The BMW Z3 is a range of two-seater sports cars which was produced from 1995 to 2002. The body styles of the range are:
The Z3 was based on the E36 3 Series platform, while using the rear semi-trailing arm suspension design of the older E30 3 Series. It is the first mass-produced Z Series car.
M models were introduced in 1998 in roadster and coupé body styles and were powered by the S50, S52, or S54 straight-six engine depending on country and model year. The M models came with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Production ended on June 28, 2002, with the Z3 line replaced by the E85 Z4.
Development on the roadster began in 1991 and was led by Burkhard Göschel. The exterior was designed by Joji Nagashima, being completed in mid-1992 at 39 months before production and the design was frozen in 1993. Design patents were filed on April 2, 1994, in Germany and on September 27, 1994, in the US. The Z3 was introduced via video press release by BMW North America on June 12, 1995. Production began on September 20, 1995.
Development on the coupé model was run by a group of BMW engineers outside of work in their own time. The Z3 Coupé shares the same platform and parts with the roadster, but features a chassis-stiffening hatch area and is 2.7 times stiffer in comparison. The Z3 Coupé was unveiled at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Z3 was the first BMW model to be solely manufactured outside of Germany. It was manufactured in Greer, South Carolina.
Roadster models entered production in September 1995, powered by 4-cylinder engines on launch. 6-cylinder engines were later introduced in 1996. A removable hardtop roof was available as an optional accessory.
Coupé models entered production in January 1998. The unusual side profile has been given nicknames such as "clown shoe" and "bread van" by critics. In Germany, it has been referred to as a "turnschuh" (sports shoe).
The coupé body style was produced with the BMW M54 straight-six engines (2.8, 3.0i, and M Coupé models). The engine had a maximum output of 228 horsepower, and 5,900 rpm. It had a top-speed of 155 mph. Like its sister models, it was rear-wheel drive only, and had a 5-speed manual transmission as its sole option. Very few of these cars were made, making it rarer than most cars, the BMW M Coupe model especially so.
The available transmissions are:
The 4-cylinder models feature a single tailpipe, while six-cylinder models have dual tailpipes, wider rear fenders (for pre-facelift models) and a revised front bumper. M models featured the same wider fenders as the six-cylinder models but with unique front and rear bumpers, side mirrors and the M division's first use of a quad exhaust pipe arrangement.
The 1.8, 2.0, and 2.2i models were unavailable in the United States. The U.S. was also the only market to receive the 2.3 and 2.5 models
The M versions were introduced in 1997 in the roadster (M Roadster) and coupé (M Coupé) body styles. European models were initially powered by the S50 inline-six engine, while North American models were powered by the less powerful S52 inline-six engine. In 2001 both the European and North American models switched to the new S54 engine. The Z3M was only available with a 5-speed manual transmission.
Compared to the standard Z3, M models featured a limited slip differential, a wider rear track, and larger brakes (that are shared with the E36 M3). M models were available in M-specific colors and feature numerous aesthetic and aerodynamic differences versus the rest of the Z3 range, including more aerodynamic wing-mirrors, redesigned front and rear bumpers, bespoke "Roadstar" Style 40 wheels, revised side gills, and quad exhaust pipes. The interior can also be differentiated by the voltmeter, clock, and oil temperature gauges in the center console as well as unique M-styled seats and interior color options.
Unlike the rest of the Z3 range, the M Roadster and the M Coupé did not receive cosmetic changes during the facelift in 2000.
To tie in with its appearance in GoldenEye, a James Bond film which was released the same year, BMW released a "James Bond Edition" Z3 that was offered for sale through the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. The James Bond Edition was sold in 1996 for US$35,000 (equivalent to $60,472 in 2021). BMW and Neiman Marcus had originally set a 20-unit sales goal, but this was later increased to 100 units after receiving a high level of interest from customers.
The James Bond Edition was based on the Z3 1.9i and included a 007 dash plaque, 007 floor mats, unique wheels, and chrome exterior trim. The color scheme was an "Atlanta blue" exterior with beige leather interior, matching the Z3 which appeared in GoldenEye.
In 1999, the BMW M division produced a single prototype Z3 powered by the 5.4 L M73 V12 engine in order to test the space efficiency of the engine bay. It is based on the Z3 roadster, has 17 inch wheels with 225/45 tires up front and 245/40 at the rear, and is painted in a shade of orange. The V12 was rated at 240 kW (322 hp) at 5,000 rpm and 490 N⋅m (361 lb⋅ft) of torque at 3,900 rpm, and power was sent through a 6-speed manual transmission. The concept is much heavier than the standard Z3 at 1,400 kg (3,086 lb), with nearly all of that excess weight attributable to the V12—the big engine resulted in a 70/30 weight distribution front/rear. The concept was fully functional and was tested by the German motoring magazine Autozeitung in 1999. Their tests revealed a 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) time of 5.5 seconds, a standing kilometer (0.62 miles) in 24.4 seconds, and a top speed of 263 km/h (163 mph).
A safety car variant of the BMW M Coupé was produced by the BMW M division for MotoGP and used in the 2000 season.
In April 1999, the facelift (LCI) versions of the Z3 began production. Major changes include:
One source provides the data below for production figures. However, there are other sources which provide conflicting information, so actual figures are not certain.
The Z3 appeared briefly in the James Bond movie GoldenEye, in a scene where Bond is driving in Cuba. Bond would eventually trade the car in exchange for Jack Wade's plane. The Z3 is one of only a few non-British production cars to be driven by James Bond throughout the history of the film franchise, and the first of three James Bond films that prominently featured a BMW. This break in tradition was due to a three-film licensing deal between BMW and the James Bond franchise that began with Goldeneye and ended with The World Is Not Enough. 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. It is also noted during the briefing scene that the car contains a passenger ejector seat and a self-destruct system, though they aren't used at any point in the film. The Z3 is also one of the few vehicles in the Q-Branch that was not destroyed in the field. Fans of the franchise were not enthused with the BMW product placement, all the more so since the Z3 never was given a scene in which to use the weaponry and defense features that have always distinguished a James Bond car. This was ultimately rectified with the BMW 750il in the following film, Tomorrow Never Dies.
Two blue prototypes were provided in January 1995 for filming at the Leavesden Aerodrome. The agreement between BMW and Eon Productions was for cross-promotion of the car and the film, and no money changed hands.
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 by the time the car was introduced.
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