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E36/7 Z3 Series II

1 Jun 1999

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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