2001 BMW Z3 Coupe 3.0i I-6 from North America
This is a kooky, fun, distinctive car for someone who enjoys driving for the sake of driving
Tie rods. Will probably need a new thermostat, water pump, and radiator between 50K and 60K miles (as is standard for this car).
Will need new (expensive) tires soon.
So-called sunroof (more like a skylight) no longer functions. This is a common problem on the coupes, but even when they're fully operational, all they do is pop up 1 inch to ventilate — not slide open. So all I have now is a glass window above, which is OK. It makes the small cabin a little less claustrophobic.
Electric windows are a bit slow but functional.
Because it's so low to the ground, the car is a little hard to get into and out of.
I love this car, even though it's not really that fast by today's standards, doesn't handle that great, and (if driven the way it was meant to be) is pretty gas-greedy.
I just love looking at it. It's so kooky and distinctive — and yet quite beautiful. I love the way the rear hips flare out around the wheels. That is one of several things it has in common with the Porsche 911.
This car feels and sounds faster than it probably is. I think 0-60 is about 6.1 or so — but the sound of the engine revving, combined with sitting so close to the ground, makes for an exciting drive. The engine sounds great when pushed, though the exhaust note, for a sports car, is fairly subdued with the stock pipes. The Z3 does easily pass most other traffic if you rev it hard in every gear. And hey: 230 HP in a car this light is nothing to sneeze at (in fact, the 3.0 has only 10 HP less than the '99-2000 M Coupe.) At the same time, it's very docile on the freeway if you put it in 5th.
The handling is jumpy, especially when you hit bumps. I think my car needs new tie rods, but I have more play in the wheel than I would prefer.
What makes this car exciting is that you have to focus 100% on the driving. The steering is a bit heavy, the shifter kind of notchy (but still fun), the ride bumpy; you feel like you're flying a Cessna. In fact, the small cabin is very cockpit-like (if you are fat or very tall, keep looking, because you probably won't fit in this car.) Getting into the car requires a little finesse, because of how low to the ground it is.
Visibility is great; you have this long hood out in front of you and a cozy cabin with lots of glass all around. You can do a U-turn almost anywhere, thanks to the short wheelbase and RWD.
I love the interior — not spacious but very comfy, with everything in easy reach. The rear hatch is actually useful for things like groceries, and it has a handy-dandy concealment shade that pulls down. The A/C (air con for you Brits) works great. The stock CD player (hilariously named "BMW Business CD" — what CD is business-related?) skips over even small bumps, but I usually just stick to the radio. I do wish it had the extra three gauges you get in the M version (oil temp, etc.) directly above the shifter.
Fuel economy with aggressive driving (shifting at about 4500 RPM, usually) is about 18 MPG city. I'm sure I could increase that by not revving as high in every gear, but then why have this car? I view the fuel cost as partly a cost of recreation and preventive mental-health therapy. Revving that engine is a needed catharsis. If that only gets me 18 MPG, so be it. Money well spent.
The coupes (of any stripe — non-M or M) are becoming super rare; I have yet to see another in the entire DC area.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 29th November, 2014
22nd Jul 2017, 23:14
Update, 2017: I can't believe I wrote that the handling wasn't great right after I bought this car three years ago. I later had some suspension linkage (or maybe tie rods -- too lazy to go look right now) replaced, and it made all the difference. This car will stick to a tight curve while you give it the gas at 70 mph -- thanks to the LSD.
Add to that fantastic low-end torque, great outward visibility, reasonable running costs, and the engine that two BMW specialists both independently said is the best engine BMW ever made (the 3.0 M54B30).
The only occasional annoyance is the rough ride and that it's hard to see over all the mommyvans and SUVs. MPG is just OK if you drive in a spirited fashion. And that is the real expense with this car: the speeding tickets you will likely receive.
This is one of few reasonably affordable cars that is fast, distinctive, fun, reliable, and appreciating in value -- and yet is modern enough to be comfortable, with working A/C, heated seats and decent sound insulation.