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The BMW Z3 Coupe Is a Forgotten Fun Hatchback

When a discussion turns to the most special, thrilling and valuable BMW models of recent years — the future classics — the Z3 M Coupe is mentioned every time. Of course, that’s with good reason: the M Coupe, especially later models with the 315-horsepower "S54" engine, is an ultra-rare, high-performance, increasingly desirable BMW. We’ve covered it a few times, and I suspect there will be a day in the not-so-distant future when a pristine M Coupe brings $100,000 or more at auction.

But the M Coupe wasn’t the only BMW that used that body style. Although many enthusiasts remember and fondly discuss the M Coupe, few ever give any thought to the car’s slightly less exciting — and way cheaper — sibling, the BMW Z3 Coupe. For those of you who don’t know it, yes, it’s true: there was a non-M version of the M Coupe — and while it didn’t sell well, it’s still an exciting, unusual and special BMW hot hatchback that’s worth noting if your budget doesn’t allow an M Coupe.

The Z3 Coupe came out for the 1999 model year, and it was originally powered by a 2.8-liter inline six that made 193 hp. In 2001, BMW bumped the engine size, mirroring a similar increase for the M Coupe — and Z3 Coupe models from then on used a 225-hp 3.0-liter 6-cylinder. That figure, obviously, was pretty healthy given the car’s small size, and I suspect a later Z3 Coupe would be a fun car to toss around and enjoy.

Not that it’s easy to find out. Autotrader lists around 190 examples of the BMW Z3 currently for sale, of which just 13 are Z3 Coupe models — and only 8 of those hail from 2001 or 2002, meaning they have the larger 225-hp engine. By comparison, there are currently 23 examples of the Z3 M Coupe listed for sale on Autotrader, meaning the "M" version is actually more common than the "regular" version.

This doesn’t surprise me, actually, given that virtually all BMW Z3 Coupe models I see are "M" models, rather than base-level Z3 models — not that I see very many of either. But it’s worth a reminder that you don’t have to spend big money for an M Coupe if you want a rare modern BMW that shares that car’s distinctive design.

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