Classic CARmentary: 1999 BMW M Coupe

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

Below I mention that the Z3 hailed the return of the “affordable” German sports car.  I’m not entirely sure what car I had in mind when I wrote that, but I was probably thinking of the 914, which was priced in the $20k range (in 1999 dollars).  If you consider the 1986 924S a sports car, that was priced around $30k in 1999 dollars, equivalent to the base Z3.  The Boxster, at around $40k, played in a different realm.  

Other than that, I don’t have anything else to add to the review.  As cool as the M Coupe is, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.  Besides picking up my wife at National Airport and being thankful we could fit her luggage in the hatch, I have no other memories of my week with it.

The following review was written on January 25, 1999.

Buy this car if (1) you have your own private race track, or (2) you live in Montana with its “safe and reasonable” speed limit. All others will probably be extremely frustrated.

In the tradition of the great European “Gran Turismos” of the past – closed-body versions of a purebred sports car – BMW has grafted a steel roof onto its little Z3 roadster, the car that helped hail the return of the “affordable” German sports car. The roof extends nearly to the rear bumper, with a slightly angled C-Pillar and rear window, resulting in a convenient and sporty hatchback body style. The overall effect is somewhat reminiscent of a Honda Civic, but the long hood, short 50-inch height, and rear fender flares housing nine-inch wide rear tires are unmistakable sports car characteristics. Two less desirable sports car characteristics are the strange contortions to get DOWN into the car, and windows that stick up about an inch when fully retracted.

The premier model is the M Coupe. M, of course, stands for BMW’s Motorsports subsidiary, the party responsible for its astounding M3 and M Roadster siblings. Under the hood is the same 240 horsepower, 3.2 liter inline six, which results in adrenaline-rushing-sub-six-second-zero-to-60 times and a top speed that’s probably much higher than the artificially limited 138 miles per hour set by BMW. A less expensive Z3 Coupe 2.8 with a smaller engine is also available.

But sports cars are more than speed, as similar performance can be found in a Z28 that costs half as much. The M Coupe shines in how well everything works together. Its tiny 159-inch length, slot-car handling, short throw five-speed shifter, seats that feel like they wrap themselves around you, thick three-spoke steering wheel, traction control, and limited slip differential enable the M Coupe to become an extension of its driver, a sensation few cars can duplicate.

This car begs to be driven like a race car. I live in the middle of crowded metro DC. Never before have I been so happy and so sad to return a test car.

For more information contact 1-800-334-4BMW


Type: 2-Door GT
Engine: 240-horsepower, 3.2 liter inline 6
Transmission: Five-Speed Manual
EPA Mileage: 19 city/26 highway
Tested Price: $42,670