Versus the competiton:
Just like you, I’ve wanted to drive this sexy Bavarian treat for a long time. But four cylinders? Hardly seemed worth it.
Now there are six.
Trust me, it’s worth it.
This car is simply a sexy, shapely pile of sheet metal motivated by a hellishly fun engine. No wonder James Bond gave up his Aston. (OK, maybe it’s not that good, but it is enjoyable.)
So what else do you get? Ok, here’s the scoop:
When you ask for your Z3 with BMW’s juicy 2.8-liter aluminum block in-line six-cylinder, you also get a car with a 2.6-inch wider rear track. You also get a car with a base price of $35,900, about $6,000 more than the four-cylinder.
But the extra width gives this car a more muscular rear stance, and looks are oh-so-important when it comes to roadsters. True to BMW form, the extra width also aids in traction. To be on the safe side, they also toss in traction control and a limited slip differential, very important for a rear-drive automobile.
So is it fun?
What else would you expect? This is, after all, a BMW. The steering is quick and sharp, although it’s easy for the rear end to shake loose over bumpy pavement. Otherwise, this tail stays planted. The engine makes a wonderful racket, with a mechanical melody that will have you shutting off the audio system.
But is it unusually fun?
Almost any BMW is really fun to drive, so most BMW loyalists won’t be surprised. That’s not to say this isn’t fun to drive — any roadster with this much power (189 horsepower in a 2,932-pound car) would be fun.
The engine itself has variable valve timing, meaning it adjusts the timing depending on engine speed. Power is strong from initial throttle application. From zero, 60 is just 6.3 seconds away. If that sounds fast, it is. Ordering the six means a weight penalty of only 143 pounds. But it also means the battery gets moved to the rear, to help preserve BMW’s traditional 50/50 front/rear weight distribution.
OK, so it’s fun to drive. Does it pamper, too?
Not as much as you’d expect, but who cares? Remember, you’re here to drive. That’s the message that comes across loud and clear.
Whereas certain competitors might try to cram a lot of the traditional luxo-gear into their sportsters, BMW eschews such gimmickry.
This even extends to the top. It’s not lined and has a plastic rear window. Any power to put it up and down will be supplied by the driver or passenger. Wind buffeting is as it should be in a convertible — you’ll arrive with coiffure sculpted by the wind.
But if you really feel the need to be hedonistic, options such as heated seats, an on-board computer, chrome interior trim and heated mirrors are available as options.
More important are the tire upgrades: With the six-cylinder, one can obtain 225/ 45ZR-17 front and rear performance radial tires. Sixteen-inch tires are standard.
Stopping is as good as going, and it doesn’t get any better than this. Stops are short, straight and trouble-free.
The build quality of this car was of the typical Teutonic variety. It had a stout body, with little chassis flex. The plastics inside seemed a little more durable than luxurious. Trunk space was about as small as you’d expect. If you want cargo space in a convertible, saw the roof off your minivan.
Is there any downside to owning this car? Only if you don’t like being stared at.
And that brings me to my final thought.
If James Bond is a secret agent, why doesn’t he drive a stealth car? He’s always piloting cars that stand out.
But those Bond films never make any sense. Neither do roadsters.
Both are really, really fun. BMW Z3 2.8 Standard: 2.8-liter in-line six-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, variable assist power steering, four-wheel-disc brakes with anti-lock, traction control, limited slip differential, 225/50ZR-16 performance radial tires, specialf ont spoiler, intermittent speed-sensitive wipers, dual power outside mirrors, illuminated master key, cruise control, four-way power driver’s and passenger’s seats, wood shift knob, power windows with one-touch operation and closing, climate control, manual top, AM/FM stereo radio/cassette with six speakers and anti-theft, pre-wiring for CD changer-cellular phone-keyless entry, dual cup holders, coin holder, tool kit in spare tire compartment. Available options: Sub-woofer, leather interior, chrome interior trim, heated seats, on-board computer, heated outside mirrors with washer jets, special paint, 17-inch tires, four-speed automatic transmission. Base price: $35,900 As tested: Not available EPA rating: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway Test mileage: 19 mpg