“Hey what happened to that guy who wouldn’t shut up about buying a ZHP and then he finally did and you never hear from him anymore?”

Well I’m glad you asked! I think it’s high time I clued you in to what it’s like to own and daily a 13 year old German car. Now that the honeymoon period is over I’ll give my takes on the exterior, interior, performance, and practicality.


My opinion remains that this is the best looking generation of 3 series. The ZHP bits up the aggressive factor without being overkill and detracting from the understated styling.


This one unfortunately has some chips in the Imola Red paint, which aren’t visible from a short distance but up close are somewhat damning. I’m hoping to have those remedied at some point with a Doctor Colorchip treatment. The wheels as well have some curb rash that I have already had quoted for refinishing.

The car still presents well and doesn’t look it’s age among other cars, with one glaring exception: it’s small. It’s size is closer to a modern 2 series than a 3 and it has a downright svelte curb weight of 3200 lbs.



I opted for a car with the Anthracite Black cloth seats as opposed to leather, because it’s hot as hell in South Carolina during the summer. The seats are generally comfortable with great support, if a bit fatiguing and firm after a lot of seat time.

Everything you touch feels nice and solid and mostly intuitive. The doors shut with that satisfying “thunk” that gives the impression of quality. The only thing that lets it down is some of the plastics near the cup holder which scratch easily. Cup holders seem to have been an afterthought here in general.


This cars formerly alcantara steering wheel is rather tired and could use replacing or repair, but it doesn’t detract from the overall appearance too much.

One downfall that needs addressing is the headliner. The original headliner material seems cheap, to me at least, and this ones begun to com apart at the C pillar. I’d love to replace it with black suede, but we’ll see.



Here’s where this car shines as a daily. You probably shouldn’t take than on ramp at 80, but you can, comfortably. The chassis is tight and stable and the suspension keeps the car flat through nearly anything. It currently rides on Michelin Pilot Super Sports, 255 Out back and 225 up front. I have yet to make them squeal in a curve, but not because I haven’t tried.


Acceleration is, well, pretty good. 0-60 was estimated at around 6 seconds, with some publications coming in at 5.5. It’s quick enough, but it’s probably not going to scare you. Part of me wishes I had cross shopped an e46 M3, but I really preferred the sedan since this was going to be my daily, and the M running costs were a factor. Still, I can’t help but wonder what 100 extra horses would do....

The steering on this car is sublime. It’s what steering should feel like. Heavy, but not cumbersome. Communicative with the front end. Shifting is also a joy with a weighted shift knob and precise gates, I’ve yet to miss a shift.




You can either have two cup holders or an armrest, but not both. This is my biggest gripe in regards to the layout of things and is probably an indicator of a European car in an American market. The ash trays are more thought out than the cup holder.

My yeti rambler fits nicely in the cup holder, albeit a shade too high making shifting awkward. And for EurOppos curious why I take it everywhere, it’s usually full of water or black coffee, both of which are essential to life.


I’m a short guy with short legs, so the backseat has plenty of room for another adult once I have my seat in position. However, it would not accommodate a car full of tall people in much comfort.

The trunk space is quite satisfying, I’ve done a couple of Sams Club runs without sacrificing back seat space.


The ride quality is decent, not harsh but neither is it plush. But it feels solid for such a small car.

Fuel mileage is okay around town and pretty good on the highway, I average 20mpg in 95% city driving, which sounds egregious in such a small car, but my previous daily got about 12mpg city, so it’s an improvement. Highway mpg is around 30. The tank is of decent size as well, around 16 gallons, so I have driven nonstop for 6 hours or so before.


All in all it is the right car for me at this point in my life I can’t help but wonder about more power, even though I don’t need it. This car is plenty fun at speeds that will only get you a ticket

Should you be in the market for one, I would suggest finding a higher mileage one with good history, as it will have a lower cost of entry. Values on these are closely associated with mileage, but they are known to hold up well, so a well kept high mileage car could be quite the performane bargain.

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