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Hello this is Piston Kirk!
In one of my previous videos,
whose link is in the description,
you could see that, for family reasons,
I ended up with two roadsters in my garage,
so here’s the perfect opportunity to compare two of the most seductive cabriolets of the 90’s
and find which car is the most interesting between the BMW Z3 and the Boxster 986
the rivalry between the BMW Z3 and the Boxster 986 is old
New or used, the press has often made comparative tests between its two great rivals.
So you’re going to say : “Why make one more?”
Well … Because most of these comparisons are focused on the price / performance ratio,
which makes less and less sense for a youngtimer.
Since these cars are technically outdated
and that few people will use them on a circuit,
our approach will be to see what are the strengths and weaknesses
in terms of comfort in everyday use.
But hey, before analyzing the practical aspects,
let’s still do a little mechanical comparison to refresh our memory.
Point 1: Mechanics
Let’s start with road holding
Although they are both powered
they have ABS
and that they came out the same year,
a gap separates them.
With its rear central engine,
the Boxster is a real kart that takes the curves as on rails,
while the grip of the rear axle of the Z3 on wet ground sometimes approaches that of
of a bar of soap.
I would like to add some nuances
because the BMW has, at least, the merit to warn you before completely losing its adherence,
which makes this car very fun to drive.
With respect to the Boxster, when you have reached the limit of adhesion,
it’s often already too late to react
Fortunately, to overcome this problem,
both manufacturers offered (as an option)
To find out if the car you drive is equipped with this system,
you have to look at the switches in the center console of the dashboard.
On the BMW Z3, the switch is here.
If it is written on “ASC”,
it’s that you only have ABS and traction control.
On the other hand, if it is written “DSC”, ie “Dynamic Stability Control”,
you actually have ESP (ESC),
a much more rare option
but much more powerful to stay on the road.
On the Boxster, the switch that serves to disable the electronic control is here.
If you have a black cover with nothing written,
then, you only have ABS.
If you have a switch with written: “TC off”
then you have the option “Traction Control”
then you have the option “Traction Control”
In 2001, Porsche replaced this “Traction Control” with something a little better:
the “Pack Stability Managment”, which is a kind of ESP (ESC),.
then the switch has changed its name,
to be called: PSM off.
It goes without saying that when it comes to safety,
these electronic systems are very usefull
and not only on circuit.
They can save you, even in common use
especially in rainy weather.
Moreover, for many journalists of the automotive press of the 90’s
these options were strongly recommended.
If despite ABS and ESP you still end up in the wall,
you can count on the front and side airbags that equip both models.
In fact no…
It is true that the first years of production, from 1996 to 1998,
the Boxster did not have side airbags.
On the other hand, they were all equipped with a standard roll bar,
which was unfortunately not the case for the Z3
which proposed this security bar only as an option.
Now let’s look at the engine,
in its beginnings in 1996,
the Z3 was equipped with 1.8L and 1.9L engines that had only 4 cylinders,
while a Boxster 2.5 L, output the same year, already had 6 cylinders.
In order to compete, in 1997,
BMW put under the hood of its roadster a 6-cylinder in line,
The melodious roar of this engine has nothing to envy to that of the flat 6 of the Boxster
I hope you enjoyed this symphony
because with the anti-pollution standards that are getting ready,
we will soon have only half 6 cylinders.
But the sound is not everything,
In terms of power, what do we have?
Again, the Boxster takes the advantage.
The basic Z3 1.8 L had only 115 hp
while the 2.5 L Boxster started at 204 hp.
Although the Z3 weighs a little less heavy,
it was not enough to offset the weight / power ratio
which resulted in almost 3 seconds more at 0 to 100 km / h
To have a Z3 whose outperforms the Boxster the least powerful,
you have to look for the six cylinders from 2.8 L
However, in the 2000s, the Boxster also get a more powerful engines.
the Boxster S was equipped with a 3.2 L engine with 256 hp (260 hp between 2003 and 2004)
and at this level,
the only Z3 that can do better is the M version with 321 hp (but only 240 hp in the USA)
But hey, it’s nice to speak about numbers, but it doesn’t say anything about the pleasure of driving.
And here, I must admit that the flat 6 of the Boxster is distinguished by a great linearity in acceleration,
while on the Z3, you have to get high i rpm to find the power.
In comparison the engine of the Boxster gives the impression of never running out of power
which allows a greater flexibility in driving
which is particularly appreciable.
We have enough spoken mechanics.
Let’s talk about the practical aspects
starting with one of the central points of these cars:
the opening of the roof
Point 2: The opening of the soft top
On the Boxster the electric roof is standard,
but to allow it to open, you must first pull the handbrake,
then, unlock the central handle of the roof,
then hold the switch down during the whole opening phase.
On the Z3 equipped with the electric roof option
it is not the hand brake that must be pulled,
but the brake pedal must be held down to allow the opening.
Then you have to unlock not one but two handles
Now open the roof and keep it ajar until you switch on the electric motor,
because there is a safety switch in the hinge.
Moreover, sometimes when the engine refuses to engage,
it’s just that the switch is defective
Then, while keeping the roof slightly open with one hand,
use your other hand to press the opening switch.
On phase 1, this switch is located in front of you on the center console.
On phase 2, he was moved behind you between the two seat.
you must therefore look for it with your hand to activate it.
Frankly, I wonder how BMW engineers
have come to install it in a place that is not at all ergonomic.
So, on Phase 2, they asked us to put the clock in the middle.
The problem, as you can see, is that we have one less slot for the switches.
We will have to find a new location for the switch of the electric roof.
We could do like on the Z3 Coupe version
and put all the switches under the clock there.
Or, on the side in alignment with the window lift button.
Of course there is still room here.
Hold on !
What if we innovated?
We could do something new!
For example put it there behind.
It’s awesome !
Isn’t it ?
don’t you think it’s not very practical?
We see nothing…
you have to twist your arm.
Maybe that’s why nobody has done it yet.
we will be first!
We will be precursor!
Let’s be honest,
the roof of the Z3 is a little less easy to open
and especially much less aesthetic.
While the Boxster offers a smooth and clean rendering,
the Z3 leaves the frame of the roof apparent.
It was so ugly,
that BMW sold as an option a leather cover for the roof
to smooth the lines of the car when the roof is open.
So, maybe it’s very beautiful,
but it is long and boring to install.
But aesthetics is not the main fault of this roof,
there is a much more problematic design detail.
When you close the roof,
the two metal rods that are at its end
have a tendency to hang the rubber gasket from the windshield frame,
which ends by tearing it apart.
Then, as it is no longer waterproof,
the water trickles into the car.
In this case, the only solution is to replace the seal,
unfortunately it costs more than
350 euros at BMW
At this price, I preferred to repair it myself
with thread, a needle and some neoprene glue
Of course, it’s not perfect,
but it’s much better than before.
Even if in theory the opening of the boxster roof seems much more practical than that of the Z3,
it is necessary to put this judgment into perspective,
because they both have the same defect:
that is, a plastic window that forces you to comme out of the car in the middle of the opening phase
to tap the plastic window to prevent it from making a bad crease and breaking.
On this, the Z3 and the Boxster 986 are as boring one than the other
Well … not all Boxster…
Ectually, Phases 2 produced from 2003 to 2004
had a new roof frame with a glass window.
So, we did not have to go out to tap the window.
The good news,
is that this new frame is compatible with Phases 1 produced from 2000 to 2002
and who are equipped with the new electrical system
that is, they have switches to open the front and rear trunk
and not handle with cable as on the first versions (1996 to 1999).
So, although it’s great to be able to put a Phase 2 frame
the only small problem is that they are difficult and expensive to find used
As a result, some owners prefer to opt for a special sof top with a glass window
which is compatible with the Phase 1 frame
The disadvantage is that this window is slightly smaller than its plastic version.
The advantage is that it has an electric defrost
just plug in the hard-top plug witch is installed on all the Boxster.
If, despite all your precautions, you break the plastic window when opening the roof,
you must know that it is a real problem to repair it on the Boxster
because we have to dismantle all the soft top
which is long
and very expensive if a professional do it.
On the other hand, on the Z3, it’s much simpler,
because the window is maintained by a simple zipper.
Since we only have the window to replace,
it is much cheaper and above all much faster.
Best of all, you can do it yourself without the help of a specialist.
Since prevention is better than cure
to limit the risk of breaking the window
and protect the soft top of the roof in winter,
you can use a hard-top that was available as an option on these two roadsters
Point 3: The hard-top
Personally, I love the hard-top of the Boxster because I find very elegant,
but if the manufacturer’s one does not suit you,
know that there are two compatible versions inspired by the Cayman.
The first one is a normal hard-top.
The second version requires to remove the trunk to install it.
But in both cases, the result is very sporty.
We can also install a hard-top on a Z3,
but its integration with the car line is not as convincing.
It feels like the Z3 was wearing a helmet.
If you really want to hard roof on this model,
it is better to choose a Z3 coupe.
At least, the design of this car has the merit of not leaving indifferent:
you love it
or you hate it.
The only problem is that it is rather rare.
The coupe was produced with less than 18000 copies
against almost 280,000 for the roadster,
it’s 15 times less.
It is therefore more difficult to find
and especially much more expensive than the convertible version of the Z3.
Well, we mentioned the hardtop, the opening of the roof but not its closure
so, before concluding this part, I would like to mention a little detail specific to the Boxster
on models from 2000
when we lock the roof it automatically goes up the windows.
So, sure, it’s not essential,
but it’s still a very practical function to use,
especially if you are in a hurry to close the roof because it starts to rain.
Well, come on, enough talk from outside it’s time to enter inside.
Point 4: Driving comfort
When you think comfort, you think immediately: seat and driving position
and for having used these two roadster on long journeys,
I must admit that the Boxster has more comfortable seats.
We immediately feel that these seats were designed with the aim of driving on circuits.
You should know that these two roadster offered optional semi-bucket seats
which are perfect for those who have a sporty driving.
However, there is a small detail that bothers me about the Boxster:
If you are wide, it is better to chose standard seats
because semi-bucket seats tend to over-tighten at the ribs.
My wife loves them because she is narrower than me.
even if I recognize that you are more stable on circuit,
I do not find them very pleasant over long distances.
About settings, the the back of the seat is electrical on all Boxster
On the other hand, to move from front to back, it is manual.
Curiously, on the Z3, it’s exactly the opposite:
to move forward or backward the seat, it is electric
while to move the the back of the seat, it is manual.
In both cases,
it’s a little frustrating that the entire seat is not electric
because it allows you finer adjustments.
Luckily on this point the boxster offers a solution by having optional
a complet electric seat with memory.
unfortunately it was so expensive
that finding a used Boxster equipped with it is a feat.
However, the heated seat is a relatively common option on both models.
It’s not essential for a convertible,
but when you like to ride even in winter,
it is rather appreciable.
Well, adjusting the seat is good, but it’s not the only thing that plays in the driving position.
There is also the steering wheel.
and at this level, the Boxster allows a deep adjustment,
but unfortunately not in height.
It’s a pity, but it’s still better than the Z3
which does not allow any adjustment at all
since the steering wheel is fixed.
Once installed, if you make a 1.80 meter like me,
it quickly appears that the roof of the Z3 is closer to your head than the one of the Boxster.
Clearly, when I ride with the roof closed,
I feel a bit crushed in Z3 while I do not have that feeling in the Boxster
Now that you have set the driving position, you can ride.
Then, what about the field of vision
On the Boxster, we have a more inclined windshield
and an frame on the windschied that is higher compared to the Z3,
On Boxster you have a wider field of vision than on the Z3.
Well, for now, the Boxster seems to be ahead of the Z3 at all levels.
But there is one point where the Z3 is much better than the Boxster:
the arm on the door.
Well, it may sound a little stupide said like that …
but you have to know that puting the arm on the door in a comfortable position,
was part of the specifications of the Z3.
Because its design was made for the American market.
And over there, driving a cabriolet with your arm on to the door,
it’s almost an art of living.
Why do you think the amount of the door goes down?
it was to gain comfort.
On this point,
the Boxster is a little less good.
Of course we can put the arm on the door,
but as the door is a bit higher,
the angle your body makes with your arm being more important,
the position is a little less pleasant.
Point 5: Comfort of use and practical aspects
Let’s start with the air conditioning,
you will tell me: “An air conditioning is useless.”
Yeah sure, a cabriolet is made to ride with the roof open.
But, in fact… no!
In truth, it works especially for small trips.
On long journeys, when the sun beats,
After a while, I can not see the difference between my skin color and that of my jacket.
And there is also the problem of the highway.
Between the noise and the swirl of the wind, quickly, you only have one wish
it is to close the roof.
So once you have closed the roof in full sun,
it does not take long for the cabin to turn into an oven.
And in this specific moment, you realize that air conditioning is useful.
And that’s why BMW offered (optional) manual air conditioning
while Porsche offered a slightly more advanced version
with an automatic regulation system,
where you just have to mark the temperature
which saves you from juggling all the time with air conditioning controls
This option was particularly appreciated,
since most Boxster are equipped.
Regarding the audio system,
on both models, the basic equipment integrated in the dashboard
is largely powerful enough to listen to the radio
even with the roof open.
But for music lovers,
both manufacturers offered as an option
BMW housed them behind the seats,
and Porsche put a pair in the doors
and even offered an optional subwoofer on the back
In terms of accoustics, Porsche pushed the concept a little bit to far
since in their quest for the purity of sound,
they integratet on Phases 2 an optical fiber system,
which has the disadvantage of complicating things
when you want to change the car radio.
This excess of technology
does not make much sense
in a car where the sounds of the engine and the soft top are also present in the cabin
in fact the only time you can really enjoy the sound quality of your audio system,
it’s when the engine is stopped.
Since we talk about the car radio, let’s have a look on its antenna.
The Z3 has an apparent antenna located on the left rear fender.
Porsche opted for a much more discreet antenna
integrated into the windshield,
thus refining the design of the bodywork.
But en fact,
that’s valid for the lucky ones who did not have the option “pre-equipment for the phone”
that is to say, that kind of small box to the right of the center console.
because in this case,
if you had a model from 1996 to 2000,
you ended up with a kind of antenna ersatz located at the top of the windshield.
whose aesthetic is ….
… not so good.
In case of small thirsts you will be surprised to find that the Z3 does not have cup holders,
which is rather odd for a model that was designed for the US market.
So, to correct this lack,
BMW created this accessory for the USA.
The Boxster has two removable cup holders
that it was necessary to unfold then to insert in the ventilation grid.
Since it was not cery convenient.
Porsche has commercialized a version with drawers on the American market,
then during the restyling of 2003,
they have serialized on all the Boxster
a retractable version much more practical.
Let’s stay on practical aspects,
by now analyzing the storage
which are always useful to put caps, maps, GPS and notices.
Item 6: The storage spaces of the inside
On this point, apparently the Z3 is better than the Boxster
because it has a passenger-side glove box
The Boxster did not have one
but she will finally receive one the last two years of production
with the arrival of Phase 2 in 2003.
So having a glove box on the Z3 is a good thing,
the problem is that it is ridiculously small.
If you have a GPS that is not too thick,
you have a small chance of puting it inside.
I would be curious to see how they validate their ergonomic processes at BMW.
So, what are we testing today?
The glove box.
Well, but what will do we do with that?
it would be necessary to enlarge the glove box …
No, it’s too much work.
We’ll put a little net here to tidy up.
It’s not a problem, the driver will not see it.
But … It’s not going to bother the passenger’s feet a bit?
yes, but it’s not important
because the passenger is a woman.
Uh … It’s not a little macho?
Yes, completely …
But we do not care!
It’s a BMW: Bayerische Macho Wagon (Bavarian Macho car)
It’s a car for men!
One might think that BMW’s engineers finally realized that something was wrong,
since the Z3 sold in the USA
had a version of the glove box a little bigger than in Europe
if the design of the glove box has been reviewed
it is not to gain space,
but supposed to better protect passengers’ legs in case of an accident
This American glove box model unfortunately has the double problem
to be less aesthetic, to creak
while offering minimal gain of space
which still do not allow to store in good conditions
the leather bloc containing the manual and the vehicle maintenance booklet
on the American Z3 too, the side storage net was offered as an option.
On the early Boxster,
this leather bloc was stored in the pocket behind the back of the seat.
Since it was not always convenient to access,
in 2000, Porsche created a storage bin under the steering wheel
which will disappear in 2003
with the arrival of the glove box on Phases 2.
As a result, the pockets of the seat backs are released
which makes it possible to store flexible objects such as caps or scarves.
For objects that must remain easy to access
like bottles, scrapers, parking disks
or for fans of vintage stuff
CDs or paper road maps,
both roadster have in doors a storage bins.
Those of the Z3 are a little smaller and a little shallower than on the Boxster,
then, some objects a little too high can sometimes fall when you open the door.
Note also that on the Boxster
the armrest also serves as a cover,
which allows to hide these objects
giving a tidier and cleaner appearance to the cockpit
the small storage spaces of the Z3 located at the level of the handbrake and minimalist.
You can put at best: keys, a garage door remote
and a mobile phone.
The small storage spaces of the Boxster is better
since you have two much larger storage bins
located under the car radio.
You could even have optional CD dispenser drawers.
On the other hand, if you had a double DIN car radio,
you only had one storage bin left,
the other locations being occupied by the air conditioning controls unit.
For precious objects like:
sunglasses, GPS or the garage door remote control,
both manufacturers have compartments that can be locked
with the ignition key.
It will save you from having to close the roof every time you stop.
On the Z3, the key locks the glove box,
but also a set of two compartments,
including a particularly big one.
In comparison Boxster without glove box are much less convenient
Since the only compartment that can be locked
that just allows you to store a pair of sunglasses and a wallet.
Note that like the Z3,
the Boxster also had a storage compartment located behind the seats (optional).
Unlike the Z3 it could not be locked,
however, it had a much more direct access
because you did not have to switch the wind net like on the Z3
to access the storage by lifting the lid.
And since we speak about the storage,
Let’s take a look at the trunk.
Item 7: The trunk
The trunk of the Z3 is very small
you really can not put a lot in it.
But, I have to admit it,
it is bigger than the boxster’s trunk.
Except that the Boxster,
has another trunk in the front,
which makes it much more convenient than the Z3.
Especially on the latest models of Boxster,
because the opening of the trunk front and rear was done with the remote control of the car.
You will say:
“The practical aspect is not the priority when you buy a car with only two seats.”
That is true !
But, being able to put luggage makes it possible to use this car
to go on long trips
and not just for short trips or walks.
To illustrate my point,
Here is the amount of luggage that can be put in a Boxster.
As we can see, you can go a away a week with two people.
Here is now what can be put in a Z3.
If you are going for a long rad trip, it is more delicate.
And that’s why BMW offered as an option
a kit to install a luggage rack on the trunk.
The two trunks of the Boxster are not only useful for going on holiday.
This makes this car a very practical “daily car”
because you can easily put the shopping of the week for a family of four.
We can put the cold stuff in the front trunk
and since the rear trunk is located just above the engine block,
you can put the hot dishes
like for example pizzas,
like that, they stay at a good temperature.
I often told myself that pizza at home services
should seriously consider using this car as a delivery vehicle 😉
and since we talk about temperature
let’s take a look at the outdoor thermometer
Item 8: Thermometer and other gadgets
On the Boxster, the outdoor thermometer is standard
and the display is on the instrument cluster
On the other side, on the Z3, it was an option
and when you take that option,
the needle clock was replaced by a digital clock.
which only displayed the temperature within a few seconds
when it dropped below 37.5 ° F (3° C).
At this moment, a small “beep” sounds to warn you of the risk of ice.
So …. Maybein the 90’s, having a digital clock was “elegant” and “modern”,
it must be recognized that this rectangular screen in a round location
is very ugly.
So, I did replace this expensive “high tech” option
by standard needle version
because even if it does not have a thermometer,
she is still much more elegant.
Now let’s talk about something less visible but very practical:
The Boxster is equipped with a timer
which turn off the lights inside the car and in the trunk after 2 hours,
even if you forgot to close a door or the trunk.
The Z3 does not have a timer,
but she also turn off the lights,
when she finished emptying the battery …
Let’s stay in the gadgets
evoking some elements present on the Boxster after 2000
and that the Z3 do not have.
the illuminated vanity mirrors,
the rain detector
or the central mirror that darkens at night
when someone lights you from behind with his full headlights.
By the way, speaking of headlights,
I would like to make a little parenthesis
on an element that is not present on any of these two young-timer:
daytime running lights.
Item 9: Daytime running lights
In some countries like Switzerland,
you must now turn on your headlights even in daylight
or then install daytime running lights.
On the Boxster, you have the choice between
put LED strips on the air vents of the bumper
or replace the original headlights with expensive aftermarket versions
with a modern design.
These two solutions have the disadvantage of moving away or distorting the original design of the car
which will not necessarily please purists.
The Z3 as a better choice
when you want to install daytime running lights,
because a manufacturer offers fog lamps with incorporated daytime running lights
that fit the car so well
that you could believe that it was like that when leaving the factory.
There are also kits or headlights like “Angel eyes”,
unfortunately, they are not powerful enough to be considered as daytime running lights,.
I’m done with my parenthesis on the headlights,
let’s move on to something else now.
Item 10: Maintenance and consumption
It must be admitted that so far the Z3 has had a little trouble getting out of the game
but rest assured, she will catch up in the home stretch.
First of all at the level of consumption:
In mixed use,
the basic Z3 1.8 L consumes an average of 9.2 L per 100 km
against 9.7 L for the basic Boxster 2.5 L
it’s still half a liter of won 100 km
The counterpart is that it is less powerful 86 ch
do we really need more than 118 hp
to have a peaceful trip in a convertible?
The other big advantage of Z3
it is that its engine is much easier to access.
On the Boxster, to access the upper part of the engine,
it is necessary: to dismount part of the roof
remove the storage bin,
then remove the carpet
and finally unscrew the metal plate that covers the upper part.
But it is not finished !
To access the front of the engine
where is the belt,
the air conditioning compressor
or the water pump,
remove a metal plate behind the seats.
In both cases, it is long and not practical.
At least, on the Z3, there is a big hood
which allows do-it-yourselfers to easily access all the elements of the engine block.
We must still admit that we need more often a second trunk
than to access his engine block.
Especially since some mechanical elements of the Boxster are accessible from the trunk
for example at the front is the battery,
the washer fluid reservoir
and the brake fluid reservoir.
in the back trunk is the access to the oil tank cap
You can not talk about car maintenance without talking about the cost.
Instinctively, one would think that the Z3 is cheaper to repair than the Boxster.
In reality for routine maintenance,
wear parts such as: belts,
filters, candles or platelets
are not especially expensive.
The only difference is tires.
On the Boxster, they are a bit wider
so they are much more expensive.
about bodywork or cockpit parts
like: the commodos
or the handles,
whether at Porsche or BMW
they are both very expensive,
especially the Z3 M
whose owners usually say that
the cost of specific parts is twice that of a normal Z3.
Fortunately, today on Internet
you can easily find used or compatible parts
for a reasonable price.
So, as long as you do not let your dealer make the maintenance,
you can afford one of these two roadsters
without necessarily breaking the bank.
And since these old mechanics are relatively simple
there are many things you can do yourself with basic tools.
The last advantage of the Z3 is precisely its price.
If we except the M version and the coupe,
the Z3 is on average much cheaper to buy than a Boxster.
The 1.8L and 1.9L four cylinders have enough power
but if you have enough money,
go for a 6-cylinder
especially the 2.8 L which offers a very good price / performance ratio.
About the Boxster
although it is more expensive than the Z3,,
you must keep in mind that the Boxster seems to have reached a floor price.
so it can be a good investment
if it is well maintained.
Well, we reviewed the technical aspect,
the practical aspect,
and the price.
It’s time to do a synthesis!
Even without counting the points,
we realized during this video
that in use the 986 is more practical,
and safer than the Z3.
Then you will say to me:
“If the result is so cleart, why do you still have a Z3 in your garage?”
Well, if I did not sell my Z3
it’s because the purchase of a roadster is above all a story of favorites.
It’s not like buying a minivan or an SUV,
the rationality does not necessarily have its place.
The Z3 has a very different design from the Boxster,
but I must recognize that they are both beautiful
and when you ride it with your hair in the wind,
This is pure happiness !
I sincerely hope that this little comparison will have helped you to make your choice
I did not make it…
See you soon !
For more infomation >> Comparative: BMW Z3 and Boxster 986 – which one to choose? – Duration: 29:10.
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