1997 BMW Z3

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starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

158.5” x 50.9”


Rear-wheel drive



2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1997 BMW Z3 trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Convertibles for 2024

1997 BMW Z3 review: Our expert's take

By Cars.com Editors

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?

Well, yeah.

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

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 4.3
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value 4.8
  • Exterior 5.0
  • Reliability 4.7
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Most recent consumer reviews


1998 bmw z3.2.8

First was 1996.1.9L.best experience seating in the trunk.currently another z3.2.8.almost 200k mikes.runs like new.doesnt burn one drop of oil.plenty of power.no cry baby bout valve cover or piwer steering leak.nor oil filter housing leak.car is trouble free.and its not a miata.


Incredible Ride

I've owned a BMW Z3 2.8 L - it is truly one of the best balanced cars I've ever driven. It can take corners at speed as if it is on rails. The 6 cylinder engine sounds like no other. The power and torque curve are continual and strong. Maintaining an older Z3 is very easy. Top mounted oil filter element and plenty of room to work in the engine bay.


Purchased New

Wife’s second car, driven sparingly, garage kept, fun car to drive, 5 speed manual, 23,477 original miles. We have gotten old and it is a young person’s car.

See all 30 consumer reviews


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by BMW
New car program benefits
48 months/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance
48 months/50,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Certified Pre-Owned Elite with less than 15,000 miles; Certified Pre-Owned with less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles from expiration of 4-year/50,000-mile new car warranty
Dealer certification required
196-point inspection
Roadside assistance
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