A common saying says that “You should never meet your heroes”. That is true unless they’re of the same caliber of the Z3M Roadster. If you lusted over one like I did from my childhood days, you always wanted to satisfy that itch to drive one.
With the booming market for youngtimer cars, the Z3 M is a super desirable bit of kit and it has aged incredibly well. It is one of the last of the roadsters which stick to the principle of a big engine in a small car. It is lightweight, rear-wheel-drive, naturally aspirated, equipped with a manual gearbox and it is every bit as good to drive as a proper’s enthusiast car.
There were days where you could walk into a showroom and buy a properly sorted, fun and fast driver’s car and it saddens me that that era is gone now. The 321 hp straight six engine is a marvel for its refinement and power and feels like the next level performance BMW engine.
Driving the Z3M is like experiencing all the qualities that make BMW great, as it is a perfectly sorted road car. The exceptional stiffness of the chassis and the rear-wheel drive layout are the ideal ingredients for a proper sports car and the Z3M is able to deliver the most authentic thrill of driving.
The engine pulls strongly from low rpms and progresses to the 7.000 redline with ease and the refinement you should expect from a BMW. The car rides surprisingly soft and it copes extremely well with the irregularities of mountain roads.
Over fast sections it feels a little wobbly but still firm enough to give you some confidence to push it hard. Its behaviour is the opposite to modern-school car engineering, as it is not a car for boys, but for men as it is tricky to drive fast. Its softer suspension and with the engine located beyond the front axle it is difficult to balance off the throttle when accelerating hard out of a corner and especially to drift. Not that it is particularly twitchy as its limits are higher than one should expect, but it is definitely not for newbies or unexperienced drivers.
However, It is fantastic to drive slowly and it is indeed well-suited for an enjoyable cruise through the mountain passes, or an evening out for dinner, but to push it to its limits and beyond, it requires some serious dedication to the art of driving.
It is an analog, mid-sized sportscar that was engineered by enthusiasts who loved to drive their cars. Today, cars like the Z3M would never find a place in the market, with the sole exception for a restricted community of petrolheads: let it be then, difficult cars deserve our praise!