BMW Z3 M Coupé


Strong identity, unmistakeable design, iconic engine.

The BMW Z3 M Coupé.Strong identity, unmistakeable design, iconic engine.

At its launch in 1997, the very appearance of the BMW Z3 M Coupé polarised both IAA visitors and journalists alike: a closed version of the Z3 Roadster from BMW M? The design was progressive and markedly independent. The long bonnet, coupled with a compact rear and wide wheel housings, was untypical for a sports car of this format. Typically M was the engine with the most powerful version of the straight-6 cylinder engine for its time. For the press, first tests made clear that if there was anything the BMW Z3 M Coupé stood for, it was pure driving pleasure.

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  • 01 Max. output: 236 kW (321 hp) / 239 kW (325 hp)*
  • 02 Displacement: 3,153 cm³ / 3,246 cm³*
  • 03 Vmax: 250 km/h
  • 04 Curb weight: 1,270 Kg
  • 05 Production figure: 6,291

* from 2001

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In the best GT tradition.

Guaranteed inimitable: The design by Chris Bangle, former design head at BMW was planned to be independent from the very beginning. The BMW Z3 Coupé and the M Coupé were planned to be real eye-catchers. The design of the Z3 M Coupé consciously echoes one of the great BMW historic sports cars: The line of the roof is reminiscent of the BMW 328 Mille Miglia from the 1940s.
Besides the wider track and four-pipe exhaust, the top model had exclusive, characteristic accents like oval overtaking mirrors, chrome gills that recall the legendary BMW 507 Roadster, and special air intakes in the front spoiler. The powerful, unmistakeable appearance of the M Coupé was underlined by its proportions: long wheelbase, long bonnet, wide track and short rear end. Introduced by a striking line at the rear and arching towards the back, the roof left a strong impression. The M automobile makes it absolutely clear to the observer: This is a sports car for individualists 

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“This vehicle won’t be everybody’s darling, but it’s a BMW through and through: sporty, powerful, dynamic.“
Dr. Wolfgang Reitzle, former board member, BMW AG

The form of the concise rear end also offered a practical advantage that couldn’t be ignored: The large tailgate provided access to a roomy luggage compartment, with 410 litres of volume behind the two sporting seats – more than enough for real touring. Not insignificant for a car in the best tradition of classic Gran Turismo vehicles like the Triumph GT6, MGC GT or Jaguar E-type.

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“In the tradition of the great sports cars of the 60s, every line of the Z3 Coupé is proof of the BMW passion for driving.”
Chris Bangle, former head of BMW Design


M Power with high-rev concept.

The four tailpipes under the rear spoiler are a clear statement about maximum performance and the power concealed beneath the compact sports car’s bonnet. At its launch in 1997, the Z3 M Coupé was equipped with the engine from the updated M3 E36. Developed by the M Motorsport specialists, the straight-6 cylinder engine with 3.2 litre capacity had an output of 236 kW (321 hp) at 7,400rpm. For the first time, it produced more than 100 hp per litre. The maximum torque at 3,250rpm was 350 Newton meters. The engine, also known as S50B32, catapulted the rear-wheel drive M Coupé from 0 to 100 km/h in just 5.4 seconds – which was fantastic for the time. The engine limiter only kicked in at 250 km/h.
From 2001, the further developed 6-cylinder engine from the BMW M3 E46 appeared under the long bonnet of the Z3 M Coupé. With 239 kW (325 hp) the S54B32 further improved the driving performance of the two-seater – and brought it into the vicinity of much more expensive sports cars.


Thus, the Z3 M Coupé posted top results in the 36m slalom and the ISO slalom test – in comparison with competition from Zuffenhausen and Maranello. With its acceleration, the M Coupé left its competitors standing as confirmed by the test crew from the German car magazine Auto, Motor und Sport.

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Maximum rigidity as a guarantee of the highest dynamics.

The main reason for the Z3 M Coupé’s superb agility was its concept: engine at the front, rear wheel drive, long wheelbase, weight distribution of almost exactly 50/50, seats placed far back, low centre of gravity, along with a stiff suspension and a broad track. On top of that, the designers placed great importance on a maximally torsion-resistant suspension.


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Using the already torsion-resistant chassis of the BMW Z3 Roadster as a basis, the engineers gave the Z3 M Coupé other characteristics which had a positive influence on the car’s handling. The frame of the windscreen was strengthened, with further stability coming from two quarter-lights. Additional door braces, a fixed roof and special reinforcements to the basic chassis guaranteed not only optimal handling, but also an extremely stable passenger compartment.


The brake system was developed to serve both safety purposes and driving pleasure in equal measure and had compound discs with radial friction bearings. This system allows the brake disc to freely expand and ensures consistent, excellent braking power even under enormous strain.


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Rigorously driver-oriented.

Low seating position, three-spoke M steering wheel, stubby gear stick and all instruments directly in the driver’s view – this cockpit makes no bones about being focussed on the perhaps most enjoyable minor matter in the world: driving. Under high lateral acceleration, the sports seats, fitted as standard, offer ideal lateral support. The seats were upholstered in leather and available in several colours, while chrome trimmings in the entire interior gave additional emphasis to the car’s sporting aspirations.

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“This sports car has elements from the 70s in its lines, in its form. I like the idea that the people of the time were imagining what the 1990s and the year 2000 would be like.”
Anton Corbijn, photographer


The BMW Z3 M Coupé is rare and sought-after.

Today, the BMW Z3 M Coupé is one of the most desired “youngtimers” of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Its unmistakeable design and suitability for everyday use, coupled with the extremely powerful power train of the BMW M3, appeals equally to both sports car and GT fans. And ultimately the low number of vehicles produced also makes the Z3 M Coupé a rare sight on the road: Between 1998 and 2002 just 6,291 were manufactured. M Coupés from 2001 with the S54 engine from the BMW M3 E46 under the bonnet are especially rare. A mere 1,112 cars of this type left the factory.

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BMW Z3 M Coupé