|Cons:||Expensive, not really wood|
|Cost:||$71 / $500|
BMW Z3 Wood Steering Wheel Upgrade
Part Number 82-21-9-405-289
After shockingly noticing that the leather at the very top of the steering wheel was wearing through and my car was not even a year old yet, I went to the local dealer to ask about a replacement under warranty. I asked my service advisor if I could upgrade to the wood steering wheel since they were going to have to replace it anyway (and I would pay the difference in price). Also, since I had recently heard that the NHTSA was allowing manufacturers (and after-market places) to 1) disable airbags, and 2) depower airbags, and that the Euro airbags are already de-powered (the difference between US and Euro spec airbags are the fact that in Europe, they assume that a person WILL be using their seat belt, and consequently require less force to slow them down in the event of a crash as opposed to the US assuming that people will NOT be using the seat belt and will require airbags coming at you in excess of 200mph!) I asked the dealer to see if I could get an Euro spec wood steering wheel. The difference between the US and Euro wood steering wheel is the Euro wheel has 3 spokes (at 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00) and wood on the entire circumference of the wheel, the US has 4 spokes (at 2:30, 3:30, 8:30 and 9:30) with the sides (2:30 to 3:30 and 8:30 to 9:30) being leather. I also called the 800 customer service line to see what I could do. Admitting defeat I settled for the US spec wood steering wheel. I had to wait a week or 2 for them to put in the new wheel (would have been about the same for the leather steering wheel). First of all, the wood steering wheel is darker than the beige interior on my car, but it does look pretty good in combo with the beige color (IMHO I’m not sure if it would look good in the black interior of not). I think the interior would look even better if I had a wood dash kit (including the shift know and the handle on the hand brake). Secondly I think the leather on the sides of the wheel is of a much better quality. Lastly, the wood steering wheel is NOT wood (we can argue this point till the cows come home, but you will not change my opinion), it is PLASTIC (feels like plastic, sounds like plastic….hmmm, must be plastic), but it looks kind of like wood. If you tap on the “wood” it doesn’t sound like wood, and if you try to press you fingernail into the “wood” it doesn’t leave an impression. All in all I like the “wood”, but I wouldn’t spend $500 (plus installation) for it, the $71.01 I paid was just about as much as I would spend on it.
I think now I might have been able to get the Euro spec wheel. If you go to the Edmund’s Web Site and look at the specs on the 1998 2.8L Z3 you will noticed that depowered airbags (at least the driver’s airbag) are standard, so I would think that you might be able to get the smaller airbag. But, having seen a 1998 Z3, I didn’t notice if the airbag was smaller (I don’t think it was), but there is hope because the specs on the M Roadster list a 3 spoke steering wheel (so hopefully it has the smaller Euro airbag).