The Unix Nerd's Domain
The Z3 and M Coupe
The Z3 was developed for the highly competitive roadster market created by the Mazda MX5. The car is made in the USA at the purpose built Spartenburg plant in South Carolina and is up to German build standards. The M Coupe (originally called the Z5) is aimed at the high end of the sports market and is a gorgeous two seater coupe.
Both cars have a 10" shorter version of the E36 Compact chassis, basically and E36 front end and the old E30 semi-trailing arm rear axle. This gives fun handling and is a very traditional BMW formula.
The Z3 is a bit overweight for it's class, 300lbs more than an MX5 but with better materials and extras. In the UK some owners waited over two years for the first 1.9 cars due to over demand from left hand drive markets. When you compare the MX5 and Z3 side to side the quality difference is obvious, as you'd expect from any BMW.
The Z3 2.8 and Z3M have much wider rear wheel arches to give a wider rear track. The Z3M gets the M3 engine and a lot of chassis stengthening. Also there was a facelift in 2001 which mainly affected the rear flanks.
The M Coupe is a two seater hatchback based on the Z3 chassis. It is being marketed at the high sports end of the market and even the UK won't get a 1.9 as originally planned or even the euro 2.8/3.0. The car was meant to be a four seater but this proved too difficult to design, at one stage a three seater was suggested! The M Coupe comes in 2.8M52, later 3.0 M54 and M3 3.2 versions. The US had a 3.2 S52 based version initially but later got the full //M version from the E46 M3.
I had a Z3 1.9 on order for delivery in around April '99. But I cancelled it after a year on the waiting list. To be honest I'd gone off the idea as a two seater isn't very practical and the soft top isn't a great idea in Scotland. I still fancy an //M Coupe in a few years when prices come down.
Z3 1.9, not sure I like those wheels.
Nice. Very, very nice.
One of the few modern BMWs I like!
Can't wait for a cheap used one :-)
The 1.9 gets the M44 engine from the rest of the E36 range, a good little engine but the OBD-II system makes modifications difficult. This was later replaced by the 1.9 M3TU 8 valve engine with much less power. The 2.8 is the standard M52 engine, lots of torque but horsepower is stiffled to 193bhp by German insurance regulations unlike the 3.0 M54 which replaced it.
The M cars in europe get the wonderful 321bhp double VANOS engine. In the US they get the same engine as the US M3 but thanks to good gearing only top end performance is affected. Later 2002 onwards US cars have the full E46 M3 engine. All M cars had the five speed gearbox as the six wouldn't fit the chassis.
For the '99 model year the US 1.9 has been replaced with the M52 2.5 170bhp engine which was never a euro option. The M44 1.9 has been replaced with a 2.0 six and there is a new 1.9 eight valve M43TU. Some of the very early cars had the 1.8 8 valve M43.
|Power / Weight
(bhp / 1000kg)
|Final drive ratio
(man / auto)
|Z3 1.8 (early)||Convertible||M43||1250?||93?||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
|Z3 1.9 (late)||Convertible||M43TU||1250?||94?||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
(some had M40)
|Z3 2.0||Convertible||M52/M54||1345||111||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
|Z3 2.8||Convertible||M52||1335||145||3.15||Disc/Disc ABS|
|Z3M euro||Convertible||S52||1420?||226?||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
|M-Coupe 2.8||2 seat Coupe||M52||1350??||143||3.15?||Disc/Disc ABS|
|M-Coupe 3.0||2 seat Cope||M54||1350??||171?||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
|Z3 3.0||Convertible||M54||1350?||171?||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
|M-Coupe euro||2 seat Coupe||S52||1450?||221||?||Disc/Disc ABS|
See the engine details page for power figures.
One year waiting list in the UK when it was new!
The Z3 1.9 doesn't have vented front discs, penny pinching BMW should know better!
If it has a power roof check it well, relaible but not cheap to fix if they break.
Do not buy an M52 with an alloy block made before 3/98 unless it's had a new engine under warranty or you get a compression check done. Sulphur in fuel causes premature bore wear which shows as a bad idle and lack of power. Only solution is a new block. This was a particular problem in the North of England. After the problems with the M60 V8 BMW NA were vary of the alloy block M52 and all (or maybe just early?) US cars had a steel block instead.
Early M52s use a water pump with a plastic impeller. After 80k this can fail and leave little bits all around the cooling system. Replace it with the later metal style pump before it fails, not dear. M50s don't seem to like the cooling system being neglected, you need a fluid change every 2 years at least.
I've heard about problems with the fuel pump on early //M Coupes, especially US models.