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BMW Z3 1.9L 1998.jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Production September 20, 1995–June 28, 2002[1]
Assembly Greer, South Carolina, United States (BMW US Mfg. Comp.)
Designer Joji Nagashima (1992)
Body and chassis
Class Roadster
Body style 2-door roadster
2-door coupé
Layout FR layout
Related BMW 3 Series (E36)
Duesen Bayern Mystar[2]
Duesen Bayern Agnes[3]
Transmission 4-speed automatic
5-speed manual
Wheelbase 96.3 in (2,446 mm)
Length 158.5 in (4,026 mm)
Width 1996-98: 66.6 in (1,692 mm)
1999-2002: 68.5 in (1,740 mm)
Height 1996-98: 50.7 in (1,288 mm)
1999-2002 Roadster: 50.9 in (1,293 mm)
Coupe: 51.4 in (1,306 mm)
Curb weight 2,590–3,186 lb (1,175–1,445 kg)
Predecessor BMW Z1
Successor BMW Z4

The BMW Z3 was the first modern mass-market roadster produced by BMW, as well as the first new BMW model assembled in the United States. The Z in Z3 originally stood for Zukunft (German for future). The Z3 was introduced via video press release by BMW North America on June 12, 1995, as a 1996 model year vehicle. It was later featured in the James Bond movie in November 1995, GoldenEye in which a blue prototype was provided for filming in late January 1995 at the Leavesden Aerodrome.[4][5] At that time Karen Sortito created the BMW campaign for the film GoldenEye.[6] Afterwards, while the film was number one at the box office, sales of the car spiked. The entire 1996 BMW Z3 roadster production run, more than 15,000 roadsters, was sold out by the time the car was introduced.[7]

There were a few variants of the car before its production run ended in 2002, including a coupé version for 1999. It was manufactured and assembled in Greer, South Carolina. The Z3 was replaced by the BMW Z4 introduced in late 2002 at the Paris Auto Show. The BMW Z Series are a line of roadsters considered to be successor to the BMW 507.


The E36/7 went into development in 1991 under Dr. Burkhard Göschel, being designed by Joji Nagashima of the BMW design team into July 1992. The resulting design was later frozen by 1993 and developed from the E36 platform of the 3 Series to production in September 1995 within 38 months.[8][9][10] The resulting platform is sometimes referred to as the E36/7 (roadster) or E36/8 (coupé). The rear semi-trailing arm suspension from the E30 was used rather than the more sophisticated multilink suspension from the E36. At first, only the 1.9 L M44B19 straight-4 engine was offered, but its 138 hp (103 kW) was not up to buyers' expectations. Interior appointments too were not up to the standard of other BMW models, and the plastic rear window looked poor compared to the glass unit found on the much less expensive Mazda MX-5 (Miata). Design patents were filed on April 2, 1994 in Germany and in September 27, 1994 in the US.


In 1997 a more powerful 6-cylinder engine was added. The 2.8 L engine (M52B28), similar to the BMW M52 straight-6 in the 328i except with an all-aluminum block and head, was especially desirable with its 189 hp (141 kW). The M Roadster appeared in 1998 with a 3.2 L S52B32 engine (North America) or more powerful 3.2 L S50B32 engine (International). In 1999, the 1.9 L 4-cylinder engine was replaced with a 2.5 L straight-6 M52TUB25, producing 170 hp (130 kW) in North America. Due to marketing, BMW wanted to differentiate the 2.8 L engine from the 2.5 L engine, so the smaller unit was badged a "2.3" just like the 3-Series 323i, which also has a 2.5 L engine. Outside of North America, the 1.9 L four-cylinder was replaced with a 2.0 L straight-six in 1999, with 148 hp (110 kW).

There have been V8 engines fitted into the Z3 by German tuning companies AC Schnitzer (4.4L in roadster version, no series production)[11] and Hartge (5.0L in Coupé version, titled Hartge Z3 MQP V8).[12]

BMW Z3 Sideview with top down

All of the engines were replaced for 2001. The range now consisted of the 2.2 L M54B22 (available outside North America), 2.5 L M54B25, 3.0 L M54B30, and (for the M Roadster) 3.2 L S54B32. All three of these straight-six engines lasted through the end of the car's run in 2002. Also updated was the car's interior appointments, though the plastic window remained.

Year to year changes[edit]

1997 - Traction control became standard equipment. A 2.8-litre, six-cylinder dual-cam engine joined the original 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine. As it was the first BMW created by BMW in its South Carolina plant in 1997, it has since been considered a collectible with historical value for this fact, along with its elegant body and vintage look that is a hybrid concept from previous vintage roadsters. Its six-cylinder dual-cam engine also classifies it as a classic compared to the more modern, pending 4-cylinder models of 1999 onwards.
1998 - Hardware for rollover bars became standard equipment, while roll bars remained an option. More heavily bolstered sport seats joined the option list. Wood trim and the power top also were available as separate options. A high-performance M roadster was introduced which did not offer traction control.
1999 - Side airbags became standard equipment. The 4- cylinder engine was replaced by a 2.5-liter inline six. Coupe versions were introduced and M models produced after September 1998 got ASC traction control. Airbags are upgraded to dual-stage systems. Central locking also locks gas cap from April '99 onwards. The 2.8-liter inline six was upgraded from Single VANOS to Dual VANOS with a small bump in HP and Torque.
2000 - Revised tail styling, an inner top liner and a new center console for roadsters. The M model remained the same in exterior and interior appearance, other than chrome slats and chrome headlight rings which were added to all models April 1999 for model year 2000. Non-M models now also got a 3-spoke steering wheel with the sport package. The Harman Kardon audio was also upgraded. They also had redesigned wheels and BMW's Dynamic Stability Control which replaced the ASC traction control for 2000.
2001 - M52 based cars changed to M54 engines while the M model upgraded from the S52 to S54 - this ensured all models had more power. M models also now included a low-tire-pressure warning system.
2002 - In-dash CD player became standard.

BMW Z3 Revised Tail Styling in Dakar Yellow

Coupé (E36/8)[edit]

In addition to the roadster version of the Z3, BMW also released a coupé featuring a chassis-stiffening rear hatch area, though the Shooting-brake styling this gave was controversial. The coupé was available as the Z3 Coupé or as the BMW Motorsport-enhanced M Coupé from 1999 to 2002.

BMW Z3 Coupé

The Z3 coupés were only available with the largest 6-cylinder engine offered in the Z3 roadster: the 2.8 L in 1999 and 2000 and the 3.0 L in 2000 for Europe and in 2001 for the US.

M Roadster and M Coupé[edit]


  • The BMW Z3 won the "Super Reggie" award for the best promotional marketing campaign of 1995. The campaign was co-sponsored by the United Artist unit of Credit Lyonnais and by BMW of North America. Efforts included James Bond Edition Z3's sold through the Neiman Marcus catalogue.
  • The BMW Z3 2.8 made Editor's Most Wanted Vehicle for 1999
  • The M Coupe/M Roadster made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1999.
  • The 2000 BMW Z3 2.3 made "The Best Overall Value of the Year" - "Base Sport" category winner by Intellichoice
  • AUTOMOBILE Magazine awarded the BMW M coupe its 1999 Design of the Year.
  • The 2000 BMW M Coupe became Top Gear (TV) Best Driver's Car of the Year.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "BMW Z3 customized to look like a Mercedes 190 SL". Top Speed. 2007-01-24. Archived from the original on 14 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  3. ^ – Mike Spinelli (2007-01-25). "More Replicas from Duesen Bayern". Archived from the original on 22 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  4. ^
  5. ^,6409105&dq=bmw+james+bond&hl=en
  6. ^ Nelson, Valerie J. (2010-12-15). "Karen Sortito dies at 49; marketing exec negotiated product tie-ins to Bond movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  7. ^ Meier, Jeff. " - Smiting swarms of untamed hippos since 1997". 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Der AC Schnitzer V8 roadster". AC Schnitzer (in German). Kohl automobile GmbH. Archived from the original on 2009-03-23. 
  12. ^ "Hartge Z3 M Coupé 5.0 V8 the one". Retrieved 2010-07-25.