By and large, the BMW Z3 was not a car revered by driving enthusiasts; not until the Z3 M Coupe came out, anyway. The roadster was not sharp enough to offer the dynamism of a Mazda MX-5, not powerful enough to challenge the Porsche Boxster and arguably not special enough to justify a premium sticker price. They sold well because a compact German convertible has appeal even if it’s a flawed one - but it wasn’t until BMW added more power that those seeking open-top thrills could really get excited.
When the 3.0i was launched in 2000 with 231hp, things took a major step forward. With the 21st century variant we now not only had an extra 186cc under the bonnet to produce 39hp more than the older 2.8 six range-topper, but there was also a standard-fit Torsen limited slip differential, updated suspension and more modern electronic stability control. The looks were also altered, with clear indicators and new taillights, and larger 17-inch wheels filling the arches more effectively, especially when fitted to wide-body cars.
With the 24-valve motor, performance was now genuinely quick. 62mph came in six seconds – six tenths better than the 2.7 Boxster – and top speed was 149mph, so the 3.0i had no trouble keeping up the pace. Handling was also improved, although Stuttgart’s two-seater still held an advantage when pushed to the limit, leaving BMW’s rival to play a more laid-back role. But it also couldn’t claim to be a comfortable cruiser, as it wasn’t as forgiving as a Mercedes SLK, which itself was never overtly plush.
Time has helped justify the 3.0-litre Z3’s shortcomings, though, because it’s quickly been adopted as a modern classic. Perhaps it’s the combination of a long bonnet, compact footprint and retro side intakes, but the Z3 appears far more vintage than most cars from 19 years ago. The interior’s simplicity helps the cause, even if the buttons and switches feel less sports car and more 1990 BMW parts bin than anything else. The leather seats are, at least, very supportive and the noise of the inline motor ahead applies a suitably silky soundtrack.
Unlike many MX-5s from this era, Z3s, particularly those of six-pot form, have largely escaped extensive modification. Although many owners have attempted to right some of the standard car’s wrongs with parts available on the aftermarket. A former custodian of today’s Spotted, for example, has gone through the trouble of fitting polybushes to the Z3’s suspension, as well drilled and grooved brake discs. This wide-body car also comes with a hard top matched to the body’s Topaz Blue paint, although the latest owner says they’ve only used the car regularly between April and September, so it’s possibly had little use.
You might expect a roadster of this age to be showing more signs of wear, but this 78,800-mile-old car appears to be in fine shape, and with new discs and pads from a recent service, it looks ready and waiting for its next owner to take on the upcoming summer.
SPECIFICATIONS - BMW Z3 3.0I
Engine: 2,979cc, inline six
Transmission: Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 231@5,900rpm
Torque (lb ft): 221@3,500rpm
First registered: 2001
Recorded mileage: 78,800
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £6,250
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