When you think about automotive fun in 1997, thoughts turn to Germany -- and South Carolina.

That's where BMW builds cars these days.

In recent months, I've had a chance to drive three very different 1997 BMWs: the Z3 2.8 roadster, the M3 sedan and the 750iL sedan. The first two are new entries for this model year, while the 750iL shares space atop the BMW lineup with the similarly priced 840Ci.

Here's a brief look at each car:

M3 sedan

The M3, the perfect stealth car, is even better as a racer-in-disguise for 1997 now that it's available as a four door.

BMW's M division is dedicated to producing high-performance versions of production BMWs. Two years ago, that led to the U.S. introduction of the M3 coupe. For 1997, a sedan version becomes available.

Priced at $39,380, or about $7,500 more than the 328 sedan, the M3 sedan shares many components with the M3 coupe. That means breath-taking acceleration and tighter-than-tight handling. The difference, of course, is that with four doors, the M3 is something of a family car. Of course, this family car is the fastest accelerating four-door sedan available in the United States, BMW says. The company claims a zero-to-60-mph time of 5.9 seconds with the five-speed manual and 6.7 with the five-speed manual. Top speed is electronically limited to 137 mph.