The BMW Z3 Roadster started off as BMW’s answer to the Mazda Miata. It was a small, lightweight, retro roadster designed to be a fun little sports car. Aside from it being very light, it wasn’t anything special. But the head of the Z3 project, Mr. Burkhard Göschel, wanted something more, something faster. A flimsy roadster was not the way to go, he needed a rigid coupe; so he made one, literally. The Z3 Coupe M Coupe started its life in the shadows, being secretly developed by Göschel and his team of engineers. And the car that started as a secret skunkworks project by a group of BMW engineers was unveiled at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show, with the M Coupe arriving shortly after in 1998. To add to the story, very few were ever made, the car we reviewed was 1 of just 26 black on black slick tops.
You can tell right away from the outside that the M Coupe is an “engineer’s car.” With its long hood and shooting brake body style, to the flared rear fenders and that unique smile, you either love it or you hate it. Seeing the car in pictures, I thought it looked pretty stupid, not gonna lie. In pictures, the car just looks awkward; its proportions are weird, its stance is too high, it’s just not a pleasant sight. Then I saw it in person, and I’m glad to say that the design is really starting to grow. It’s such a tiny car yet its design is so big and flamboyant, I can’t help but to fall in love with it. Long story short, don’t buy this car for Instagram.
You’re going to hear me say the word “cool” a lot to describe the M Coupe and for good reason. It’s just a really cool car. This applies to the interior especially.
Open the door and you’re greeted with one of the most badass car interiors I’ve ever seen. Everything from the heavily bolstered seats to the little chrome trimmed dials on the center console is perfect for the car. And the gauges, how could I forget those? They’re so elegant, yet so smooth. The first thing you see is the beautiful chrome trim and then you see the words “M Coupe” written under the rev counter; you know you’re in something special.
The interior quality is exactly what you would expect from a top of the line BMW. The materials are great, the leather is in perfect shape, it’s just a great place to be.
How It Drives
Now that we’ve gotten through all the boring stuff, it’s about time I tell you how this thing drives. The car I drove was had BMW’s S52 inline 3 engine. With 240 hp and 236 lbs/ft of torque, this 3.2 liter engine feels a lot stronger in an M Coupe than it does in an E36 M3 since the M Coupe weighs in at just 3,064 lbs (over 100lbs lighter than the M3). When I say this car is a pocket rocket, I mean it. The gearing is short, meaning 60 mph comes in just over 5 seconds but the tops speed is rather low at 136 mph.
The best way I can describe the driving feel is that it’s the love child of an E36 M3 and a 986 Boxster. It’s such a small car, and you’re reminded of that every time you put your foot down or send it into a corner; it’s as nimble as any mid engined sports car. But then you have that amazing engine, which is so crisp, and so beautifully connected to that 5 speed manual transmission, it’s like nothing else.
Now the M Coupe has amazing handling, don’t get me wrong, but this thing will drift. My friend Billy (the owner) comapares it to an old Porsche 911 in that aspect. This car will spin its tires like there’s no tomorrow. First gear, second gear, on dry roads too. You have to know what you’re doing if you want to go fast.
And then there’s the sound, oh that glorious sound. As you climb up the rev range, you get that signature mechanical song of a proper BMW inline 6. Around redline, it kind of howls like a Porsche too which is an added bonus.
Things like steering feel and seating position are so nice compared to newer cars. You can actually feel the road when you drive, and you feel like you’re actually in the car rather than on top of it. It’s no Porsche, but boy does it get close. The ride is great too, I would not mind dailying this car at all.
I think I’ve made it very clear that the M Coupe is one of my favorite cars. It looks great, sounds great, drives great, what’s not to love? When you drive one, you know you’re driving a piece of BMW history; I mean, you’re literally in something that wasn’t supposed to exist. It’s just so cool, and such a blast to drive, it’s no wonder they’re shooting up in value.
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