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BMW Z3 1.9L 1998.jpg
Manufacturer BMW
Production September 20, 1995–June 28, 2002[1]
Assembly Greer, SC, United States
Designer Joji Nagashima (1992)
Body and chassis
Class Roadster / sports car (S)
Body style 2-door roadster
3-door "coupé" hatchback
Layout FR layout
Related BMW 3 Series (E36)
Wheelbase 96.8 in (2,459 mm)
Length 158.5 in (4,026 mm)
Width 1996-1998: 66.6 in (1,692 mm)
1999-2002: 68.5 in (1,740 mm)
Height E36/7: 49.8 in (1,265 mm)
E36/8: 50.4 in (1,280 mm)
Curb weight 2,557–2,976 lb (1,160–1,350 kg)
Predecessor BMW Z1
Successor BMW Z4 (E85)
2001 Z3 3.0i interior

The BMW Z3 is a range of two-seat convertible and coupé models which were produced from 1995-2002. It is the second model in the BMW Z Series, and the first of this series to be mass produced. Initial models used the convertible body style (model code E36/7, marketed as roadster), with the coupé body style (model code E36/8) being added in 1999. In 2002, the Z3 was replaced by the Z4.

The Z3 is based on the E36 3 Series platform and was the first BMW model to be solely manufactured outside of Germany. It was manufactured in Greer, South Carolina.[2]

The M models - the M Roadster and Z3M Coupé - are powered by either the S50, S52 or S54 straight-six engine, depending on the country and model year.

Development and launch[edit]

The Z3 development program began in 1991[citation needed] and was led by Burkhard Göschel.[3][4] The exterior was designed by Joji Nagashimain 1992[2][5] and the design was frozen in 1993.[citation needed] Design patents were filed on April 2, 1994 in Germany and in September 27, 1994 in the US.[6]

On June 12, 1995, the Z3 was introduced via video press release by BMW North America. Production began in September 1995.[7]

Body styles[edit]

Roadster (E36/7)[edit]

The BMW E36/7 Z3 entered production in September 1995, powered by 4-cylinder engines. The 6-cylinder engines joined the model range in 1996.[8]

A removeable hardtop roof was available as an optional accessory.

Coupé (E36/8)[edit]

The BMW E36/8 Z3 entered production in 1999 with its controversial shooting brake design, which has been nicknamed the "Clown Shoe"[9][10] or "bread van".[11][12] In Germany, it has been nicknamed the "Turnschuh" (sports shoe).[13][14]

The coupé models featured a chassis-stiffening hatch area, and were only produced with 6-cylinder engines.


Model Years Engine Power Torque Top Speed 0-60 Body style
1.8 1996-1999 M43B18
85 kW (114 bhp)
@ 5500 rpm
168 N·m (124 lb·ft)
@ 3900 rpm
195 km/h (121 mph) 10.1s Roadster
1.9 1996-1999 M44B19
103 kW (138 bhp)
@ 6000 rpm
180 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@ 4300 rpm
204 km/h (127 mph) 9.1s Roadster
1999-2002 M43B19
87 kW (117 bhp)
@ 5500 rpm
180 N·m (133 lb·ft)
@ 3900 rpm
196 km/h (122 mph) 10.0s Roadster
2.0 1998-2000 M52TUB20
110 kW (148 bhp)
@ 5900 rpm
190 N·m (140 lb·ft)
@ 3500 rpm
211 km/h (131 mph) 8.5s Roadster
2.2i 2000-2002 M54B22
125 kW (168 bhp)
@ 6100 rpm
210 N·m (155 lb·ft)
@ 3500 rpm
224 km/h (139 mph) 7.6s Roadster
2.8 1996-1998 M52B28
142 kW (190 bhp)
@ 5300 rpm
280 N·m (207 lb·ft)
@ 3950 rpm
232 km/h (144 mph) 6.6s Roadster,
1998-2000 M52TUB28
142 kW (190 bhp)
@ 5500 rpm
280 N·m (207 lb·ft)
@ 3500 rpm
3.0i 2000-2002 M54B30
170 kW (228 bhp)
@ 5900 rpm
300 N·m (221 lb·ft)
@ 3500 rpm
240 km/h (149 mph) 5.8s Roadster,
1997-1999 S52B32
178 kW (239 bhp)
@ 6000 rpm
285 N·m (210 lb·ft)
@ 3250 rpm
250 km/h (155 mph) 5.2s Roadster,
2000-2002 S54B32
235 kW (315 bhp)
@ 7400 rpm
341 N·m (252 lb·ft)
@ 4900 rpm
1997-1999 S50B32
236 kW (316 bhp)
@ 7400 rpm
320 N·m (236 lb·ft)
@ 4900 rpm
250 km/h (155 mph) 5.1s Roadster,
2000-2002 S54B32
239 kW (321 bhp)
@ 7400 rpm
354 N·m (261 lb·ft)
@ 4900 rpm
Z3 Roadster with the optional hardtop roof

The 4-cylinder models have a single tailpipe and no wheelarch flares. The 6-cylinder models have twin tailpipes (except for the Z3M, which has quad tailpipes), wheelarch flares and a different front bumper.


The 4-cylinder single-cam Z3 1.8 Roadster was the base model Z3, until it was discontinued in September 1998.[15] The standard transmission was a 5-speed manual, with a 4-speed automatic option available. The 1.8i was not sold in the United States.


The Z3 1.9 Roadster used the twin-cam 4-cylinder engine from the E36 318is. This was the base model in the United States, and the worldwide base model after September 1998.

In September 1999, the Z3 1.9 engine was downgraded to a single-cam 4-cylinder engine, resulting in a power decrease of 16 kW (21 bhp).


The Z3 2.0 model was the starting point of the 6-cylinder Roadster range. It was only produced from late 1998 until October 2000, and was not sold in the United States.[16]


In 2000, the 2.2 L 6-cylinder engine from the E46 3-Series was added to the Roadster range. This model was not sold in the United States.


This Roadster model was sold in the United States only, from 1998 to 2000.[17][18] Despite being called a 2.3i, it is powered by a 2.5 litre 6-cylinder engine.[19]


In September 2000, the 2.5i replaced the 2.3i. The engine size remained at 2.5 litres, however the power was increased by 16 kW (21 bhp). As per its predecessor, the 2.5i model was only sold in the United States of America.


In 1996, the Z3 2.8 Roadster was the first 6-cylinder model and sat at the top of the Z3 model range. In 1998, the engine was upgraded to double-VANOS and the Z3 2.8 Coupe was released as the first coupe model. Production ceased in June 2000, when the 2.8 was replaced by the 3.0 L engine.


The 3.0i Coupe and Roadster models were introduced in 2000, to replace the 2.8 models at the top of the regular model range (excluding Z3M models). As per the 2.2i, it uses a 6-cylinder engine from the E46 3 series. Power increased by 29 kW (39 bhp) compared with the 2.8 models.[20]

Z3M versions[edit]

The Z3M coupe (also known as M Coupe) and M Roadster models were introduced in 1997 and were powered by the 3.2 litre straight six engines of the contemporary M3.[21] The BMW board was reluctant to approve the Z3M for production, however the business case was eventually justified through component sharing with the regular Z3 Coupe.[22]

Initially, the "Euro" (non-North American) models were powered by the S50 engine, and North American models were powered by the S52 engine. In 2000, all Z3 models switched to the S54 engine. The transmission was a 5-speed Getrag 320 (unlike the 6-speed manual that was used in the M3 at the time).[23]

Differences between the Z3M and regular Z3 models include:

  • Larger front spoiler (without fog lights)
  • Revised rear bumper to fit the quad exhausts
  • Engine and oil temperature gauges (in the center console)
  • Wider rear track[11]
  • Limited slip differential
  • 17-inch wheels
  • Outside mirrors have a more aerodynamic shape
  • Larger brakes shared with the E36 M3.

Unlike the rest of the Z3 range, the Z3M did not receive cosmetic changes during the facelift in 2000. At the facelift, the S50/S52 engine was replaced by the S54.


The Z3 was produced with the following transmissions:


The Z3 is based on the E36/5 3 Series Compact chassis.[3] Rear suspension is the semi trailing arm design (from the E30 3 Series), instead of the multi-link suspension design used by the rest of the E36 models.

Special Models[edit]

James Bond Edition[edit]

007 Bond Edition

To tie in with the appearance in the GoldenEye film, BMW released a "James Bond Edition" Z3 for sale through the Neiman Marcus department store. The James Bond Edition sold in 1996 for USD$35,000. BMW and Neiman Marcus had originally set a 20 unit sales goal, but was later increased to 100 units after receiving a high level of interest orders.

The James Bond Edition was based on the Z3 1.8 and included the following unique features: a 007 dash plaque, 007 Bond floor mats, unique wheels and chrome exterior trim. The colour scheme was an "Atlantic blue" exterior with taupe leather interior, as per the Z3 which appeared in GoldenEye.[26]

V12 prototype[edit]

In 1999, the BMW M division produced a single prototype Z3 powered by the M73 V12 engine,[27][28] in order to test the space efficiency of the engine bay.[29] The car has a 6-speed manual transmission and the weight distribution is 70/30.

Z3M Coupe Safety Car[edit]

A safety car variant of the Z3M Coupe was also produced by the BMW M division.[30] Like other BMW safety cars, it was produced to be the safety car in MotoGP and was used in the 2000 season.

Model year changes[edit]

Most changes occur in September each year, when the changes for the following model year go into production, as is typical BMW practice. Therefore, the changes for 1996 represent the 1997 model year, for example.



  • Coupe models introduced[32]
  • Z3M Roadster and Coupe models introduced.
  • Rollover hoops introduced.[31]
  • Z3 1.8 model discontinued, therefore the 1.9 became the base model.
  • Wood trim and a power soft top were added as options.[citation needed]


  • Z3M Coupe model introduced.
  • Z3 2.0 model introduced, powered by the M52 six-cylinder engine.
  • Z3 2.3 and Z3 2.8 engines upgraded from M52 to M52TU.
  • Z3 1.9 engine changed from M44 to M43.
  • Airbag upgraded to dual-stage design.[33]

1999 Facelift (LCI)[edit]

The Z3 facelift (also known as LCI) models began production in September 1999 and were sold as the 2000 model year.

Tail lights were now more rounded and L-shaped, and the trunk release button had a finger indent. The new trunk design accommodated the L-shaped lights and the indent. The car incorporated a wider axle, although the wheel arches for all models were the same, not flared. The facelifted CHMSL brake light was silver and more upright, its top painted in body color. Headlight halos were rimmed in chrome, and the grille became slightly rounder and less chromed. The Z3M models did not receive the exterior styling changes.

Center console buttons were rearranged, with the clock in the middle. The convertible top received three layers of insulation instead of one for better weather protection. Facelifted models could also be ordered with optional side airbags, detectable as two separate trim panels in the doors. The electronic stability control was upgraded from ASC to DSC.



Final Z3 produced on June 28, 2002.[1]

Production volumes[edit]

One source provides the data below for production figures.[34] However, there are other sources which provide conflicting information,[34] so the actual numbers are not certain.

Model Pre/Facelift Model Year Units
Z3 1.8l Roadster Pre-Facelift 1995-1998 29,509
Z3 1.9l Roadster Pre-Facelift 1995-1998 76,063
Z3 1.9l Roadster Facelift 1999 1,902
Z3 2.0l Roadster Facelift 1999-2000 14,616
Z3 2.2l Roadster Facelift 2000-2002 21,052
Z3 2.3l Roadster Facelift (US) 1998-2000 22,282
Z3 2.5l Roadster Facelift (US) 2000-2002 6,813
Z3 2.8l Roadster Pre-Facelift 1996-1998 35,368
Z3 2.8l Roadster Facelift 1998-2000 15,239
Z3 2.8l Coupe Pre-Facelift 1997-2000 7,671
Z3 3.0l Roadster Facelift 2000-2002 14,525
Z3 3.0l Coupe Facelift 2000-2002 3,853
Z3M Roadster Pre-Facelift (UK and US) 1997-2000 13,413
Z3M Roadster Facelift (UK and US) 2001-2002 1,909
Z3M Coupe Pre-Facelift (UK and US) 1998-2000 5,179
Z3M Coupe Facelift (UK and US) 2001-2002 1,112
Total* 297,088
(279,273 Roadsters,
17,815 Coupes)

* Not including 1998-2002 Z3 1.8 litre models.


The Z3 appeared briefly in the James Bond movie GoldenEye, in a scene where Bond is driving in Cuba.[35] The Z3 is one of few non-British production cars to be driven by James Bond in a movie, and the first of three James Bond films featuring a BMW car.[36] The Z3 in GoldenEye features stinger missiles hidden behind the headlights, an emergency parachute braking system and a radar scanner in the form of a LCD screen in the dashboard.[37] It is also noted during the briefing scene, that the car contains a passenger ejector seat and a self-destruct system.[38]

Two blue prototypes were provided in January 1995 for filming at the Leavesden Aerodrome.[39][40] The agreement between BMW and Eon Productions was for cross-promotion of the car and the film, and there was no financial component.[41]

Sales of the Z3 spiked as the film sat at number one at the Box Office. In the 1996 production run, more than 15,000 roadsters were sold out by the time the car was introduced.[35]


  • 1995 "Super Reggie" Best-of-show award for the GoldenEye marketing campaign[42]
  • 1999 Edmunds' Most Wanted Convertible $25,001-$40,000 for the Z3 2.8[43]
  • 1999 Car and Driver "Ten Best" for M Coupe / M Roadster[44]
  • 1999 Automobile Magazine "Design of the Year" award for the M Coupe[45]
  • 1999 Automobile Magazine "Best Sports Car" aware for the M Coupe[45]
  • 2000 Intellichoice "Best Overall Value of the Year" - "Base Sport" for the Z3 Roadster 2.3[46]
  • 2000 Top Gear TV show "Driver's Car of the Year" for the M Coupe[47]
  • 2009 Jalopnik "Best 10 Cars of the Decade" feature for the M Coupe[48]
  • 2011 Top Gear "Hammond's Icons" for the M Coupe[49]


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