BMW Z3 (1998)
Our first impression of the BMW Z3 is that it provides all the fun of aMazda Miata, but it's more substantial. It's a real car. It's a littlebigger, and it's somewhat heavier. In short, you don't feel like you'requite as likely to get killed in it, although you'll still feel prettyvulnerable out on the highway when trucks pass you (or, more likely, youpass them.)
We found it to be a refreshing car. Go out on a summer night with the topdown and drive around. You'll feel renewed. It's one of the few cars tocome our way recently that was truly fun and different. We continuallylooked forward to driving this car. We didn't get bored with it. It looksgreat, it handles great, it sounds great. In a perfect world, we thought,the government would buy one of these for every American citizen as asecond car. (Remind us to put that on the platform for our 2000presidential race.)
Unfortunately, BMW decided to do away with the very adequate four-cylinder,1.9-liter engine that came in the base-model Z3. Now, you can only get itwith a choice of six-cylinder engines: A) overpowered, and B) extremelyoverpowered.
We drove the Z3 with the 2.8-liter engine, which adds about 30 miles anhour at the top end. It's overkill for most people, in our opinion, andwill probably tempt certain knuckleheads into driving much too fast. (Thenagain, if you're driving this car, or any car that fast, you probablydeserve to die in a fiery crash. And you probably will.) Even EuropeanCar magazine thinks this car is too fast--and when crazy Europeandrivers think a car is out of control, you've got serious reason for concern.
Unless you feel an overwhelming desire to crash into a bridge at 140 milesan hour--when 110 would do just fine--stick with the smaller, 2.5-litersix. Or protest this ridiculous horsepower race which BMW is encouragingand get a Miata.
One problem with the Z3: it has a surprisingly cheap plastic rear window,which, we guarantee, will get creased the first time you put the top down.In the Miata, Mazda has wisely changed their rear window design fromplastic to glass to avoid this problem. It's too bad BMW didn't steal thatidea.
One final thought on the Z3: this is a completely different car, dependingupon what color you select. Red, in our humble opinion, is out. Too loud.We would go with silver, with the black roof--it's classy, but not flashy.
View cars.com model report on this vehicle.