacing this is a necessity.

Engine still works like new, zero oil consumption between service intervals, performance remains unchanged. Transmission feels rather rough, but is sturdy. The car is engineered well and feels solid.

Suspension is a bit crude for a sports car, with trailing arms at the rear and McPherson struts combined with an anti-roll bar at the front.

The Z3 is comfortable for the most part, but remains a small roadster and not a tourer. Scuttle shake does not appear easily. The seats look great, but could be more comfortable and supportive.

Storage spaces for small items do exist in the cabin, but the trunk is odd-shaped.

Performance is basic for a car of this segment. 0-62 mph takes less than 9 seconds by a hair. Torque is not really there until you rev above 4000 rpm. The 5-speed gearbox is appropriately geared for the engine's power curve, and helps a lot.

Where the Toyota MR-2 is the driver's car, the Z3 feels rather heavy, serious and less fun to drive than a Fiat Barchetta or a Mazda MX-5. It certainly feels more a sports car than an AUDI TT or a Merc SLK though.

It handles well on level surfaces, but the rear end gets lively and rather unsettled when meeting with bumps and uneven tarmac mid-corner. However grip is ample, and the front end provides good feedback. On good B-roads, the car remains composed to drive fast.

As a used car, it is expected to keep most of its resale value over time, far better than its counterparts. It is great to look at and built to last, apart from some niggles.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 14th March, 2011