ⓘ Blog | BMW Z3 - bmw z. 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: 2-door coupe E368 mod ..



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:

  • 2-door coupe E36/8 model code
  • 2-door roadster E36/7 model code

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 BMW Z Series car.

Z3M models were introduced in 1998 in roadster and coupe 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 Z4.


1. Development and launch

Development on the roadster began in 1991 and was led by Burkhard Goschel. 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 coupe model was run by a group of BMW engineers outside of work in their own time. The Z3 Coupe 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 Coupe 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.


2. Body styles

Roadster E36/7

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.

Coupe E36/8

Coupe models entered production in September 1998 with its controversial shooting brake design, which has been nicknamed "clown shoe" and "bread van" by critics. In Germany, it has been nicknamed the "turnschuh" sports shoe.

Coupe models were only produced as 2.8, 3.0i, and M Coupe models.


3. Transmissions

The available transmissions are:

  • 4-speed GM 4L30-E automatic Z3 1.9 / 2.0 / 2.5 / 2.8
  • 5-speed GM 5L40-E automatic Z3 2.2i / 2.5
  • 5-speed Getrag 250 manual Z3 1.8 / 1.9i / 2.0 / 2.2i / 2.5
  • 5-speed ZF S5-31 manual Z3 2.8 / 3.0i / Z3M
  • 5-speed ZF 5HP19 automatic Z3 3.0i

4. Models

The 4-cylinder models feature a single tailpipe, while 6-cylinder models have dual tailpipes, wheelarch flares for pre-facelift models, and a revised front bumper. The 2.3 and 2.5 models were sold exclusively in the United States, while the 1.8, 2.0, and 2.2i models were not available.


5. Z3M versions

The Z3M versions were introduced in 1997 in the roadster M Roadster and coupe M Coupe body styles. European models were initially powered by the S50 engine, while North American models were powered by the S52 engine. In 2001 both the European and North American models switched to the new S54 engine. Models were 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. Z3M models were available in M-specific colors, they feature more aerodynamic wing-mirrors as well as redesigned front and rear bumpers and bespoke "Roadstar" Style 40 wheels, revised side gill and quad exhausts. The interior can also be differentiated by the voltmeter, clock and oil temperature gauges in the center console, leather-wrapped center console and door pulls, as well as unique M-styled seats and interior color options.

Unlike the rest of the Z3 range, the Z3M did not receive cosmetic changes during the facelift in 2000.


6.1. Special Models James Bond Edition

To tie in with the appearance in the GoldenEye film, BMW released a "James Bond Edition" Z3 for sale through the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue. The James Bond Edition sold in 1996 for US$35.000. BMW and Neiman Marcus had originally set a 20-unit sales goal, but was later increased to 100 units after receiving a high level of interest orders.

The James Bond Edition was based on the Z3 1.9 and included a 007 dash plaque, 007 Bond floor mats, unique wheels, and chrome exterior trim. The colour scheme was an "Atlantic blue" exterior with beige leather interior, as per the Z3 which appeared in GoldenEye.


6.2. Special Models V12 prototype

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 a convertible Z3, wears 17 inch wheels with 225/45 tires up front and 245/40 at the back, and is painted in a shade of orange. The V12 produces 322 hp 240 kW; 326 PS at 5.000 rpm and 490 N⋅m 361 lb⋅ft of torque at 3.900 rpm, and power is sent through a 6-speed manual transmission. The concept is much heavier than the standard Z3 at 1.400 kg 3.086 lb, giving it 70/30 weight distribution. The concept was only shown once, which was in 1999 to the motoring magazine Autozeitung. Their tests revealed a 0-100 km/h 62 mph time of 5.5 seconds, 0 to 1.000m 0.62 miles in 24.4 seconds, and a top speed of 263 km/h 163 mph.


6.3. Special Models Z3M Coupe Safety Car

A safety car variant of the Z3M Coupe was produced by the BMW M division for MotoGP and used in the 2000 season.


7. Model year changes


  • M Roadster and M Coupe models introduced to the public.
  • BMW Individual introduced to Z3 models.


  • DSC now integrated with Dynamic Brake Control DBC and Automatic Differential Brake ADB functions.

7.1. Model year changes 1997

  • M Roadster and M Coupe models introduced to the public.
  • BMW Individual introduced to Z3 models.

7.2. Model year changes 1998

  • Coupe models introduced.
  • Automatic stability control ASC became standard equipment on 1.9 models.
  • Rollover hoops introduced.
  • Hardtop shell option for Z3 models introduced.
  • Wood trim and a power soft top were added as options.

7.3. Model year changes 1999 facelift

Production for facelift models began in April 1999. Z3M models did not receive the exterior styling changes. Major changes include:

  • Dual-stage side airbags introduced.
  • Interior design changes including: redesigned centre console buttons with a clock in the middle and a new three-spoke steering wheel design.
  • Electronic stability control upgraded from ASC to new DSC system.
  • Exterior design changes including: redesigned chrome ring headlights and L-shaped taillights, wider rear track by 2.5 in 64mm now the same across 4 and 6-cylinder models, model designation badges, finger indent for trunk release button, integrated third brake light with silver lights on 2.8 and 3.0i models, chrome exhaust tips, and new wheel designs.
  • New three-layer insulation convertible roof with headlining.
  • Engine changes including: 2.0 replaced by 2.2i, 2.3 replaced by 2.5 US only, 2.8 replaced by 3.0i. All Z3M models changed to S54 engine.


7.4. Model year changes 2000

  • DSC now integrated with Dynamic Brake Control DBC and Automatic Differential Brake ADB functions.

8. Production volumes

One source provides the data below for production figures. However, there are other sources which provide conflicting information, so actual figures are not certain.


9. Marketing

The Z3 appeared briefly in the James Bond movie GoldenEye, in a scene where Bond is driving in Cuba. The Z3 is one of few non-British production cars to be driven by James Bond in a movie, and the first of three James Bond films featuring a BMW car. 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.

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 there was no financial component.

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 out by the time the car was introduced.


10. Awards

  • 2009 Jalopnik "Best 10 Cars of the Decade" feature for the M Coupe
  • 2000 Top Gear TV show "Drivers Car of the Year" for the M Coupe
  • 1999 Automobile Magazine "Best Sports Car" award for the M Coupe
  • 2011 Top Gear "Hammonds Icons" for the M Coupe
  • 1999 Car and Driver "Ten Best" for M Coupe / M Roadster
  • 1999 Edmunds Most Wanted Convertible $25.001-$40.000 for the Z3 2.8
  • 1995 "Super Reggie" Best-of-show award for the GoldenEye marketing campaign
  • 1999 Automobile Magazine "Design of the Year" award for the M Coupe
  • 2000 Intellichoice "Best Overall Value of the Year" - "Base Sport" for the Z3 Roadster 2.3