"For the money in terms of pound for pound fun quotient, you can't go wrong with a clean, low mileage Z3. One caution: the six cylinder version generates a ton or heat in a small compartment and you need to have a thorough pre-purchase done before buying. There's nothing wrong with that but be aware you're going to have radiator and hose issues with the six. One other universal nagging problem is that the power seats will "slip" slightly when you stop or start. It's a $400 fix at a dealer to replace bushings, etc.
Now for the positive side.
The Z3 is overall very economical to maintain and will last easily well into the 100k mile territory without major engine issues. For some reason, the clutches and brakes last forever. Even the premium sound system is not an expensive upgrade...the speakers are ok and for $200 you can add a high quality dash unit with MP3 and USB ports which is infinitely better than ANY CD based system.
Nothing beats a two seat roadster with a manual transmission for the joy of driving and it's pretty hard to find more fun for the money than your Z3. Handling, build quality, styling, reliability...you just can't go wrong for the money. Right now in 3/11, you can find remarkable cars for sale for around 12k. That will get you one with around 60k miles and for under $15k, you can find one in the 35-50k mile range. Take care of your's and something tells me it will be worth close to what you paid for it for years to come.
Remember the much loved classic two seat roadsters from England...MG and Triumph, etc...your Z3 out performs and will give you modern day amenities and reliability for a very reasonable price.
I love my little red Z3 and it's nice to have a car I can enjoy soooo much and never have to worry about repairs I'll need a second mortgage to pay for. If that isn't what carefree, open air driving is all about, what is?"
"I have had many convertibles over the years, everything from a VW Superbeatle to a 65' Cadillac, and this 1997 1.9 BMW Z3 is the best one I have ever owned. It now has close to 80,000 miles on it and yet for an 11 year old car it drives like new. With the 4 cylinder engine (that 's how the first year models came) it doesn't have great power but cornering is unreal. Just like the other reviewers I have read, I get compliments on its looks almost daily. Engine and transmission are solid. BMW hit a home run with this car- I'm going to drive it into the ground. Its the only car I've owned that is more fun to drive than the MGB Roadster that I picked up new at the factory and drove around Europe in 40 years ago after graduating from college and that's saying a lot!"
Cons: "CD player sub standard,window motors ,cup holders"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my wife's spring.summer,fall commuter. She loves it,smooth and responsive,automatic transmission. Bought it from 1st Arizona owner and it has been a joy to own. Never sees snow,hides in winter. This is her 2nd BMW and both have been very good. These don't like cheap tires and I put Bridgestone pole position tires on and they work well on the car. If you are looking for a summer fun convertible that is high quality I would recommend one of these over most others."
"The Z3 was BMW's answer to the cheap and cheerful Miata. Four cylinder versions are underpowered; 6-cylinders are adequate (2.5, 2.8) to ample (3.0) to insane (Z3M). Other than the known weakness of BMW 6-cylinder engine cooling systems of this era, the car has been stone reliable. Best solution for the cooling system is to replace everything -- radiator, expansion tank, water pump, thermostat, hoses -- at 60K miles, which is what I did, before any failure. Staggered tires on this model tame the trailing throttle oversteer of earlier models. Seats are a little basic; but the car is fun to drive, fast, and won't put you in jeopardy."