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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Specifically, in terms of handling and chassis rigidity?

Have the issues with the 01-02 S54 motors been cured for the Z4 generation of cars?

Here's the context: my wife owned a Z3 2.8, and while it was a nice enough car, I never cared much for its handling, and the engine, while a good match for the character of that car, was also not something to get excited about. In contrast, I was infatuated with the E46 M3s that I drove around the same time, particularly the motor.

More recently I owned an Elise - and absolutely loved the car 90% of the time - but ultimately sold it because of a desire to buy a new home and because it was just a bit too impractical for regular use. I also missed torque. Now it's time to get another sports car, and while I'm attracted to the Z4M, I can't dodge the feeling that I'd be spending ~$20K mainly for the fresher styling.

Are there other known issues with the S54 MZ3s that I should worry about?

Who would be the good "tuners" to investigate to stiffen-up the MZ3?

Thanks for any advice/guidance!
 

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I think to get the Z3 to handle more like the Z4 will cost you around $2500 in parts.

KCKline will do you a nice coilover set, add to that camber plates, RSM's, IE subframe bushings and front strut brace.

Depends on how much work/cash you wnat to put into it.

Add another bit for a Randy Forbes subframe fix and you should be in good shape.

There are still s54 z3 out there that are having bearing issues but most have been fixed now.
 

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1. Rear suspension is totally different- multilink based on E36/E46 (Z4) vs. trailing arm based on E30 (Z3)

2. As noted above, increased chassis stiffness

3. Much better brakes taken from E46 M3 CSL/ Competition package

4. Fast ratio power steering from same

5. Marvelously fat steering wheel

6. Different transmission with short shifter

So no, it's not just a reskinned Z3 M. The S54 in the E86 feels different- increased low end torque particularly- from the S54 in my 2003 M3. It feels more flexible.
 

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I think to get the Z3 to handle more like the Z4 will cost you around $2500 in parts.

KCKline will do you a nice coilover set, add to that camber plates, RSM's, IE subframe bushings and front strut brace.

Depends on how much work/cash you wnat to put into it.

Add another bit for a Randy Forbes subframe fix and you should be in good shape.

There are still s54 z3 out there that are having bearing issues but most have been fixed now.
Correction: most have not been fixed, but haven't imploded yet. Judging from the span of dates we've seen go kaboom, I'd assume it's just a matter of time. I'm hoping to do mine preventatively this winter; I'm not willing to wait for a hole in the block and other potential collateral damage. My 6 years is up this January and I've just over 30K on the odometer.
 

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I'd assume it's just a matter of time.
I agree. None of the Z3 S54's have any of the fixes stock.

Until the Z4 Coupe came out, I was planning on replacing the engine with one
that has all of the fixes. I was looking at the Z4 from the begining but I'm not a roadster guy.
At the time I could purchase the engine for $4500 and another $2000 to keep the stock engine.
I looked at it as a good experience (challenge).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Good points, all.

I was under the impression that BMW would pick up the tab for repairing the motor if (when?) you experienced the bearing self-destruction. From your comments, now I'm not sure of that. Is there a range of VINs that are known to be potential bombs?

And I had not heard of the rear subframe issues. Sounds like preemptive action is likely an out-of-pocket expense. When the rear subframe fails, is it gradual, or can it fail catastrophically (i.e., you end up in a ditch, possibly injured)?

Adding the cost of these potential fixes to acquisition cost, means the price differential is easily worth the piece of mind (and warranty) of the newer model. Shame, really. And it makes me think that the premium that sellers of low-mileage cars are seeking is definitely not worth it.

Looks like I have to go test drive an MZ4C . . . the dealer thanks you!
 

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Looks like I have to go test drive an MZ4C . . . the dealer thanks you!
I think they have $6500 in the trunk this month. It might be a good time to buy.
 

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E36 /7 S54

The Z-3 M was the best of its time we all new the suspention was faulted(challenge)we replaced it!We did not know the outcome of the engines(I WOULD FIX IT ASAP)There faulted!I belive the style drove me to keeping my Z-3 The M Z4 coupe is nicer but you pay for it!If you own a Z-3 S-54 M fixit, Randy has a sub frame repair Re do the shocks ect,fix the engine...But if want the syuff fixed out of the box and your shopping by the S-54 Z4 IT IS NOT FASTER IT HANDLES BETTERS THE STOCK ,And if youCan stand the looks!By it. Sales are off so far OFF they are moving it back home!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I think they have $6500 in the trunk this month. It might be a good time to buy.
Only if they open the trunk and share! Good tip. Invoice on a MZ4C with the premium package, heated/power seats, destination and gas tax should come out to $48-49K. If I can get a decent color combo at $44-45K, I'd do it. (Probably should discuss with the wife . . . ).

This would compare with the MZ3 that I'm most interested in: Laguna Seca Blue, 7K miles, with some cosmetic mods at an asking price of $32K. Knock that price down by $7K to get it in line with the market, add $5K for suspension and subframe work. And then hope it doesn't blow up. ~$30K invested in a very colorful time bomb.
 

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Only if they open the trunk and share! Good tip. Invoice on a MZ4C with the premium package, heated/power seats, destination and gas tax should come out to $48-49K. If I can get a decent color combo at $44-45K, I'd do it. (Probably should discuss with the wife . . . ).

This would compare with the MZ3 that I'm most interested in: Laguna Seca Blue, 7K miles, with some cosmetic mods at an asking price of $32K. Knock that price down by $7K to get it in line with the market, add $5K for suspension and subframe work. And then hope it doesn't blow up. ~$30K invested in a very colorful time bomb.
Not bad, have them throw in sales tax for that price and you got a deal!
 

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I was under the impression that BMW would pick up the tab for repairing the motor if (when?) you experienced the bearing self-destruction. From your comments, now I'm not sure of that. Is there a range of VINs that are known to be potential bombs?
Any S54 engine built up to 5/2003 is a potential bomb, so this covers all 2001 and 2002 MZ3's.

The S54 engines in the M3's got a service action in 8/2004 that replaced the bearings.

The S54 engines in the MZ3's were deemed OK by BMW because of their lower redline -- but this does not appear to be the case. Some S54 MZ3's have gotten the bearing service action done on the basis of oil test results or a very strong dealer relationship (it usually takes both). Some have just gone ka-boom, and nearly all have been covered as far as we know.

These cars are covered by a 6 year, 100k mile engine warranty, but this has now run out for the 2001 S54 M3's sold before August 3, 2001 (as of today). It remains to be seen whether or not BMW might cover bearing or even engine replacements after the official end of the engine warranty extension.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Any S54 engine built up to 5/2003 is a potential bomb, so this covers all 2001 and 2002 MZ3's.

The S54 engines in the M3's got a service action in 8/2004 that replaced the bearings.

The S54 engines in the MZ3's were deemed OK by BMW because of their lower redline -- but this does not appear to be the case. Some S54 MZ3's have gotten the bearing service action done on the basis of oil test results or a very strong dealer relationship (it usually takes both). Some have just gone ka-boom, and nearly all have been covered as far as we know.

These cars are covered by a 6 year, 100k mile engine warranty, but this has now run out for the 2001 S54 M3's sold before August 3, 2001 (as of today). It remains to be seen whether or not BMW might cover bearing or even engine replacements after the official end of the engine warranty extension.
Thanks alot for the informative post. It sounds like I'd be taking a risk, especially with my occasionally enthusiastic right foot.

I must say, it's suprising how many current sellers claim (feign?) to have no knowledge of this. Of course, some of these folks haven't changed their oil in 3 years . . . that can't help.
 

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I'd only buy an S54 MZ3 that hadn't had its oil changed in 3 years if I got a really big bargain (about the cost of an engine below the typical sale). The oil is supposed to be changed annually, and with stop / start driving, my oil needs to be changed BEFORE 6k miles (based on oil testing, not the service lights). This is not an engine that you skimp on oil service or costs.

If you are looking at MZ3's, look for those with a detailed service history and, even better, an oil test history. I'd also be biased toward "In Service" dates of 11/2001 or later (based on the official BMW Vehicle History report for the VIN available from any BMW dealer) -- this gives you time to do another oil testing round and beg a dealer for the oil bearing switch before the warranty extension ends.

The MZ4 is heavier, but much more rigid than even the MZ3s. I can't find the link, but as I recall, the MZ3 Coupe was the most rigid BMW until the MZ4 Roadster, which was just a bit more rigid. The MZ4 Coupe is substantially more rigid than either.

While the MZ3 suspension can be hugely improved by the Ireland Engineering subframe bushings and a coilover suspension like the TC Kline setup, the MZ4 suspension starts with better geometry and can be taken even higher by more simple changes, again, like suspension setups from TC Kline (but it's so good to begin with, most don't seem to bother).
 

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This would compare with the MZ3 that I'm most interested in: Laguna Seca Blue, 7K miles, with some cosmetic mods at an asking price of $32K. Knock that price down by $7K to get it in line with the market, add $5K for suspension and subframe work. And then hope it doesn't blow up. ~$30K invested in a very colorful time bomb.
FYI, $32K is low on a S54 MZ3 Coupe with 7k miles.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
FYI, $32K is low on a S54 MZ3 Coupe with 7k miles.
Well, the example I cite is a roadster - but Edmunds and KBB don't agree with you. ('01, 7K miles: Edmunds = $24.5 dealer retail, "outstanding" condition; KBB = $24.8 retail, "excellent" condition, perhaps a bit more because it is a rare color.)

I accept that these things are subjective -- there may be a well-maintained 7K mile MZ3 Coupe or Roadster worth that price, but it's not one that has not had the oil (or any other fluid) changed in nearly three years.
 

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I would like to know where KBB, Edmonds, et al get their numbers. These cars are few and far between, people traveling all over the country to get them. Buy as many as you can find at those prices.
 

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Well, the example I cite is a roadster - but Edmunds and KBB don't agree with you. ('01, 7K miles: Edmunds = $24.5 dealer retail, "outstanding" condition; KBB = $24.8 retail, "excellent" condition, perhaps a bit more because it is a rare color.)

I accept that these things are subjective -- there may be a well-maintained 7K mile MZ3 Coupe or Roadster worth that price, but it's not one that has not had the oil (or any other fluid) changed in nearly three years.
On the other hand, people seem to be asking a fair bit more than what KBB thinks the car is worth. For example, there is currently a silver S54 M Coupe with 19k miles listed on Autotrader at $40k.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I knew the thread would go downhill once numbers came out! And for each high-priced example, there exist low priced examples. Although I hate citing eBay, it's the only place where the selling price (not just the asking price) is discoverable. From the auctions I've been watching, these cars do not appear to be selling in the $30Ks. Reasonable mileage cars can be had in the mid-$20K range. I'm sure excellent examples will fetch more, many deservedly so. And I wish the 7K mile, Laguna Seca Blue MZ3 Roadster in CA was worth $32K. I might have paid that 'cause it looks fantastic.

But it comes down to my initial question (although I was focused on handling) - whether the MZ4 is worth the premium over the MZ3. It seems the answer is likely to be "yes," at least given the current willingness of dealers to discount, unless you find a very well sorted '01 or '02 that has had its issues already resolved.
 

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My take on this is that the mz3 is far better looking than a zm4 with a nicer interior. Handling is a 9/10th issue. If you plan on tracking the more primitive e30 setup is a hindrance but as many expert drivers have said, for the street it is not an issue. As for the motor, the lower redline has resulted in far fewer s54 issues. We are talking in the >1% range. Just not something to worry about. Simply inspect the engine and service history and if extra nervous do an oil analysis. Same with the subframe issue. Have it inspected and if no issues so not worry. It is again a real but >1% issue. These matters get blown up because no one posts everyday my subframe didn't tear today...Again if your are tracking the car some different issues but otherwise I woul go with the MZ3.
 
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