New engines for 2001 are the top news for BMWs group of two-passenger sports cars, which debuted in 1999. What had been the base Z3 2.3 roadster is now the 2.5i, courtesy of a new 2.5-liter inline-six-cylinder engine that makes 14 horsepower more than its predecessor with a bit less torque. In the same vein, the Z3 2.8 roadster and hatchback become 3.0i models, now fitted with a 3.0-liter inline-six that develops 32 hp more than before.
BMWs five-speed-automatic transmission with the Steptronic manual shift provision replaces the former four-speed unit. All models gain BMWs Dynamic Brake Control system as standard equipment to help maintain braking stability through difficult turns. The Z3 also comes standard with traction control and BMWs electronic stability system called Dynamic Stability Control. The wheels have been restyled, and interiors exhibit a bit more chrome than before including the door handles. A chrome and leather gearshift lever also is new this year.
High-performance M Coupe and Roadster versions of the Z3 hatchback coupe and roadster are also available, and all are built at BMWs factory in Spartanburg, S.C.
Although the Z3 coupe and roadster share basic styling themes, the coupe has different body panels from the windshield rearward that produce a squared-off appearance at the back. Roadsters have a standard manually operated fabric top with a plastic rear window, as well as a cloth lining to reduce noise inside. A power top and a removable hardtop with a glass rear window are optional.
The Z3 3.0i coupe has new 17-inch radial spoke wheels, and cross-spoke wheels are available as an option. A new center console contains updated switches, and the front grille is now chrome-plated. Tires for the Z3 2.5i are 225/50ZR16 on new alloy wheels, and 17-inch rubber is optional.
Seating is restricted to two, even in the hatchback with its squared-off roofline. Standard equipment on the Z3 2.5i includes air conditioning, vinyl upholstery, a four-way power drivers seat and two-way passenger seat, a six-speaker cassette and weather stereo system, and power mirrors, locks and windows.
The 3.0i models add leather upholstery, cruise control and a Harman Kardon audio system, as well as wood interior trim and sport seats for the hatchback. Power seats help compensate for the lack of an adjustable steering wheel. A new Sport Package, which includes sport seats and 17-inch cross-spoke wheels, is available for the Z3 3.0i roadster.
Under the Hood
The base 2.5-liter dual overhead cam inline-six-cylinder engine develops 184 hp vs. 225 hp for the 3.0-liter inline-six in the 3.0i models. Both engines come with a five-speed-manual transmission, but a four-speed automatic is optional. The Z3 comes standard with side-impact airbags, dual front airbags, antilock brakes, the electronic stability system and traction control.
Stronger engines for 2001 should make BMWs already-capable coupe and roadster even more potent than before. BMW claims that a Z3 3.0i coupe can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in a swift 5.9 seconds.
Handling has always been a Z3 bonus, with the roadster and coupe steering precisely and confidently, whether on straightaways or curvy roads. Cockpits are on the snug side but no more so than most rivals.