Greatest road tests ever: BMW Z3 M Coupé

BMW Z3 M Coupe 1998 front quarter cornering

3.2-litre straight six was potent enough to outrun a Lotus Esprit GT3 from 0-100mph

Quirky ‘clownshoe’ coupé had brilliant M3 engine but it wasn’t enough to make up for dynamic deficiencies

It’s a cult classic today, but the quirky BMW Z3 M Coupé’s disappointing dynamics marked it down to just a three-star verdict when new.

It was identical to the M Roadster from nose to A-pillar, but the rest of the M Coupé exuded pure aggression, with its flared arches, a chunky rear deck and four big, chromed tailpipes.

The 3.2-litre, 24-valve straight six was taken from the M3 and provided enough pace to outrun a Lotus Esprit GT3 from zero to 100mph and during in-gear sprints. It pulled mightily from a burbling 1500rpm but also screamed gloriously towards the 7650rpm limiter. The short-throw five-speed manual gearbox was slick and well weighted. The brakes were effective but wanted for feel.

Twice the body stiffness of the roadster and slightly firmer suspension allowed the coupé to be muscled along at great speed in the dry, but there was a shortage of fluency, precision and steering feel, and understeer prevailed at the limit.

Wet weather power slides were available but demanded care.

A fairly supple ride was welcome during long-distance slogs, although a relatively short fifth gear, smallish fuel tank, cramped (if stylish) cabin and limited storage let the side down.

For: Fabulous engine, performance, appearance

Against: Dull handling, poor packaging, steering

What happened next?

A 3246cc, 325bhp six replaced the 3201cc engine in 2001 but the M Coupé was axed a year later. There are around 250 examples on UK roads now and almost as many again SORN. Prices of the few up for sale at the time of writing start at £30k and rise to (gulp) £90k. The Z4 M Coupé followed in 2006 for a two-year run and also featured the 3246cc engine.


Price £40,595 Engine 6 cyls in line, 3201cc, petrol Power 321bhp at 7400rpm Torque 258lb ft at 3250rpm 0-60mph 4.9sec 0-100mph 11.7sec Standing quarter mile 13.5sec at 106mph Top speed 160mph Economy 22.8mpg 

Source: Autocar

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