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Brendan Block
Brendan Block, BMW Technician
Category: BMW
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience:  I have been a BMW Technician for nearly 10 years and specialize in engine conversions, brake upgrades and race car preparation.
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BMW Z3 Roadster & Z4 Roadster: Im in the market for either

Resolved Question:

I'm in the market for either a 2000-2002 E36/8 Z3 Roadster or a 2003-2008 E85, E86 Z4 Roadster. Ignoring the price-point variance, I would greatly appreciate some solid, engine-specific advice. It would be especially GREAT to hear from the informed mechanic's perspective.

Basically, I'm looking for a Roadster that is a joy to drive, fun to work on and a good overall investment. Fuel efficiency is also a plus; but reliability (over practicality) is my key concern.

From what I have learned, it seems that with the earlier E36/7 Z3's, 1.8 4cyls have little power but will run forever with responsible maintenance. It also seems that the inline 6cyls from the E36/7 models (before the drive by cable system was added) are good for a "pure" roadster engine and driving experience.

The later E36/8 models are my favorite (after they fixed her tail). For engine specs, I like the 2.8L = 144 kW , 193 HP SAE @ 5,500 rpm; 206 ft lb , 279 Nm @ 3,500 rpm.

The only pure performance driving I will do is taking her up to Canyon Country (North of LA) once or twice a month. But this is more cornering and maneuvering than red-lining.

The 2.8: seems more than enough for my driving needs (no practical demand for the M Coupe or newer M Roadster because I'm not going to race it). I'm just going to drive it...a lot.

My PROBLEM is the Z4 is just about my favorite trim of any car on the road today (unless somebody can find an old Austin Healey Mark III) - however I know far less about the Z4's mechanically than I do the Z3's.

I test-drove a Z4 E86 in Temecula last weekend and LOVED it...but it is very, very different than it's predecessor. Not better, not worse...just different.

So frankly, I like both models (a lot), and have decided I want the pure mechanics and reliability to be the final decision-influencing factor here.

Considering the Z4's electric steering is a bit of a pain to work on and doesn't feel as great on the road...and also given that overall, the Z4 will just cost a lot more to maintain - would the newer Zed even be worth the hassle and extra cash? Methinks it might...?

NOTE: *Please bear in mind this is for a (soon to be) owner that wants to baby his roadster, but simply will NOT have more than $3.5k for maintenance each year to invest in cost of operation (after insurance). I will be doing as much DIY maintenance as possible in my own shop at home.

(Simplified) Questions:

1) Regarding the Z4 E85/E86 models, are they fun to work on? Intuitive (for a BMW?) Or do they just look like alien space machines under the hood (ala Nissan VQ)?

2) In your opinion, would the E36/8 Z3 Roadster or the E85/E86 Z4 Roadster be a wiser investment to perform as a daily driver (i.e. for a single dude working in and around LA)?

3) Would the Z4 E85/E86 do alright with responsible DIY care, oil changes every 1500 and scheduled maintenance for bigger jobs? Driving it everyday? What about the same of an E36/8 Z3?

4) Objectively speaking, which is the more solid vehicle on basis of pure reliability and driving experience; NOT racing performance?

BotXXXXX XXXXXne, I'd just like to engage in a dialogue comparing the two specifically. I love these cars and hope you do too. Please feel free to address any/all of my questions/concerns (or not to, if you don't want to).

Many thanks. Drive on. Cheers.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: BMW
Expert:  Brendan Block replied 1 year ago.

Fidhle007 :

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a BMW tech, hopefully I can help you with your decision today!

Customer:

How's it going Brendan

Fidhle007 :

Not too bad, I didn't plan on being up this early but here I am!

Customer:

I appreciate it man

Fidhle007 :

No sweat, I just happened to get up and saw your question so I figured I'd help you out!

Fidhle007 :

I like both cars a lot

Customer:

Cool. Not really sure how this works...?

Customer:

Cool

Customer:

me too

Fidhle007 :

I'm partial to the 3.0 engine as this is what I have in my 330xi ('03)

Fidhle007 :

And my car just hit 225k miles the other day

Customer:

that's good to know

Fidhle007 :

and it's still fun so I can't complain

Customer:

totally

Customer:

any major bumps in the road?

Fidhle007 :

I have a customer with an '01 330i with over 300k on it and it's still going strong as well

Fidhle007 :

Avoid the SMG transmission if you go for the Z4

Customer:

yeah, i've seen them with 250k running like new

Fidhle007 :

but both cars should just require basic maintenance

Fidhle007 :

I recommend a shorter interval than BMW does though

Customer:

?

Customer:

do tell

Fidhle007 :

5k on oil (with synthetic) and 60k on plugs and fuel filters.

Customer:

that's totally doable

Customer:

you recommend synthetic?

Customer:

any particular brand or viscosity?

Fidhle007 :

You're right, the repairs on the Z4 are going to be pricier, IE: having a fuel pump in the center of the tank which requires dropping the exhaust and driveshaft to access...

Fidhle007 :

But I'm still telling my customers to buy the newest car they can afford

Customer:

interesting

Fidhle007 :

The trick is though, buy the LAST car of the bodystyle you can afford

Fidhle007 :

even if you can afford the first of the next generation

Fidhle007 :

So if you can get a Z3 from the end of the production run and a Z4 from the beginning of that run, the Z3 will be a better car over time

Customer:

Yeah, like a late '02 Z3 might be a better investment than an '03 Z4?

Fidhle007 :

Definitely

Customer:

Good. To. Know.

Fidhle007 :

But if you can get a late Z4 from before the new style change, that will be much better than the earlier one

Customer:

Like an '06

Customer:

Off the top of your head, what are some common issues I'll run into with an '02 Z3?

Customer:

Say around 100k, 120k, 150k?

Fidhle007 :

with each year BMW makes small refinements that often aren't visible to the casual observer but having worked on them and owned them it does make a difference!

Fidhle007 :

Quite honestly, the worst issue I see on those cars (Z3s) are from lack of use

Fidhle007 :

Brake rotors going rusty in a damp garage, mice eating wires and vacuum lines

Customer:

What sort of issues from lack of use?

Fidhle007 :

If you stick to the 5/60k interval that I use there isn't much else that jumps out

Fidhle007 :

We do an occasional window regulator, maybe a secondary air pump, once in a blue moon I see a key or door handle fail

Customer:

Oh, that's not bad

Fidhle007 :

but these are all single incidents so I can't say "WATCH OUT" really

Customer:

totally

Customer:

I've heard people that claim to change the oil as often as every 1500 miles?

Customer:

Is that ridiculous?

Fidhle007 :

Not if you only drive that far a year

Customer:

I see

Customer:

Also, what's the lowest octane fuel that she won't cough?

Customer:

In California, Premium isn't as high octane as the rest of the country...

Fidhle007 :

if it's a summer car I'd make sure it's changed once a year, just to prevent moisture buildup in the crankcase vent system

Fidhle007 :

is it 91 out there?

Customer:

91-93

Fidhle007 :

I always run 91 or 93 but my 330 has hot cams and upgraded software so I don't have much choice

Customer:

Gotcha

Fidhle007 :

Generally I use premium in everything but my truck!

Customer:

Makes sense

Customer:

Given a choice between an '02 Z3 with 80k and an '06 Z4 with 120k, which would you say would fit the bill better?

Customer:

(if they were priced equally)

Fidhle007 :

I'm kind of partial to the Z3 still so I'm a bit biased

Fidhle007 :

Generally my Z3 customers seem to be happier people but I don't know if that's because of their cars or the rest of their lives!

Customer:

Z3 is a sweet car

Fidhle007 :

I'm old school though, I like to feel like I'm connected to what I'm driving and that it's connected to the road

Customer:

Yeah you can feel the road more in a 3

Fidhle007 :

So I'd go for a 3.0 or M Z3 as late as I could find

Customer:

The Z4 is fun and sporty, but the drive felt pollowy and more "distant" - mechanical

Customer:

Is that just the electronic gearbox?

Fidhle007 :

Sure, you don't NEED the extra power of the 3.0 or 3.2 but it's nice to have and I feel like the cars with bigger engines are a little better built

Fidhle007 :

That can be, those gearboxes are a nightmare

Fidhle007 :

And they're very expensive to repair and replace!

Customer:

How greatly will the bigger (3.0 or 3.2) effect the fuel economy?

Fidhle007 :

Honestly that's going to be up to your right foot.

Customer:

And LA Traffic!

Customer:

But I know the 2.8 will get pretty stellar mileage per gallon

Customer:

Is the 3.0 in the same wheelhouse?

Customer:

Or does it tend to run thirstier?

Fidhle007 :

My girlfriend and I have similarly equipped 3.0 engines and she get's MUCH better mileage than me

Fidhle007 :

But I have AWD and she doesn't

Fidhle007 :

so that's a factor

Customer:

Does she just drive more conservatively?

Fidhle007 :

The 3.0 should be the same or better than the 2.8

Customer:

Good to know

Fidhle007 :

it has a little more torque so you don't have to tromp it quite so hard

Fidhle007 :

which let's you drive a little more conservatively when you want to

Fidhle007 :

In the five series they had both engines between '97 and '03

Fidhle007 :

The 528i realistically got 24 mpg and the 530i got much closer to 28 mpg

Fidhle007 :

just based on the extra torque to move the heavy chassis

Fidhle007 :

this is less of an issue in the lighter Z3 body but it gives you an idea

Fidhle007 :

Personally I'd go 3.0 because they seem to be trimmed out better. Nice wheels, nice dash trim...

Fidhle007 :

I'm sure there are 2.8s that are just as good but of the cars I see the 3.0s look "nicer"

Customer:

that's the M54B30 i6 in the 3.0, right?

Fidhle007 :

Yes

Customer:

And for your money, it's a solid BMW engine?

Fidhle007 :

I bought one!

Customer:

Noice

Fidhle007 :

The mrs. bought one

Fidhle007 :

I got the 2.5 version for my parents

Customer:

Hahahaha

Customer:

Well played sir

Fidhle007 :

They wanted a wagon, it was the only option :-)

Customer:

Anything specific to look into with the M54B30?

Customer:

Tools to invest in for home maintenance?

Customer:

Useful Resources?

Fidhle007 :

Just maintenance history and what's been done previously and why

Fidhle007 :

Buy yourself a Bentley Service Manual

Customer:

Really?

Fidhle007 :

it is the BEST tool you can have

Fidhle007 :

It has all the jobs laid out neatly, what tools you'll need

Fidhle007 :

Sorry, Bentley Publishing

Fidhle007 :

Not Bentley car

Customer:

That sounds crucial

Fidhle007 :

It's a life saver

Fidhle007 :

As a pro tech I use one at least once a day

Fidhle007 :

sometimes it's just to look up a torque spec but it's still there

Customer:

Awesome

Fidhle007 :

and totally worth it if you're going the DIY route

Customer:

What's the best (affordable) tool I can jack into the oil service reset

Fidhle007 :

If it's made after 9/2001 it's your index finger

Customer:

Really!!! Hahahaha

Fidhle007 :

You can reset the lights from the dash

Fidhle007 :

Actually that might be 9/2000...

Customer:

Last time I did it I had to use this circular wire tool that went into a housing under the hood

Fidhle007 :

Basically if it has the round diagnostic plug under the hood you need the reset tool

Fidhle007 :

but they stopped installing those for MY2001

Customer:

Wow

Fidhle007 :

so the dash reset worked

Customer:

Did not know that they don't do the round diag plug anymore

Customer:

Shows how up to date I am

Fidhle007 :

That reset tool isn't that pricey though

Fidhle007 :

Ha, it's all good!

Fidhle007 :

I still have an '89 325is!

Customer:

And I'll bet it's running like a champ

Customer:

So the Bentley Publishing Service Manual, my index finger... anything else Bimmer specific I should invest in?

Fidhle007 :

Well, it's pretty modified, it's my track car

Customer:

Dope

Fidhle007 :

A good set of metric sockets and wrenches

Fidhle007 :

maybe some hex bits

Fidhle007 :

and some Torx bits

Customer:

Got those *minus Torx

Fidhle007 :

the usual, screw drivers, pry bars

Customer:

What type of oil do you put in your 330ix?

Fidhle007 :

a 36mm socket to pull the oil filter cap off

Fidhle007 :

I use LiquiMoly 5/40 Synthetic

Fidhle007 :

And I use the 10/60 RaceTech in the track car and both have been stellar

Fidhle007 :

Actually we use the 5/40 Synth in pretty much everything at the shop now

Customer:

When I was at Audi, we were told to encourage customers to go synthetic

Fidhle007 :

My boss even tried it in his '90 325ix and swears he got an additional 3 mpg...

Customer:

I believe it

Fidhle007 :

I see no reason not to

Customer:

Agreed

Fidhle007 :

Unless you have the Healey MKIII you want...

Fidhle007 :

That's probably ok on 20/50 GTX

Customer:

Whew

Customer:

That car would cost an arm and a leg

Customer:

Unless I was restoring

Customer:

So, to get an overview...

Customer:

The 2002 Z3 3.0i 6-cyl 5M Roadster sounds like the bell of the ball

Fidhle007 :

In my opinion yest

Fidhle007 :

*yes

Customer:

That's all I'm here for (your opinion) :)

Fidhle007 :

this is where you'll find the most car for the best price with the least issues down the road

Customer:

perfect

Fidhle007 :

based on what I've seen this far

Customer:

Sure

Fidhle007 :

In five years it will be interesting to se how the Z4 holds up

Customer:

I agree

Customer:

Any other bits of general wisdom, specifically regarding a 2002 Z3 3.0i 6-cyl 5M Roadster?

Fidhle007 :

Go find your local BMWCCA and do an Autocross!

Fidhle007 :

AH, I just remembered one thing!

Fidhle007 :

I think the 3.0 cars have better brakes!

Fidhle007 :

I know it's true in most of the other body styles and I'm 90% sure it's true here too

Fidhle007 :

Slightly bigger rotors, better cooling and better stopping power

Fidhle007 :

Which is helpful in LA traffic too...

Customer:

totally

Customer:

ANything else?

Customer:

I've actually gotta run to an appointment

Fidhle007 :

Not that I can think of! I can still reply to you after you've rated my answer so if anything comes to mind I'll hit you back

Customer:

I'm a happy customer here, I'll definitely give our talk all 5 stars

Fidhle007 :

and if you need help with the decision process feel free to request me in the future!

Customer:

Definitely

Fidhle007 :

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX it!

Customer:

Also, if you think of something, or should simply out of your own volition like to add something you think of later, please feel free to email me aXXX@XXXXXX.XXX

Customer:

I understand if you're too busy, but if you're anything like me, as soon as we bounce, you'll think of something crucial hahahha

Fidhle007 :

Unfortunately the site blocks emails

Customer:

ah

Fidhle007 :

so I can't see it :-(

Customer:

no worries

Fidhle007 :

I'll reply here and the site will email you

Customer:

that would be awesome

Customer:

thanks again for your advice and wisdom sir

Fidhle007 :

No worries, have a good one!

Customer:

you too

Brendan Block, BMW Technician
Category: BMW
Satisfied Customers: 259
Experience: I have been a BMW Technician for nearly 10 years and specialize in engine conversions, brake upgrades and race car preparation.
Brendan Block and 3 other BMW Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Brendan Block replied 1 year ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already done so, please rate your answer above. Or, you can reply to me using the box below.
Expert:  Brendan Block replied 1 year ago.
Hi Zachary!

I thought of you today because an '05 Z4 2.5 came in with a mysterious battery drain which we have been as-of-yet unable to track down. The car is not poorly built and has plenty of room to work in the engine bay but it's just too darned complicated in my personal opinion!

Good luck on your Z3 quest! Please leave me a positive rating when you get a chance!

~Brendan

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