Please choose: 2001-02 BMW Z3 M Coupe or 2006–08 Z4 M Coupe

No, we’re not in the market for either one anytime soon (sadly), but this should be a great conversation starter, and a highly personal choice. Obviously, each one has its merits, charms, and (probably) detractors.

Assuming the current cost difference wasn’t quite as large as it appears to be (side note: is it really?), which would you choose?

The tale of the tape:

2001-02 BMW Z3 M Coupe (mit S54 engine)

  • Curb weight: 3131 lbs.
  • 315 hp @ 7400 RPM and 251 lb. ft torque @ 4900 RPM
  • North America production figure for these two MYs: 690 (total including 1998-2000 with the previous S52 engine: 2,870)
  • Blue Book Suggested Ret Value: $17,930
  • Original Retail Price (MSRP): $44,990
  • (source)

2006–08 BMW Z4 M Coupe

  • Curb weight: 3230 lbs.
  • 330 @ 7900 RPM and 262 lb. ft torque @ 4900 RPM
  • North America production figure: 1,815
  • Blue Book Suggested Ret Value: $26,835
  • Original Retail Price (MSRP): $50,100
  • (source)

Z3 M:

Z4 M:

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~ by velofinds on March 21, 2013.

47 Responses to “Please choose: 2001-02 BMW Z3 M Coupe or 2006–08 Z4 M Coupe”

  1. Z3 without hesitation (must indeed have the S54 however)

  2. M shoe all day! Modern legend and future collectible.

  3. The Z3, if only because it is uglier. The Z4 looks curiously like one of these too though, so maybe I could go with one after all:

  4. I wanted a Z3M coupe, but with S54 values reaching $30K, I got a great deal on a Z4M. (17K miles, $30K.) A good friend of mine has a Z3M coupe, so I’ve spent my fair share of time in both cars. Z3M is more raw, Z4M is more GT, but still very much a sports car. Z3M’s have the subframe and rob bearing issues. Z4M’s a much more trouble free car to own. While both suffer from a subpar interior compared to other BMW’s at the time of manufacture, they are still a decent place to be. I was very happy with my Z4M until I crashed it, eager to get into another one once the right one pops up. A Sepang/Sepang car with 11K miles just popped up, but sadly it cannot be mine! When I face the choice again, I think I’ll still go Z4M. (unless I could afford both!)

  5. Ooh, this is a good one. Z3, though l like them both. The S54 2002 M Coupe held the claim of being the fastest car I had ever driven for about 8-9 years!

  6. Character over beauty…Z3 M!

  7. I’ve actually made this choice already. Z4 M Coupe!

  8. Z3 for sure. It is infinitely better looking, and I say that without hyperbole. The lines are cleaner, the rear is funkier, the wheels are better, it looks both more lithe and more aggressive. For availability’s (not to mention affordability’s) sake, i might even go S52 – it’s a sweet engine even if it is way down on power. With the S54 this is a pure monster that is very high on my “next car” list.

  9. Z4 any day but in the blue.
    Think the z4 will mature better and that will make it a more desirable future classic.

  10. Z4 Coupe. Without even thinking twice about it. I just can’t get passed the looks of the Z3 coupe. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments that you aren’t looking at the car when you’re driving it…

  11. the musclebound z3 m, makes the z4 look like a hairdressers’ car.

  12. As a Z4 owner, of about 7 years now, I have to go with… the Z3M. Although I have never driven one.

  13. Been having bad thoughts as of late of selling my ZHP to get into a Z3M. I would be perfectly content with the S52 as well. The Z3M’s looks – to me – are killer, and I expect it to achieve “heirloom” status soon enough. Definitely a car you keep and make room for in the garage when the time comes for something more sensible.

  14. Both, you have to admit, are no beauties, but I’d go with the lighter, stranger car. Make mine a Z3.

  15. Get behind the wheel and you notice these 2 cars have a totally different feeling, the Z3C has a hot hatchback layout, Z4C is more a small sport car…
    i went for the Z4C 3,0 as a daily 🙂

    • They look that way, too, although I would personally use the term “shooting brake” instead of hot hatch:

      • Indeed the Z3C is one of the rare cars that deserves the shooting brake tag
        but what i meant is that with the Z3C you sit more straight up with good 360 visibility, the car feels small & playfull when moving through traffic
        The interior of the Z4C is more intimate, claustrophobic, you sit lower and the rearview is minimal (50% of my rear mirror only shows the interior roof), plus the bonnet of the Z4C feels longer, you don’t drive it like a hot hatchback through city traffic

  16. I think the Z4 looks better but I would go for the Z3 M Coupe for its unique shape, cheaper price and more practical hatch. I dont mind driving something that looks like a misfit!

    • “Misfit.” That’s a great word for the Z3 M Coupe, and sums it up just about perfectly. I also like “brawler” and “streetfighter”.

      Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either, and even the earlier Z3M with the S52 is a great choice as others have noted. But whereas the Z3M is, yes, a misfit, the Z4M looks equally at home in “polite” company. Visually it’s nowhere near as offensive (and I use the word “offensive” in a good way).

      • Yeah, the Z3 would attract maybe the “wrong” kind of attention in some venues but if you drive it you probably have thick skin already. Not only would I be fine having a S52, I would most likely buy a Z3 coupe with the normal M52. I’ve always liked how the rear hatch/bumper were different from the M version. Not to mention, I am a cheapskate and don’t mind having 75% of the car for 70% of the price.



  17. Z3 hands down…

  18. When I was in college, one of the professors had a Z3 M Coupe. I remember thinking that it was… vulgar.

    I’d take the Z3 M.

  19. I’ve driven a Z4 3.0Si (M package) at the Nurburgring and was a quite underwhelmed by how much of a GT rather than a Sports Car it is. But in it’s defense I’ll say that was no M.

    Then again, I drove a 3l Z3 Coupe with very poor choice of rim/tires performance wise, although they did look great (big ass BBS LM wheels), and I fell in love with the feel of the car. Fits me like a glove and drives so natural from the word go. I am partial though, as I always craved for a blue Z3M…

  20. The Z3 M. Hips don’t lie.

  21. The answer is don’t waste your time buying a car with fake 240z or Breadvan proportions, when you should instead be looking for a real 240z or Breadvan (or at least an Alfa Zagato).

    The Z3s with S54s have a slightly lower redline than the E46 M3 with the same engine (explains the slightly lower power figure). The early run S54s had a bearing recall in the E46s, but NOT the Z3 Ms. I have a friend who bought one new, and chipped it to restore the redline to M3 levels. Well, sometime down the road, he spun a main bearing, and had to have the mains machined and the whole engine rebuilt. The Z4 M was the last car to get an S54, and don’t suffer bearing weakness. They also have a later model ECU, and since there are so few of them, it’s difficult to find software off the shelf that’ll make you happy, like you could have with an E46 M3.

    The best part of the Z4 Moupe, besides the body, are the seats, which are my favorite factory seats for any car cheaper than a GT40. The thicker-than-anybody-else’s-ever steering wheel is cool too. The Z4 platform is graced with E46 rear suspension, which grips great till you start pulling the bushings apart (and this does happen, listen for clunks at the rear end). Unfortunately, the front is straight off an E36, and given the factory staggered wheels, means it’ll understeer till you mod something (or a few things). Still better than the Z3 M, which hangs on to E30 rear suspension (No toe links means handling is hairy at the limit, something the E28 had before the E30 even came to market.)

    To everybody who says a Z4 is more of a GT and the Z3 more a real sports car, I’ll direct you to any track’s list of laptimes including both cars. Then I’ll tell you that the Z4’s trunk has trouble swallowing anything more than a medium Rubbermaid tub full of tools, a dufflebag, a helmet, and a lawn chair (minimum fare for track days), because the battery is shoved in the back along with the air compressor that takes the place of a spare. In the z3, you can fit all the above twice PLUS a jack and a cooler. Any feelings of GT-ness in the z4 can be corrected by fitting slightly wider tires up front (to mitigate understeer), turning DSC off and not using the air conditioning

    Classic car ownership makes me much happier than either of these things. My pick of the two is actually a 2002 touring with an S14 dropped in.

    That said…

    • Nice! I agree, an M2 – i.e., an S14’d 2002 – would make me very happy.

      Then again, so would either of these two cars.

    • Well, when I said one was more a GT rather than a Sports Car (not that I called the Z3 a Sports Car either…), I was saying it for the FEEL of driving them, as I didn’t have the opportunity to clock them (nor do I care, for these are road cars, not race cars)

      • The only real sports car is one that lacks a roof (part time roofs only occasionally count). I get what you’re saying though. I think it’s an age thing. The real advancement in cars in the last 30 years is in refinement, which I think is actually equitable to boredom, in a lot of cases. Why else would they pipe induction tubes through the cabin or develop a “soundaktor.” Heck, even BMW whose middle name is driving pleasure had to use the soundsystem in the new M5 to make up for the silence inside. They still make cars as raw as they used to, you just have to change a few things to get them where you want them. On the z4, that’s curing the understeer and opening the exhaust a little.

        • I didn’t notice any particularly bad understeer in the 3.0 Si at the Ring, I actually flicked it a couple of times out of sheer balance to swing the tail out and play… but I did have big issues such as a power steering that run out of juice when I needed it the most (moving the steering fast when oversteering/drifting…), a lack of LSD (what sports car can consider itself worthy of the name such without it?) and, most importantly, high speed stability. Hitting some corners at more than 120mph (~200kmh) and having a very “tippy-toe” feeling of oversteer is NOT fun and should not happen in a car of this performance or cost.

          • Wow, that sounds like a fun day. Get in an M, I think that’ll cure most of your complaints from the Si. The M got a much quicker hydraulic steering rack, where the regular models had to make do with electric steering. The lack of an LSD is killer, of course the M has one. I never felt a lack of stability in mine Going through the kink at Mid Ohio in mine at better than the ton feels totally composed. Of course the tail will come around if you want it to, but it stays put if you don’t.

            • Well, IMO, no car should be unstable at the Mid O’ kink.

              This is the lap. Check the nasty snap oversteer at 8.24-25:

              • Yeah, bad example, but it’s the only full throttle turn above 100mph I think I’ve taken that car on. Now that I think about it, I’ve had to fight oversteer at Nelson Ledges before, maybe you’re on to something. The LSD does make a world of difference, though.

                Very nice driving in that video. Lots of accidents, traffic and construction. I’m not sure I’d have the stones to put in a lap like that. Your attention can’t dip for a second, or you’ll end up with a lot of damage in a hurry.

  22. z3 all the way. much more polarizing/awesome design. the view from behind is unequaled! also, isn’t it the only bmw (“modern” post NK) that doesn’t have the hofmeister kink?

  23. May a make the suggestion of a… Z3 Coupe with the M54? Yes, it doesn’t have the M badge, but it is only down 10 or 15 horsepower to the S52 M coupe. That and the price is quite a bit cheaper. So it is like getting the S52 Mcoupe at a bargain price. I had one for about a year – lots of fun and I actually made money when I sold it.

  24. As tempted as I would be by the sheer beauty of the Z4, I’d have to pick the Z3 Coupe for its simplicity and lower future costs (primarily in maintenance and depreciation). In the 10 years between 1998 and 2008 BMW has done nothing but add all sorts of electronic gadgets to its cars and I would be afraid of repeated and expensive failures from the Z4…heck, I may even choose the S50 powered MCoupe because those engines are known to last for 250k miles driven hard by flat brimmed teenagers (see E36 M3). Finally the E30 semi-trailing arm rear suspension should give the Z3 an appetite for tail-out that won’t be matched by the Z4.

  25. No doubt the Z-4 is a superior car because of improvements and upgrades that naturally occur with newer vs. older models. However, comparing Z-3’s and Z-4’s in similar condition, the Z-3 is already rivaling the Z-4 in price because of its more unique design, that does not give away much to the Z-4 in performance and is generally considered more classic and desirable. It will probably soon surpass the Z-4 in average purchase price. The market will tell us in a year or so. An example is the desirablity of the MB 113 pagoda style SL’s ( 230, 250 & 280) over the latter models SL’s.

  26. Having driven both the S54 Z3M and the S54 Z4M, they are really different. The Z3M is bright inside and you can fit a keg of beer or most anything else in the hatch. The Z4 is dark inside with a low roof line and high doors. Ride in Z4 is more refined, but gone is the tail happy hooligan character of the Z3M. Z4 feels more like a modern BMW, Z3 feels more like a vintage Aston, Jag or Maserati. If you like old school, Z3M is last of the breed and much easier to keep running than an E Type. The styling is odd but it has some great lines. Not sure which is faster, but Z3M feels faster. I went to dealer to buy a Z4m when they came out, but driving it back to back with my Z3M,it was not my cup of tea. Both great cars but utterly different cars.

    • Great comment! Thanks for sharing.

    • One more thought-

      The Z3 was designed by Nagashima. A Japanese friend recently looked at my Coupe and when told it was designed by a Japanese artist said yes, it looks like a wave. Had never thought of it that way, but the Z3 has flowing wheel arches like flowing water. I think that is it. 12 years and it still thrills me every time I see it in my garage. And a S54 with a Tubi exhaust sounds lovely. Driving it you feel like a racer. I looked at the Z4 coupe for an hour. It is attractive, but just lacks the organic lines that characterize Nagashima’s work at BMW. Both great cars.

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