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Z3 Road Tests

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Mike Fishwick View Drop Down
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    Posted: 16 Oct 2013 at 9:59am


Book Review: Brooklands Limited Edition Road Tests – BMW Z3 & Z3M          Mike Fishwick

Now that the Z3 has been consigned to history, many prospective second-hand buyers will want to obtain as much information as possible before deciding to buy BMW’s baby sports car. Apart from the obviously  prejudiced opinions of many journalists and television presenters, there are also the opinions of owners, some of whom may also not be the most objective sources if one is interested in the Zed’s dynamic qualities.  It must be remembered that a BMW survey revealed that less than 4 per cent of Z3 buyers were concerned with trivia such as performance and handling qualities! 

Most would-be buyers will be so discouraged by the unending criticism which has been thrown at the Z3 by countless media hacks that the only answer is to read as many road test reports as possible, in an attempt to separate fact from fantasy.  The Brooklands Limited Edition collection of road tests for the Z3 family from UK, US and Australian magazines remains the best source of such information.

This book covers all models up to July 1998, except the basic eight-valve 118 bhp model. It does not therefore cover the later double VANOS 2.8 litre model, or the subsequent 2, 2.2, and 3 litre six cylinder engines.  As some of the tests are from American magazines,  it should be remembered that the US-market M Roadster develops 240 bhp, its engine being essentially a 3.2 litre version of the single-VANOS 2.8.  Remember also that the US gallon is just under four litres, giving fuel consumption figures which are some 12% less than those for the imperial gallon.

As well as individual reports, comparative tests are included of the 1.9 litre model with the Mazda MX-5 and MGF, the 2.8 litre model with the Porsche Boxter and Mercedes-Benz SLK, the M Roadster against the Boxster, Chevrolet Corvette, and TVR Chimera, and the M Coupé against the Porsche 911 Carrera. 

The book is packed with information of all kinds; hundreds of good quality monochrome photographs, and of course the opinions of testers who had access to comparative models.  One must read between the lines when testers express opinions, for many fail to understand that the difference between the maximum speeds of the M Roadster and TVR Chimera (155 and 167 mph) counts for nothing in the real world. 

Many testers seem to share the problems of their two-wheeled colleagues, who cannot appreciate any motorcycle which cannot raise its front wheel at least a foot off the ground under acceleration. The equivalent fascination in the car world is the passion for being able to provoke power oversteer, even if (as is admitted in the case of the TVR) the resulting tail slide cannot be controlled – or even stopped – once started!  I am inclined to regard such habits as the sign of an undeveloped chassis (or driver) and can well do without the ‘Excitement’ or ‘Satisfaction’ they are claimed to provide.

Some testers are obviously Porsche enthusiasts (I bet they never buy one!) and cannot appreciate that the £11,000 price difference between a 2.8 litre Z3 and a similarly-equipped Boxster (or the £20,000 difference between the M Coupé and Porsche 911 Carrera) places the Porsche in a different market.  Others virtually ignore the vastly better mid-range acceleration of the 2.8 litre Z3, which makes it a far more relaxing car to drive than the equivalent Boxster.  In fact, I find the comparison with such disparate models to be rather flattering in favour of the Z3!

In many cases the ‘mere’ 140 bhp of the 1.9 litre Z3 is deemed to be insufficient, and lacking in excitement, but similar comments are also aimed at the 196 bhp of the 2.8 litre model.  The mighty M Roadster of course, provides power by the bucketful, yet is sneered at for a general lack of ‘Class’ – you just cannot please some people.

One can never take the opinions of road testers at face value, with their personal preferences, ignorance of value for money, desire to show off their power sliding ability and also please their magazine’s best advertisers.  With this personal paranoia in mind I would have liked to also see a report from a happy owner of each Z3 model, so giving the reader a good idea of how the Z3 performs in a day to day, real-world environment.

As many of the tests are from USA publications, it must be remembered that their fuel consumption is based on the US gallon, which is just under four litres, thereby producing a consumption figure some twelve per cent higher than if based on the Imperial Gallon.  Fuel consumption figures, in fact, are the only problem, as they are either manufacturer’s figures or ‘Test average’ and are not representative of everyday use – let alone at sensible touring speeds. 

Except for this criticism, I found the book to be very helpful in confirming my reactions on initial introduction to the Z3, and the answer to most of the questions which inevitably come to mind at a later date.  Whatever member of the Z3 family you favour, this book is well worth the asking price, being an excellent source of data, information, photographs and comparisons which are unavailable from any other single source, and will generally give you the feel of the car, albeit in extreme use. 



(Brooklands ‘Road Test’ Limited Edition – BMW Z3 & Z3M.  

£9.95   ISBN 1-85520-478-9)



Edited by Mike Fishwick - 11 Oct 2014 at 2:20pm
A Z3 is not just for Christmas - it's for life!
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