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[NEWS] Greatest road tests ever: BMW Z1

Greatest road tests ever: BMW Z1

BMW Z1 front three quarter
Underneath, the Z1 was based on the E30 325i

Munich's futuristic roadster was well-balanced and refined, but it needed more power

A masterclass of design and engineering, BMW’s daring Z1 produced an impressive roadster from workaday E30-generation BMW 3 Series saloon underpinnings. 

The Z1’s front-engined, rear-drive chassis, 2.5-litre straight six, five-speed gearbox and MacPherson-strut front suspension came from the E30 325i, but new tech included a composite-fibre sandwich floorpan, plastic body panels and new rear wishbones. Electric doors could drop down to thigh height at the press of a button. 

The engine was smooth-revving but listless below 4000rpm. The Z1 cruised effortlessly and quietly, though, with little wind noise, and the gearshift was precise. 

Exquisite chassis balance and bags of grip made the Z1 a real joy on twisty roads, with ultra-sharp turn-in and almost no understeer, yet suspension pliancy shared equal billing with control. The low-geared steering had plenty of lock, but wanted for weight. The brakes were strong.

Ingress was challenging, but the driving position was comfortable and well supported, the cabin’s bespoke finishes impressed and the hood mechanism was quick and easy, although the boot was small.

For: Stunning grip, neutral cornering, refinement 

Against: Needs more power and a larger boot

Price £26,500 Engine 6 cyls in line, 2494cc, petrol Power 170bhp at 5800rpm Torque 164lb ft at 4300rpm 0-60mph 7.9sec 0-100mph 23.3sec Standing quarter mile 15.9sec at 86mph Top speed 136mph Economy 24.0mpg

What happened next?

Production wound up in June 1991 after 8000 examples had been built, all of them left-hand drive. The car initiated BMW’s modern two-seat ‘Z’ range, which continued with the Z3 (1995), Z8 (1999) and Z4 (2002 and now in its third generation). About 60 Z1s remain on UK roads, with almost as many again declared SORN. Prices start in the region of £40,000.

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