The conundrum of the Z3 is for me wrapped up in the model’s signature appearance in Goldeneye. There was lots of promotion for the new model; after all, the change from Bond’s signature Aston Martin must have been for a car worthy of such a distinction. Granted, Audi beat BMW to the punch when James sported twin Type 44s in The Living Daylights but the fanfare surrounding the leap to BMW was unprecedented. And, as it turned out, largely unwarranted. Despite the hefty amount of advertising and anticipation of the debut, the 1.9 liter light blue convertible barely appeared in the movie at all; in fact, only long enough for James to toss the keys to someone else. This seems to largely sum up how enthusiasts feel about the successor to the Z1; cute, but a little too soft and not very BMW. Of course, as the model progressed it became more in keeping with the brand – especially true of when outfit by the M division. The resulting M Roadster and especially Coupe versions of the Z3 have become hot commodities in the marketplace, but if you’re willing to forgo the Roadstars, quad exhaust and especially the M motors in the front, you can still get quite a bit of sport in the 3.0:
The success of the Motorsport derived versions of each generation of the venerable 3-series mean that it’s both easy and a natural choice to concentrate on them in the used market. But BMW has also offered some pretty special non-M models in the 3-series lineup, and the 2003-2006 330i. Much like the M3, the 330i was available in 2-door coupe and convertible no surprise there – but the 330i was also quite popular as a sedan and the E46 M3 never came in that configuration. If you ticked the ZHP Performance Package box, you paid an additional $3,900 on top of the premium for your top-of-the-line 330i. While that was no small amount of change, what that amount resulted in was actually quite a bargain.
Developed by BMW Individual, you got a plethora of performance details throughout the package. Outside, M-Tech body pieces adorned the car front, sides and rear and blacked out trim replaced the chrome. So too were M-branded special Style 135 18″ wheels, with tires to match the width of bigger brother M3. Lower and stiffer suspension was met with more negative camber, special reinforcement and control arms. The engine was upgraded too, with unique cams and a revised engine map resulting in 10 more horsepower, but the ZHP was more than 10 hp quicker off the line thanks to a shorter final drive and a 6-speed manual borrowed from M. Performance wise, the ZHP split the difference between the 330i and M3 in acceleration and cornering, so it really was a performance package to live up to its name. Inside, too, many special details adorned the ZHP – from small items like lightly revised gauges with special needles to unique shifter, steering wheel, seat fabric and eggcrate dash trim. Just like the S-Line Titanium Package Audis, these more potent 330is have a cultish following who proudly claim they’re not only special, but one of the most special BMWs made:
Although my recent experience with a BMW wagon wasn’t the most endearing of my automotive life, I have to admit I still keep an ear to the street every time an interesting one comes up. If nothing else, the promise of what BMW offered in their wagons was compelling – at least, until very recently. That’s because in addition to the 5-doors from the 3- and 5-series appearing on these shores in the E34, E39 and E46 generation, so too came all-wheel drive. “BUT, AUDI!” the internet insists. And right they’d be. Except that as the 2000s drew to a close, so too did the performance versions of Audi’s Avants – and with it went the manual option. So if you wanted to row-your-own, you had to turn to BMW to get what we see here – an all-weather faithful 5-door companion. While the “M” versions of the wagons didn’t come this way, what we did get was what you see here – the option to have the classic inline-6 mated to a manual transmission with near perfect weight distribution. Equip the package with the Sport option, and you got some nice alloy wheels and fantastic seats too. Even 17 years later and with a not insignificant amount of miles accrued, this is a package which stirs the soul:
I haven’t spent much time telling you about my recent BMW adventures, but they’ve been split between my 2003 M3 and my wife’s new-to-us 2009 135i Sport. There’s something pretty darn compelling about the small BMW coupes. They look great, they’re deceptively big inside, they’ve got plenty of trunk space for a long haul. Both get almost 30 mpg on the highway – the 135i is a bit better, actually. Poke them, and both are capable of ripping your face off. And to drive? They’re simply sublime. I’ve driven a lot of cars over the years, but few match the natural composure and connection to driving that both the E46 and its near twin E82 do. They’re just impressive cars that you can drive every day with a family aboard, have fun and feel pretty special without spending a million dollars.
All this sounds pretty irresistible, and that’s one of the reasons that BMW sold about 4 trillion 3-series coupes over the past 40 years. While I know their proliferation isn’t uniform across the country, near me you can’t drive much more than a minute without seeing one or many. And if you pop onto eBay or your local Craigslist, at least on the coasts, you’re likely to be overrun with examples. But if buying “the best one” is your goal, this particular 330ci might just be the one you’re searching for. That’s because if you ever hoped you could find an as-new ’01 330Ci, we have:
If you haven’t been following the E46 market, it’s increasingly becoming more expensive to get into a clean M3. As the M3 has crept up, so too has the “ZHP tax” set in on the sporty brother of the M3. So are there still bargains to be had in the E46 world? Yes, there sure are.
It’s possible to find well-cared for cars that seem to shrug off their mileage much better than their predecessors, and today’s 2004 330xi is a great example of that. Although it’s got the best part of 200,000 miles on the odometer, you wouldn’t know it looking at it from any angle. And the seller has gone through some extensive maintenance to make sure you don’t have to. What you’re left with is a great looking, well-equipped all-wheel drive sedan for a budget price:
So you want an affordable, distinctive yet practical car for your daily commute? Yesterday I suggested there might be more fun to be had for less money than the Golf Harlequin. Well, here it is: the Z3 3.0i Coupe. While the ‘clownshoe’ isn’t quite as spacious as the Golf, it does add a dose of practicality to a fun-to-drive and very unusual package. But while the market focuses on the M products, the more rare to find Z3 3.0i is an affordable option that will help you stand apart from the crowd.
Produced in Spartanburg in February 2002, this Topaz Blue Metallic example has seen better days, it’s got quite a few miles, and it’s an automatic. But that means it’ll be about as cheap as a clownshoe comes. Is it worth the price of admission – or, at the very least, is it worth the savings over a M?
“Too expensive” shouted a few Facebook comments on yesterday’s 330xi Feature Listing. “It’s 11 years old with 130K. WTF!”
He wasn’t alone, and I find that strange. Because, well, here’s a 14 year old 325xi. It’s got 159,000 miles. And, the asking price is a latte away from $8,000. There’s no maintenance disclosed, nor the careful care shown to our Feature Listing car, either.
But my guess is no one will be complaining that this particular all-wheel drive BMW is overpriced. That is simply because of the configuration in this case. While it’s certainly very rare to come across the E90 sedan in the specification of the Feature Listing from yesterday, I’ve never seen an E46 in this spec – nor are you likely to see another. That’s because this particular car is claimed to be one of one – the sole BMW Individual spec’d Dakar Yellow 325xi Touring 5-speed Sport Package.
You don’t have to cast a very wide net to find a modified E30 BMW. Though they’ve been out of production for the U.S. market for some 25 years, they’re still a massively popular choice for enthusiasts – so much so, that they’re a bit ubiquitous and border on clichÃ©.
As a result, we’ve seen our share of modified E30s on these pages with varying results. But today’s example really is something special. It’s not the first time I’ve heard an E30 be referred to as the cleanest, best built car in the country. I clicked the link with my normal base-level of E30 skepticism.
“It’ll be way, way overpriced for what it is. Lipstick on a pig. I’d prefer a stock one” rolled through my head.
You see, if I told you the value on a 318iS was such that it justified a full disassembly and restoration, you’d likely laugh. There could not possibly be a return on that investment, right? And on top of that, a resto-mod in a non-original color in a market which has highly prized only completely original, low mileage and stock examples to date?
Naysayers, bear witness.
I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for color. My eyes gravitate towards shades I don’t usually see, and this E46 certainly caught my eye. At first I was sure it must be a BMW Individual car like the Messing Metallic M3 I looked at earlier in the year. But no, this is a standard color, believe it or else. Sonora Metallic wasn’t often selected, as I frequently look that these cars and have never seen it (to my knowledge). Coupled with the Natural Brown leather interior and a 5-speed manual gearbox makes this 330Ci an appealing to look at yet quite affordable option for top-down German motoring:
In stock form theÂ E46 330i sedan was already a brisk, practical and rewarding car to drive.Â A capable sport sedan for grown ups, if you will. But when specified with theÂ $4,000 ZHP “Performance Package,” the 330i could be given a slightly harder edge that helped to make up for the lack of a four-door M3Â in the E46 range (at least, a bit). Offering a mixture of cosmetic upgrades (M-Sport bodykit, 18″ M-Sport wheels and splashes of alcantara interior trim) and some mechanical reworking Â – firmer suspension, a remapped ECU and upgraded cams bringing power from the smooth 3.0 liter M54 engine to about 235 hp – ZHP equipped cars remain favorites among enthusiasts and tend to command strong money when they show up on the used market.