Manufacturer BMW
Production September 20, 1995June 28, 2002[1]
Assembly Greer, South Carolina, United States (BMW US Mfg. Comp.)
Designer Joji Nagashima (1992)
Body and chassis
Class Roadster / sports car (S)
Body style 2-door roadster
2-door coupé
Layout FR layout
Related BMW 3 Series (E36)
Transmission 4-Speed GM 4L30-E Automatic
5-Speed GM 5L40-E Manumatic with 'Steptronic' shifting
5-Speed Manual
Wheelbase 96.8 in (2,459 mm)
Length 158.5 in (4,026 mm)
Width 66.6 in (1,692 mm) (1996-1998)
68.5 in (1,740 mm) (1999-2002)
Height 49.8 in (1,265 mm) (Roadster)
50.4 in (1,280 mm) (Coupe)
Curb weight 2,557–2,976 lb (1,160–1,350 kg)
Predecessor BMW Z1
Successor BMW Z4

The BMW Z3 is BMW's first mass-produced mass market roadster, and was the first new BMW model to be manufactured in the United States. E36/7 refers to the roadster variant of the Z3 which was introduced in 1995, and E36/8 refers to the coupe variant of the Z3 which was released in 1999. The Z in Z1, Z3, Z4, Z8 stands for Zukunft, which is German for future. The BMW Z3 was introduced via video press release by BMW North America on June 12, 1995 and made a short appearance in the James Bond film GoldenEye on November 17, 1995. Karen Sortito was responsible for the campaign, and sales of the Z3 spiked as the film sat at number one at the Box Office. In the 1996 production run, more than 15,000 roadsters were sold out by the time the car was introduced.[2] A facelift for the car was introduced in 2000, and the Z3 ended production in 2002 when it was replaced by the BMW Z4.



The E36/7 (roadster) Z3 went into development in 1991 under Dr. Burkhard Göschel for 38 months. The exterior was designed by Joji Nagashima of the BMW Design Team in July 1992, which was then frozen in 1993 to be developed into the E36 platform to production in September 1995.[3] The rear semi-trailing arm suspension was used from the BMW E30, and not the E36. Design patents were filed on April 2, 1994 in Germany and in September 27, 1994 in the US.[4]

Production of the facelifted Z3 models began in April 1999 as a 2000 model year. Changes included new engines and cosmetics but did not apply on Z3M models, which featured only a few changes and a different engine. Upon release, the facelifted Z3 was not up to many buyers' expectations because the interior wasn't up to the standards of other BMW models. For example, it had a plastic rear window while the new generation of the Mazda Miata released in 1999 had a glass rear window.[5] The facelift included updated and higher quality materials.

Engines and Models

All 4-cylinder Z3s featured one exhaust pipe and a normal body kit. All 6-cylinder Z3s had two exhaust pipes together and flared wheel arches and a different front bumper, except for the Z3M, which had quad exhausts. The production colors for the Z3 roadster and coupe were Sapphire Black (Saphirschwarz), Black 2 (Schwarz II), Cosmos Black (Cosmosschwarz), Titanium Silver (Titansilber), Arctic Silver (Arktiksilber), Sterling Grey (Sterlinggrau), Alpine White (Alpinweiss), Bright Red (Hellrot), Sienna Red (Siennarot), Dakar Yellow (Dakargelb), Boston Green (Bostongrün), Dark Green (Dunkelgrün), Oxford Green 2 (Oxfordgrün II), Montreal Blue (Montrealblau), Atalanta Blue (Atalantablau), Estoril Blue (Estorilblau), and Topaz Blue (Topasblau).

Roadster (September 1995-2002)

Z3 with the optional hardtop roof.

The BMW E36/7 Z3 entered production in September 1995 as a 1996 model, with the earliest engines being the 1.8- and 1.9-liter. A 2.8 liter engine joined the range of models in 1996. Z3s could be ordered with a hardtop roof, which snapped onto special mounting points.

Coupe (1999-2002)

The BMW E36/8 Z3 entered production sometime in 1999 with its controversial shooting brake design, often being referred to by critics as the "breadbox", while in Germany called "Turnschuh" (sports shoe). The coupe version, however, featured a chassis-stiffening hatch area, and only had 2.8 L, 3.0 L and 3.2 L (Z3M) engines available.

1.8 L, 1.9 L and 2.0 L

Standard equipment included a 5-speed manual gearbox, ABS, power steering, a driver airbag, electric mirrors, a single-layer convertible top and 15-inch wheels. Optional extras included a 4-speed automatic transmission (discontinued after 1998), automatic stability control, air conditioning, an electrically operated convertible top, leather seats and 16-inch alloy wheels. In some countries, the interior excluded leather fabrics. After the facelift, the 4-cylinder 1.8 L engine was replaced with the 4-cylinder 1.9 L. The briefly available, 6-cylinder 2.0 L engine produced 10 more horsepower than the 1.9 L engine, and made 16-inch wheels standard. 1.8 L engines featured 114 hp and 168 Nm of torque, giving a 0-60-mph time of around 10 seconds.

2.2 L/2.3 L

In 2000, the 2.2 L inline 6-cylinder engine from the E46 3-Series was introduced. The 2.2 L was sold in the US but was badged as a Z3 2.3 L. The 2.2 L featured Dual VANOS and produced 170 hp and 190 Nm of torque. It gave a 0-60 time of 8 seconds.

2.5 L/2.8 L

Standard equipment included all standard features from the 1.8 L and 1.9 L engines, as well as a Torsen limited-slip differential, leather seats, an on-board computer, 16-inch wheels and automatic stability control. Options included a 4-speed automatic gearbox, air conditioning, sport seats, an electric roof, leather seats and dashboard, passenger-side airbag and an "M" steering wheel.

For coupe versions, a trunk storage net and sunroof were optional. The Z3 featured the single VANOS for production models until August 1998 then it was upgraded to Dual VANOS from September 1998 onward for the 1999 model year. After the facelift, the 2.8 L engine was available for another year. Production was ceased in June 2000. The 2.8 was then replaced by the 3.0 L engine.

3.0 L

The 3.0 L engine arrived with the 2.2 L engine in early 2000. Both featured the inline 6 from the E46 3 series, and both were considered to be fairly reliable. Standard equipment was the same as offered with the 2.0 L engine, with options including an on-board computer and 17-inch wheels.

The 3.0 L engine produced 228 Lhp and 280 LNm of torque, a noticeable increase over the 2.8 L. The 2.8 L was also regarded as the most reliable and fun engine in the Z3 lineup, but the 3.0 was the most powerful of the non-M engines.

Sport Edition Models

2002 Z3M Coupe.

The Sport Edition option was available in models with the 1.9, 2.2 and 3.0 L engine, and cost around USD $30000. Models featured bigger and sportier 17-inch wheels, a slightly different front bumper, slightly lower springs, brushed aluminium trim, a 3-color stitched M steering wheel, and an illuminated M gear lever. All Sport Edition models came with sport seats, usually found with a bi-color interior. No M package existed before the 2000 model year, although a rare sports package was available from its release until 1999.

Z3M (3.2 L)

The Z3M is often referred to as the M Roadster or M Coupe and can be identified as different from the standard Z3. Differences include a more aerodynamic front bumper (with no fog lights), a rear bumper designed to fit quad exhausts, temperature and oil gauges (in the center console), an M sports steering wheel and gear lever, M seats and 17-inch M wheels. Outside mirrors also have a more aerodynamic design. The front gills on Z3M models are different as well, with a chrome strip running through them. Z3M models did not share cosmetic changes from the facelift, but they had bigger brakes, and the S52 engine replaced the S50 in 2000 with the S54 engine installed in the 2001 and 2002 model year vehicles.

US versions had restricted power to cope with federal regulations, and US and Japanese Z3's also featured square license-plate holders. Options included a chrome exterior package, a Harman/Kardon sound system and CD changer. Colors Bostongrün, Alpinweiss, Cosmosschwarz, Arktiksilber, Estorilblau, Dakargelb, Kyalami, Titansilber, Evergreen, Stahlgrau, Imolarot, Palmetto II, Oxfordgrün II, Phoenixgelb, Laguna Seca Blau, Saphirschwarz were available for the Z3M roadster and coupe.

Engine Figures

Roadster Models
YearsWeightEngineAlign.CCPowerTorqueTop Speed0-60
1.8l1996-20001160 kg (2557 lbs)M43B18I41796cc85 kW/116PS/114 hp@5500168Nm/124 ft-lb@3900121 mph (194kmh)10.1s
1.9l1996-20021185 kg (2612 lbs)M44B19I41895cc103 kW/140PS/138 hp@6000180Nm/133 ft-lb@4300127 mph (205kmh)9.1s
2.8l1996-19981260 kg (2778 lbs)M52B28I62793cc140 kW/193PS/192 hp@5500278Nm/206 ft-lb@3950144 mph (231kmh)6.6s
2.8l1998-19991285 kg (2833 lbs)M52TUB28I62793cc140 kW/193PS/192 hp@5300280Nm/206 ft-lb@3500144 mph (231kmh)6.6s
Z3M (US)1997-20001350 kg (2976 lbs)S52B32I63201cc178 kW/244PS/240 hp@6000285Nm/210 ft-lb@3250155 mph (250kmh)5.2s
Z3M (EU)1997-20001350 kg (2976 lbs)S50B32I63201cc236 kW/321PS/320 hp@7400320Nm/230 ft-lb@4900155 mph (250kmh)5.1s
Facelift Roadster Models
YearsWeightEngineAlign.CCPowerTorqueTop Speed0-60
1.9l1996-20021220 kg (2690 lbs)M43B19I41895cc87 kW/118PS/117 hp@ 5500180Nm/133 ft-lb@3900122 mph (196kmh)10.0s
2.0l1999-20001270 kg (2800 lbs)M52TUB20I61990cc110 kW/150PS/148 hp@5900190Nm/140 ft-lb@3500131 mph (210kmh)8.5s
2.2l2000-20021280 kg (2822 lbs)M54B22I62171cc125 kW/170PS/168 hp@6100 210Nm/155 ft-lb@3500139 mph (224kmh)7.6s
2.8l1999-20001285 kg (2833 lbs)M52TUB28I62793cc140 kW/193PS/192 hp@5300280Nm/206 ft-lb@3500144 mph (231kmh)6.6s
3.0l2000-20021315 kg (2899 lbs)M54B30I62979cc170 kW/231PS/228 hp@5900300Nm/221 ft-lb@3500149 mph (240kmh)5.8s
Z3M2000-20021350 kg (2976 lbs)S54B32I63246cc239 kW/325PS/320 hp@7400350Nm/240 ft-lb@4900155 mph (250kmh)5.1s
Pre-Facelift Coupe Models
YearsWeightEngineAlign.CCPowerTorqueTop Speed0-60
2.8l1998-19981300 kg (2866 lbs)M52B28I62793cc140 kW/193PS/192 hp@5500278Nm/206 ft-lb@3950144 mph (231kmh)6.6s
2.8l1998-20001300 kg (2866 lbs)M52TUB28I62793cc140 kW/193PS/192 hp@5300280Nm/206 ft-lb@3950144 mph (231kmh)6.6s
Z3M (US)1999-20001390 kg (3064 lbs)S52B32I63201cc178 kW/244PS/240 hp@7400285Nm/210 ft-lb@3250155 mph (250kmh)5.2s
Z3M (EU)1997-20001390 kg (2976 lbs)S50B32I63201cc236 kW/321PS/320 hp@7400320Nm/230 ft-lb@4900155 mph (250kmh)5.1s
Facelift Coupe Models
YearsWeightEngineAlign.CCPowerTorqueTop Speed0-60
3.0l2001-20021330 kg (2932 lbs)M54B30I62979cc170 kW/231PS/228 hp@5900300Nm/221 ft-lb@3500155 mph (250kmh)5.8s
Z3M2001-20021375 kg (3031 lbs)S54B32I63246cc239 kW/325PS/320 hp@7400350Nm/258 ft-lb@4900155 mph (250kmh)5.1s

Production Units

ModelPre/FaceliftModel YearProduction Units
Z3 1.8l RoadsterPre-Facelift1995-199829,509
Z3 1.9l RoadsterPre-Facelift1995-199876,063
Z3 1.9l RoadsterFacelift19991,902
Z3 2.0l RoadsterFacelift1999-200014,616
Z3 2.2l RoadsterFacelift2000-200221,052
Z3 2.3l RoadsterFacelift (US)1998-200022,282
Z3 2.5l RoadsterFacelift (US)2000-20026,813
Z3 2.8l RoadsterPre-Facelift1996-199835,368
Z3 2.8l RoadsterFacelift1998-200015,239
Z3 2.8l CoupePre-Facelift1997-20007,671
Z3 3.0l RoadsterFacelift2000-200214,525
Z3 3.0l CoupeFacelift2000-20023,853
Z3M RoadsterPre-Facelift (UK and US)1997-200013,413
Z3M RoadsterFacelift (UK and US)2001-20021,909
Z3M CoupePre-Facelift (UK and US)1998-20005,179
Z3M CoupeFacelift (UK and US)2001-20021,112
Total279,273 and 17,815 (Coupe)
297,088 (1.8l LCI Engines Not Shown)

Special Models

007 Bond Edition

A blue BMW Z3 roadster prototype was provided for filming of the James Bond movie GoldenEye at the Leavesden Aerodrome in January 1995.[6][7] Karen Sortito was responsible for the campaign, and sales of the car spiked as the movie hit number one at the Box Office. More than 15,000 roadsters were sold out by the time the car was introduced for the 1996 production run, and the Z3 appeared briefly when Bond was driving in Cuba.[2] The Z3's appearance in the film was controversial however, as it was the first non-British production car to appear in a Bond film, but the Z3 was also one of the few Bond cars that is not destroyed. In the movie, the car featured stinger missiles hidden behind the headlights, an emergency parachute braking system and a radar scanner in the form of a LCD screen in the dashboard. It is also noted during the briefing scene, that the car contains a passenger ejector seat and a self-destruct system.

A Bond 007 Z3 was available for purchase in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog for USD$35,000. BMW and Neiman Marcus had originally set a 20 unit sales goal, but was later increased to 100 units after receiving 100 orders. The BMW Z3 007 Edition featured a 007 dash plaque, a Hi-Fi system with a subwoofer and CD, a telephone, beige leather seats, 007 Bond floor mats, a wind deflector, special wheels and a wooden gear shifter, centre console and steering wheel. The exterior colour was called Bond Blue Gray. Buyers also had a choice of a manual or automatic transmission.

BMW M Coupe Millennium Edition

The BMW M Coupe Millennium Edition was made by BMW Technik in 2000 for Auto Motor Und Sport Magazine, and one example was made and could be obtained by a draw. The winner stated that he had won the contest, and could choose one of three colours for the car. The colours matched the interior colour, and chose a colour called Orangeblur.[8] The car was up for sale in April 2015.


Z3 Coupe Side.

The BMW V12 Z3M featured a V12 engine borrowed from the 850i BMW 8 Series and had a 6 speed gearbox. Only one example was made and was developed by the BMW M division, and is in Kyalami Orange.

BMW Z3M Coupe Safety Car

A safety car variant of the Z3M Coupe was also produced by the BMW M division. Like other BMW safety cars, it was produced to be the safety car in MotoGP.

Model Updates

Yearly Changes

1995Production of the BMW Z3 Roadster began in September 20 as a 1996 model year. The James Bond film GoldenEye is released on November 17 and features a Z3.
1996Production of the E36 318i 3 Series (both cars were produced in the same plant) is suspended to focus on production of the Z3. Production of the 318i was then stopped in July.
1997The 100,000th BMW Z3 comes off the assembly line on October 30.Traction Control became standard equipment and a 2.8 litre engine joined the lineup.
1998Hardware for rollover bars became standard (roll bars remained an option). A wood trim and a power soft top were added as options and a Z3M roadster was introduced.
1999Dual stage side airbags became standard equipment. A Z3(M) Coupe was introduced. Central locking locks the gas cap from April and the 2.8 litre engine received dual VANOS.
2000All BMW Z3’s went through facelift and the Harmon Kardon audio was upgraded. BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control replaced automatic stability control (ASC).
2001M52 and S52 cars changed to M54 and S54 engines. All BMW Z3M models featured a low tire pressure warning system. The 250,000th BMW Z3 comes off the assembly line in February.
2002An in-dash CD player was made a standard feature and the last BMW Z3 comes off the assembly line in June 28, 2002.[1]

2000 Facelift (LCI)

Production of facelifted models arrived sometime in 1999 as year-model 2000. Tail lights were now more rounded and L-shaped, and the trunk release button had a finger indent. The new trunk design accommodated the L-shaped lights and the indent. The car incorporated a wider axle, although the wheel arches for all models were the same, not flared. The facelifted CHMSL brake light was silver and more upright, its top painted in body color. Headlight halos were rimmed in chrome, and the grille became slightly rounder and less chromed.

Center console buttons were rearranged, with the clock in the middle. The convertible top received three layers of insulation instead of one for better weather protection. Facelifted models could also be ordered with optional side airbags, detectable as two separate trim panels in the doors.


The BMW Z3 won the "Super Reggie" award for the best promotional marketing campaign of 1995
The BMW Z3 2.8 made Editor's Most Wanted Vehicle for 1999 (
The BMW Z3 made European Car Magazine Grand Prix winner in 1999
The 2000 BMW Z3 2.3 made "The Best Overall Value of the Year" - "Base Sport" category winner by Intellichoice

The M Coupe/M Roadster made Car and Driver magazine's "Ten Best" list for 1999[9]
"Design of the Year" award for the M Coupe in Automobile Magazine (1999)
The 2000 BMW M Coupe became Top Gear (TV) Best Driver's Car of the Year[10]
Jalopnik's included the M Coupe in their "Best 10 Cars of the Decade" feature[11]
The BMW M Coupe was chosen as one of "Hammond's Icons" by Top Gear in 2011[12]


  1. 1 2 "Timeline: BMW in Spartanburg".
  2. 1 2 "Karen Sortito dies at 49; marketing exec negotiated product tie-ins to Bond movies". latimes.
  4. "DPMAregister - Designs - Registerauskunft zum Design".
  6. "The Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive Search".
  8. "2000 M Coupe Orangeblur Millenium Edition". Coupe Cartel. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  9. Car and Driver 10Best
  10. Top Gear 'best drivers car' award winner 2000. YouTube. 28 March 2013.
  11. Sam Smith. "Jalopnik's Best10 Cars Of The Decade". Jalopnik.
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