BMW M’s lost V12-powered Z3 roadster revealed

BMW Z3 roadster V12BMW’s M division creates some of the best performance cars around, but what do its engineers do for fun, when the constraints of crash tests and marketability aren’t hanging over them? Apparently, they put very large engines in very small cars. BMW recently took the wraps off a V12-powered Z3 roadster built by the M division several years ago.

The Z3, predecessor to today’s Z4, was built between 1996 and 2002, so this one-off prototype had to have been built in that interval. At the time, BMW was making a V12, code named M73, that was used in the 8 Series coupe, 750i sedan, and the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. It displaced 5.4-liters and produced 326 horsepower and 361 pound-feet of torque.

A modern BMW V12 makes 535 hp, but that was still a lot of power for such a small car. An 850i coupe weighs roughly 4,000 pounds; a stock Z3 weighs over 1,000 pounds less. With less weight to carry around, the V12 would have really made the Z3 move.

What would the Z3 V12 have been like to drive? Probably terrifying: the Z3 was supposed to be an upscale competitor to the Mazda Miata, so it would not have felt the same with a heavy V12 in the nose. The short wheelbase, combined with the engine’s torque, would have required maximum concentration to prevent catastrophic spins.BMW Z3 roadster V12 side view

The M division did build a production Z3 (the M Roadster and M Coupe), but with a less-extreme inline-six from the M3. In its most powerful incarnation, the M Roadster’s 3.3-liter, 315 hp, engine made nearly as much horsepower as the V12. This may have been another reason why the V12 Z3 was never put into production.

Stock Z3 roadsters came with a 2.5-liter inline-six with 184 hp, or a 3.0-liter version with 225 hp.

The idea of putting a big engine in a small car may not always be rational, but it is always attractive. With its recent move away from high-revving, race-bred engines to turbochargers, diesels, and SUVs, the M Division may want to try it again, just to show what it can do.

BMW still has the excellent N74B60 V12 that powers the 2013 760Li, making 535 hp and 550 lb-ft. The current Z4 roadster looks gorgeous, and there should be plenty of room under its long bonnet. It might not make sense to the marketing department, but who wouldn’t want to see that?

Mobile

You forgot all about these 6 phones of 2018. Prepare to forget them again

The best phones of the year are memorable, exciting, and ones we all want to buy. But what about the others? We're not talking about bad phones, we're talking about forgettable phones -- ones that aren't even bad enough to be remembered.
Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

What’s next for in-car entertainment? Audi believes it knows

Audi is bringing two technologies to CES 2019. The first turns a car -- a luxury sedan, in this case -- into a drive-in movie theater. The second is presented as a new entertainment format that turns the journey into the destination.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.
Cars

California wants all-electric public bus fleet on its roads by 2040

California approved a regulation that targets an all-electric public bus fleet for the whole state by 2040. The effect of the full implementation of the regulation is equivalent to taking 4 million cars off the road.
Cars

1,000-mph Bloodhound supersonic car project finds a last-minute savior

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC) project has found a buyer. The project was going to be disbanded after running out of funds, but its assets were purchased by British businessman Ian Warhurst.
Cars

Ford’s prototype Quiet Kennel uses noise-canceling tech to keep dogs stress-free

Ford is ending 2018 by venturing into the doghouse market. The company's European division has built a kennel equipped with active noise-canceling technology and soundproof walls that help dogs sleep through fireworks.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Cars

The best compact cars pack full-size features in fun-size packages

The best compact cars on the market rival their counterparts in many ways, proving that bigger isn’t always better. Here, we've rounded up some of the better options available, including an SUV and an electric alternative.
Cars

Lincoln revives its coolest-ever design feature for limited-edition Continental

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.
Product Review

Ford’s reincarnated Ranger feels like a car that does everything a truck can do

The 2019 Ford Ranger aims to be a tool for weekend adventures, and goes head-to-head with midsize pickup trucks from Chevrolet, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. Ford hasn’t sold the Ranger in the United States since 2011, so it has to make up…