Monday, November 11, 2013

Used Car Review - BMW Z3 (1996-2002)

Want good looks while having top down fun for the holidays? Myk Belmonte has one low cost solution.

1998-2002 BMW Z3

James Bond is definitely one lucky chap; he gets the chance of driving numerous vehicles packed with defense gadgets in all of his movies. He had driven em' all, from trains to swanky convertibles, airplanes and even an auto rickshaw. Despite being a fictional character, Bond has ridden or driven a lot.

Keeping the relation with the first paragraph, the BMW Z3 was featured in the 1995 film GoldenEye. Although it appeared as a cameo, the product placement was very successful which caused skyrocketing sales. Design patents were filed in April and September 1994 in Germany and the US respectively, with production started in September 20, 1995 at BMW's plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Before anything else, the 'Z' in the name means 'Zukunft' (German for future) and the vehicle was discontinued in 2002, with the Z4 replacing it. The coupe version was made available year later, with an M version was made available in 1998

Although available through the grey market from launch, the official distributor - Asian Carmakers Corporation - brought in the Z3 in 1996. Someone with the moolah can either get the convertible or coupe back then. Sales ceased in 2003 with the introduction of the Z4 in the earlier part of that year.

Value and Costs
Whether your reason is you want to own a top down or a BMW, then the Z3 Convertible or Coupe is now attainable. With prices between P560,000-P1,200,000 for both body styles, there's a Z3 for everyone. Check for the vehicle condition since going for something problematic is an embarrassment. Stay away from units purchased in free ports due to their questionable conversion quality and potential document problems.

Of course, maintenance costs is expensive than your garden variety compact sedan. If possible, stick with the 1.9 since it has low running expenses (more on this later); while the 3.0 is prohibitively pricey to keep. Watch out for the top if it functions well and in good shape, cooling system, radiator, accessory drive belt and belt tensioner.

Exterior and Interior
First to be reviewed is the convertible body, since it is more common. Sleek and sexy lines dominate the Z3's body; coupled with the fender flares which look aggressive that contributes to the attractiveness of the vehicle. Wonder why the back is short? Well, you do not need something longer and heavy that will spoil the driving fun. A black top, regardless of color, comes standard to all variants. As with the coupe model, a more stiff chassis (no top is available, obviously) is standard but the Shooting Brake design is a love/hate affair. You be the judge.

Only two can join in the fun inside, since the cabin is very tiny and snug; large drivers would find a hard time fitting in. It may look dated, but the cabin is still intact and solid for many years. Controls are easy to manipulate and placed logically. May I remind you the reverse gear is situated beside the first gear.

For the engines that motivates the Z3, we shall first discuss the available ones in the convertible. Until 2000, the standard (and only) engine is the M44B19 1,895cc inline four that packs 138hp at 6,000rpm and 180Nm at 4,300rpm. An update done in the millennium year had the engine upgraded to the M52B20T 1,991cc inline six which carries 170hp at 6,250rpm and 210Nm at 3,500rpm. For the coupe, the sole option is the M54B30 2,979cc inline six which is good for 231hp at 5,900rpm and 300Nm at 3,500rpm. How do they perform? Well, the 1.9 isn't fast but suits the chassis well while the 2.0 is decent; but we vouch the 1.9 for low maintenance costs. On the other hand. the 3.0 is quick but shows the limitation of the chassis.

Driving Impressions
It is a wise decision to choose the smaller engine since this is more of a cruiser, not a bruiser especially the rear can get twitchy at speeds. This is one convertible whose handling is a weakness, no thanks to a stiff suspension.

You get the stares, but that's it. Performance is simpler while the driving experience won't ring a bell. We wouldn't blame you that you want this, especially the badge and looks come standard. As for the driving experience, look elsewhere.

The Good:
  • Looks good
  • Zesty engines
  • Now affordable
The Bad:
  • Not a great handler
  • Wont excite your driving passion
  • Somewhat expensive to maintain
The Pick: 1.9

Engines: 1,895cc M44B19 I4 and 1,991cc M52B20T I6 gasoline (convertible); 2,979cc M54B30 I6 gasoline (coupe)
Power: 138hp @ 6,000rpm (1.9), 170hp @ 6,250rpm (2.0), 231hp @ 5,900rpm (3.0)
Torque: 180Nm @ 4,300rpm (1.9), 210Nm @ 3,500rpm (2.0), 300Nm @ 3,500rpm (3.0)
Fuel Consumption: 6-8km/L (city), 9-11km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual (convertible), 6-speed manual (coupe)
Suspension: Front independent McPherson strut, rear independent multi-link (convertible); front independent McPherson strut, rear Z-link (coupe)

Price (New): P1,950,000-P4,200,000 (range from 1996-2002, convertible and coupe)
Price (Now): P560,000-P1,200,000 (convertible and coupe)
Rivals: Porsche Boxster, Mercedes Benz SLK Class, Mazda Miata (convertible rivals)
On Sale: 1996-2002

Prestige Cars BMW - (02) 892-8127
Autohaus BMW - (02) 638-0734
Autozentrum BMW - (02) 772-6021

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