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Click for pictures“Bags of firepower
  and always ready
  to rumble”

WHEN THE Z3 FIRST APPEARED it was a masterstroke of niche marketing by BMW, marrying as it did retro styling to their hallmark blue-and-white roundel, thereby turning two seats and weekender luggage space into a unique selling point that appealed to ‘cash-rich, kid-poor’ couples whose offspring had flown the coop
and who coveted the youthful image conferred by a fashionable sports car.

Undeniably appealing it is, too, despite being thrown over by 007 for a glorious Z8 in The World Is Not Enough. Much of the Z3's allure lies in its classic sports car proportions: long bonnet, curvy rag-top two-seater body and muscular stance — recently enhanced by a new nose and beefier rear wheel arches set off by new rear lights that echo the L-shaped units fitted to the latest 3-series.

Spot the styling cues rooted in the Fifties and BMW's 507, which still work perfectly today. More compelling for the initiated are its excellent road manners - this is one roadster that won't bite the hand that steers it!

With its all-new back end the Z3 exudes a decidedly purposeful air. The Z3’s screen is deep, and you sit slightly high in the appealing, cosy cockpit. Build quality remains as impressive inside as it is out. Everything is to hand, although real-world stowage space is at a premium.

The dash is uncluttered and unmistakably generic BMW. Shiny bezels on the instruments and some sparkly chrome on the gear knob play out the traditional theme. Seats are well shaped, leather trimmed, and power-operated — and they need to be because the steering wheel adjusts for neither rake nor reach.

Behind the prominent kidney grille beats BMW's silky 2.8-litre twin cam, 24-valve in-line six, which gained variable timing for both inlet and exhaust valves in the makeover. It's a gem of an engine; with instant throttle response and bags of firepower, punching hard through the important mid-range. And you don't have to go all the way to the red line to rumble.

The gearchange is satisfyingly crisp and on the prowl the rear-wheel drive Z3 feels alive. Put your foot down hard and you’ll find the Z3 game enough: 0-60mph acceleration - accompanied by a throaty howl from the twin tailpipes - is a cracking 6.7 seconds. Maximum speed is 140mph, which is fast enough, thank you, in a roadster.

Fade-free brakes provide real stopping power, while the well-weighted power steering sends back all the right signals. And there's more than enough grip - if you do somehow unstick the tail don't panic because the ever-vigilant automatic stability and traction control (ASC+T)
will tidy it up for you. Without wiping the grin off your face. At heart BMW are driving enthusiasts and know all about oversteer on demand, which is why they also give you a switch to turn the traction control off!

Lined hood up, the Z3's as weather-resistant as its rivals. Down, you'll definitely feel the wind in your hair. The top's electric, but power assistance takes over only after the double-latched soft-top has been manually released from the screen header rail.

The Z3 has a lot going for it, including that alluring blue-and-white badge. Hardly surprising then that so many have already found their way into the hearts of British owners. The entry-level 1.8 and 2.2 models don’t quite live up to the Z3’s go-for-it looks, but the 2.8 has
it all. Great fun!

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BMW Z3 2.8

Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-60mph: 6.7 seconds
Overall test MPG: 27mpg | Power: 193bhp | Torque: 206lb ft
Visit BMW's website Click to go there now

------------------------------------------------------------------------------- BMW Z3