The BMW Z3 was the first modern mass-market roadster produced by BMW, as well as the first BMW model assembled in the United States. It was introduced as a 1996 model year vehicle, shortly after being featured in the James Bond movie, GoldenEye. There were a few variants of the car before its production run ended in 2002, including a coupe version for 1999. It was manufactured and assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Z3 was replaced by the BMW Z4 in late 2002 at the Paris Auto Show.
The word “roadster” tends to get slapped onto nearly every sports car/supercar with a roof that comes down these days, presumably because the word “convertible” is somehow unappealing to marketing people. But the really traditional definition of a roadster doesn’t require it to be an especially powerful car, and even the most tradition of roadsters today (I’m obviously talking about the Miata here) don’t pack gigantic power numbers. When it was first introduced, the BMW Z3 didn’t really have much power either, especially not in base form. But that was fine, roadsters rely on being very small and light in order to be exciting, and the Z3 was.
Some people will always want more power though, and for them, BMW built the M Roadster, a version of the Z3 with the engine out of an M3. BMW did also build a hardtop version of the car, but this was… controversial, and ended up with some unflattering nicknames. It still had its fans, but the M Roadster was the much more universally beloved of the two. But more importantly, it was still a purist’s version of a roadster, just one that suddenly had a ton more power.
Continue reading to learn more about the BMW M Roadster.