The 1997 BMW M Roadster was the answer to all the critics of the Z3, which had been introduced in 1995. The Z3 had been taken to task not for being American-made, but rather for its strange styling, which made it look quite wide and very narrow at the same time, as well as for its absolutely anemic engine, a rare thing for contemporary BMW cars. Furthermore, wasn’t nearly as modern as it billed itself, being based on the old 3-Series, and having inherited its semi-trailing arms rear suspension. Besides the style, what really grated was the performance, and with the M Roadster, BMW was hoping to remedy the situation.
Replacing the Z3’s embarrassingly under-powered four-cylinder engines (115 hp and 140 hp, respectively). the M Roadster boasted an in-line six-cylinder powerhouse of 3.2 liter, developing 321 horsepower. This allowed it to reach a top speed of 155 miles an hour, and a 0-60 acceleration of a mere 5.5 seconds. Power was transmitted to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission, or optionally, an automatic gearbox.
In terms of styling, the 1997 BMW M Roadster got the obligatory fatter tires and wider, flaring fenders, more chrome and an overall nastier, meaner look, in a good way. It was still too expensive, but at least it offered real performance.
On a related note, I had the chance to drive a 1996 BMW M3 with the same engine a few years ago. I wrote about it in a previous post, as it was my first real experience driving a really powerful sports car. I remember it well!