We drove and reported on BMW’s two-seat Z3 (Cartalk, March 10) when it cameout with only a 1.9-liter, 138-h.p., 4-cylinder engine that was noticeablyunderpowered. Now a 2.8-liter, 189-h.p. in-line 6 is available, and it makes aconsiderable difference in off-the-line scootability, but the Z3 still isn’t aradial burner.

This is a car meant to be seen in, to cruise and enjoy the scenery in, butnot one in which you stick your tongue out at the guy in the Z28 or Mustang GTnext to you at the light unless you want your tongue caked in exhaust fumesfor the next quarter-mile.

A little more flash than dash, but the car’s still among our favorites forthe new year.

One gripe, however, and that’s the leather-grained seats that come with thebeige interior. Ick.

The beige seats have raised little black leather dots on them as do thebeige floor mats. The mats look like leopard skins, the seats look like aposter for measles. The total effect: it looks cheap.

The Z3 with 4-cylinder starts at $29,425, the 6-cylinder at $35,900.Traction control is standard with both engines but BMW advises that you run onfour snow tires in the winter because the p225 tires are wide and tend toskate.

For now only a manual soft top is offered on the cars, but a power top iscoming for the ’98 model year. BMW will offer an M3 roadster powered by a3.2-liter, 321-h.p., inline 6-cylinder in Europe in the second quarter of thisyear that’s built off the Z3. A U.S. version is to follow, but with a 240-h.p.version of the 3.2 6.

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