My daily driver just passed the 80,000 mile mark on the drive home from work yesterday, so I figured this would be a good time to offer up an off-the-cuff "long term review" for anyone interested.
Some four years ago, I had the chance to outright purchase a new car in the $20k-$30k range. I knew I wanted something sporty, and preferably a convertible. I initially started looking at the domestic ponycars, which are some of the best "bang for the buck" performance buys out there, but I planned on keeping this car for a long time, and the maintenance issues that crop up on those (especially the GM offerings) as the odo readings reach apogee were enough to turn me off. So, off to the import roadster offerings I went.
The Miata, MR Roadster and S2000 were eliminated first, mostly on issues of size and space; this was going to be my daily driver, and would be asked to perform roadtrip chores, too, and the Japanese offerings just struck me as a mite too cramped and narrow-focussed for my needs. That left the roadster offerings from the German Big Four, which could be held within my price range by shopping used: The Audi TT lost out on an uncomfortable interior and its FWD layout. The Boxster went down for lack of stowage, plus daunting maintenance costs as it reached its golden years. The first-generation SLK's were dismissed for being underpowered and saddled with Granny Gearchange slushboxes. This left the Z3 as the winner by default, and I selected a well-maintained 1998 2.8 in silver that had every option box checked from the lot at USI Motors.
My '98 model has the sports wheel & tire package, heated power seats, power top, and the 6-disk CD changer. I bought it in September of '01 with some 30k miles on it, and have put almost 50k on it in the intervening four years, including numerous roadtrips to Nashville, Atlanta, and Augusta. It hasn't had any maintenance issues other than normal wear & tear, except for the auxiliary air pump going out, which has had an adverse impact on mileage, and the hood sensor for the alarm going wonky, which temporarily kept me from being able to use the keyfob remote. Tires can be a pain, as the 17-inch rims call for 245/35 tires on the rear, and 225/45 rubber up front; Michelin Pilot Sport A/S skins are over $600 for the rear pair alone.
The 2.8 motor still pulls strongly at 80k, and turns in mileage figure in the low 20's around town and the low 30's on the freeway. The gearbox still shifts smoothly, and the big ABS-assisted rotors will still slow the car from speed with a feeling like driving into a sand dune. The retro-Sixties roadster styling still draws appreciative comments, and the silver metallic paint is unfaded despite not having seen a garage in four years. All in all? I think I could live with this car for another 50,000 miles with no complaints.