Car reviews - BMW - Z3 - 2.8 convertible
Strong, smooth engine, nimble handling, quality feel
Room for improvement
Looking a little dated
4 May 2001
By TIM BRITTEN
BMW's 2.8-litre Z3 does complete justice to the two-seat sportster's suggestively muscular looks. The pumped-out wheel arches and restyled front end fill the car out better, while inside, leather trimmed seats and dashboard lift the overall ambience - although it is still a bit dark and drab with the soft-top in place.
The chrome highlights around the instruments and on the big light switch on the dash, as well as other places, are a bit over the top to some eyes.
Equipment includes heated seats and cruise control.
The soft-top on the 2.8 is power operated and folds up and down very quickly but you do have to manually lock and unlock it from the top of windscreen.
But it is what is under the bonnet that really counts.
The twin camshaft, in-line, 2.8-litre, six-cylinder engine, also used in 3 Series and 5 Series, is turbine smooth and provides bags of power. It still prefers to have a few revs on board before it really gets into its stride.
Anything over 2500rpm and the Z3 hauls itself eagerly down the road.
And it makes a nice noise doing it with a fruity growl on the over-run.
The manual gearbox is light and easy to use. The ratios are well chosen with the driver able to stroke the car up through the gearbox at a fair clip. BMW claims the 2.8-litre hits 100km/h from standstill in 7.1 seconds.
Drive the six-cylinder hard and obviously there is a fuel penalty. This means many trips to the petrol pump as this model gets only a small 51-litre tank.
Performance is up compared to the superseded four-cylinder and so is the handling with the all-independent suspension better tied down to improve grip and precision.
The suspension has also been rejigged to cope with the bigger 17- inch wheels and tyres.
The big boots ensure the 2.8 sticks like chewing gum to a school desk, at least in the dry.
In the wet even the big tyres have trouble coping which is why most drivers will welcome the standard traction control.
This system uses the brakes and then a cut in engine power to eliminate wheelspin. The good news is that it can be switched off for tail-out motoring.
Handling is good, although the big tyres do make the car feel a little agitated as it tramlines quite strongly.
Understeer is not evident at low to middle speeds but the Z3 can be nicely balanced by using the abundant power of the in-line six.
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