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BMW Z3

E36/7 Z3 Series II

BMW logo1 Jun 1999

By THE GOAUTO TEAM

BMW was obviously burnt by unfavourable comparisons with blow dryers and soufflé, so wrought an extensive makeover for the Z3 facelift.

A re-profiled rear, adding a bit more visual balance while benefiting boot space, was the most obvious giveaway. Redesigned tail-lights and chromed ring headlights were also part of the package.

Better still, for Australia BMW junked the limp 1.9 four-cylinder engine for a proper in-line six, even if its 2.0-litre capacity only meant 110kW and 190Nm. At least it was smooth and eager to rev.

It was better value too, with traction control, side front airbags, cruise control and a host of other niceties included – although still at a price that made the contemporary (and still better-resolved) MX-5 seem like a bargain.

From October 2000 another wave of improvements brought another engine transplant in the base model – now it was a 125kW/210Nm 2.2-litre in-line six-cylinder unit – as well as a five-speed automatic gearbox and an electric roof mechanism.

Better still the 2.8 ‘six’ was replaced by BMW’s superb 3.0-litre, sporting 170kW and 300Nm.

But the Z3’s reputation as a poseur’s car could not be overcome, despite BMW’s concerted efforts to improve the model’s driveability and value for money.

Yet it was by no means a failure – far from it. From 1995 to 2002 263,951 Z3 roadsters were manufactured, along with 11,524 of the 1998-2002 Z3 Coupe we never saw in Australia, 15,322 M Roadsters (1997-2002) and just 6291 of the magical M Coupes (1998-2002).

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