BMW E36 Z3

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This wiki holds information about the BMW M Roadster, M Coupe and Z3 line.

E36/7 & E36/8 Z3 Summary

What is an E36/7 Z3?

Commonly known as a BMW Z3, this car was manufactured 1996 - 2003 in Greenville, SC by BMW. Originally, the model was intended as a low count production to back up the car shown in the MGM's 1996 "007: Golden Eye". By popular demand the car was put into normal production in 1997.

The Z3 was developed from the E36 platform of the 3 Series. The resulting platform is sometimes referred to as the E36/7(roadster) or E36/8(coupé). The rear semi-trailing arm suspension from the E30 was used rather than the more sophisticated multilink suspension from the E36. At first, only the 1.9 L M44B19 straight-4 engine was offered, but its 138 hp (103 kW) was not up to buyers' expectations. Interior appointments too were not up to the standard of other BMW models, and the plastic rear window, like that of the Porsche Boxster, looked poor compared to the glass unit found on the much less expensive 1999 Mazda MX5.

In the North American market, the inline-4 engine was complemented by a larger straight-6 engine in 1997: the 2.8 L M52B28. This engine, similar to the BMW M52 in the 328i except with an all aluminum block and head, was especially desirable with its 189 hp (141 kW). The M Roadster (see below) appeared in 1998 with a 3.2 L S52B32 (North America) or more powerful S50B32 (International) I6, just as the four was retired. In 1999, the 1.9 L 4-cylinder engine was replaced with a 2.5 L straight-6 M52TUB25, producing 170 hp (130 kW). Due to marketing, BMW wanted to differentiate the 2.8 L engine from the 2.5 L engine, so it was badged it 2.3 just like the 3-Series 323i, which also has a 2.5 L engine.

Outside of North America, the 1.9 L 4-cylinder was replaced with a 2.0 L straight-6 in 1999.

In 2000, the Z3 was given a facelift, which changed the rear end giving it a more muscular look with a redesigned trunk lid with a clear lens on the third tail light. This change did not affect the M roadsters, which continued to use bodies produced earlier and set aside solely for the M series.

All of the engines were replaced when the car was freshened for 2001. The range consisted of the 2.2 L M54B22 (available outside North America), 2.5 L M54B25, 3.0 L M54B30, and (for the M Roadster) 3.2 L S54B32. All three of these straight-6 engines lasted through the end of the car's run in 2002. Also updated was the car's interior appointments, though the plastic window remained.

The Z3 proved quite reliable, with problems limited to the following early production model issues: bad oxygen sensors, water pump failures (caused by a flimsy plastic water pump impeller) and failing rear shock mounts. The Z3 shares the general cooling system weakness of the E36 family, that requires replacement of the plastic cooling system parts(radiator, expansion tanks and thermostat/housing) due to cracking because of age, generally by the 100,000 mile mark. In some of the higher powered M Roadster and M Coupe models some owners experienced a chassis problem where the differential mounting ears cracked or tore the chassis at the point of attachment. With time the most common problems were rocking seats and water leaks in the cloth roof. With its popular retro styling, the Z3s have held their value fairly well in the resale market.

What is an E36/8 Z3?

It is the coupe version of the E36/7 Z3.