Do you want to take Graham Norton for a ride but don’t have the money? Then you have a BMW Z3 at your disposal. Or maybe you want a car that will become a classic one day? Then a BMW Z3 may be a viable candidate.

A relatively obscure car in our country, the BMW Z3 started the roadster hysteria for BMW. It may not have been the best possible model, but we all know the first time doesn’t go as well as we wanted. Besides, without the BMW Z3 we wouldn’t have the Z4. It’s just that the Z4 is a car for the kind of guy who has his hair gelled, gold chain around his neck, expensive perfume, is single but has more women’s clothes in his house than he has for himself. And the Z3? The Z3 is a car for the kind of man who has an earring in his left ear.


If you don’t qualify for that lifestyle, then a Z3 might still be an interesting choice for you. That’s for the following reasons:

  • The BMW Z3 is an old-fashioned BMW, and it comes with both 4-cylinder engines and especially 6-cylinder engines. You even have a 2-liter 6-cylinder engine, which can sing more beautifully than Vanilla Ice when you play “Ice Ice Baby” when going to sleep. Unfortunately, the Z3 only comes in a convertible version (technically there is a hatchback version, but you have more luck finding Nemo than finding a Z3 hatchback) which waters down a lot of the sportiness. It’s heavier and less aerodynamic, which is why many people opted for the E46 Coupe instead.
  • The second reason to buy a Z3 is the level of options. This car has a real chance of becoming a classic and you can already see that in the market price. If a few years ago you could buy a BMW Z3 for the equivalent of a pack of Marlboro and two bottles of cognac, today prices are already starting to balloon worse than a friend who drank unpasteurized beer and was for 3 days the best friend of the toilet. He practically moved in the outhouse. All I know is that the Z3 is starting to inflate it’s prices so there is some money to be made, if you’re into this kind of thing.


BMW Z3 Engines


  • 1.8 N/A of 116 and 118 horsepower – You’re at the bottom of the barrel with this engine that leaks oil from every place possible. If you change the gaskets which are made out of toilet paper, you have a somewhat reliable engine. But at 116 horsepower you really are the last man on the street. Legend has it that pedestrians will often cut you off and flash aggresive signs at you for moving too slowly.
  • 1.9 N/A of 118 and 140 horsepower – The 140 horsepower version was the old M42 which has the emission standard…who am I kidding, it’s not emission standard, it’s non-euro. Then in 1992 comes the 118 hp M44, which was the base engine for the BMW E36 318i, the official chav car. The official engine of the 300 euro BMW. I could go on all day.
  • 2.0 N/A of 150 horsepower – Enter the first 6-cylinder engine and the only 2-liter 6-cylinder engine actually. I’m going to talk in the common general issues section about this engine because the M52 has been used in every possible and impossible combination.
  • 2.2 N/A of 170 horsepower – If Audi’s oil is usually chugged down, the BMW’s oil goes straight to waste. Yes, all the engines here lose their oil on the track thanks to the gaskets which are as thin as my wallet on a payday. And the 2.2 petrol is the most famous of them all. Or infamous?
  • 2.5 N/A of 170, 173, and 186 horsepower – Same engine, same issues. Somehow, this middle child of the family fits the stereotype and has been totally ignored by owners.
  • 2.8 N/A of 192-horsepower  – The famous 2.8 M52, heavily featured on the E36 and E46, also gets under the Z3’s long hood. 
  • 3.0 N/A of 231 horsepower – Now we’re talking about the most reliable engine in the range, but at this money, I doubt Z3 owners are interested in reliability at this point.
  • 3.2 N/A with 321 and 325 horsepower – Reserved exclusively for the Z3M, this collector’s car starts at 40000 euros at the moment, so I won’t bother writing more about it.


BMW Z3 General Issues

  • The ZF automatic transmission needs regular oil and filter changes every 60000 km, despite BMW’s recommendations that it doesn’t need maintenance. That’s what they also said about the timing which sits behind the engine, and we all know how that ended.
  • 6-cylinder engines are notorious for excessive oil consumption,  gaskets stolen from an abandoned Oltcit left in a parking lot, PCV valve, thermostat, oil pump, water pump, and getting hotter than me after a bottle of Riesling.
  • The rear suspension is stolen from the E30, even though the rest of the car sits on the E36 platform.
  • And here I come to the BMW Z3’s main drawback. Good luck finding parts for this exotic car. It’s so exotic it might aswell call itself Joseph Allen Maldonado.
  • It’s an exotic roadster-type car, so you must check out the cloth roof. Make sure to check if the cloth has cuts or holes and, more importantly, if the motors are working properly, and make sure it’s not raining in the car.


BMW Z3 Verdict

A classic car that europeans mostly avoided. A car for enthusiasts? I don’t know, considering an E36 coupe is more agile and cheaper. An investor’s car? Definitely. The BMW Z3 remains a safe investment for those who want to make money from classic cars. Like, 0.005% of people.


What engines do you recommend? If you don’t have the money for a Z3 but want a Z3, then the 1.9 petrol remains a classic choice among older BMW owners. If you have the money though, I recommend any 6-cylinder petrol for that unique, angelic symphony only an inline-6 is capable of.