The Tire Shell Game

“What tires come on the BMW Z3?” – At one time that was an easy question to answer. For all of 1996, the only tires you would find on a new BMW Z3 were Michelin Pilot HX MXM 225/50/16. In 1997, BMW released the 2.8 Z3 with an optional 17 inch tire package. The optional package featured an even better set of Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 tires. In 1998, with the introduction of the BMW M roadster, every review and advertisement showed the M roadster with the same upgraded Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 tires.

But when the M roadster was delivered to owners, the Michelin Pilot tires had been quietly switched to Dunlop SP8080E tires without any explanation or price change. The replacement Dunlop tires (including two of mine) had on occasion become “out of round”, which resulted in an annoying vibration right around 70MPH (+/- 5MPH). The Dunlop SP8080E tires quickly picked up the nick name Dun-lop-sided tires. However, BMW does not warranty the tires, Dunlop does. So those with bad tires were asked to find a Dunlop dealer and deal with them directly.

It appears the same shell game is being played with the new 2.3 Z3. I went to one dealership and the very first 2.3 Z3 I found had the typical Michelin Pilot HX MXM tires. But then every other 2.3 Z3 I found had Continental ContiSportContact tires. I am by no means a tire expert, so I decided to visit a popular internet mail-order tire shop and see what they had to say about all these various tires.

In comparing the Michelin Pilot HX MXM tires to the Continental ContiSportContact tires, I see that in the Tire Rack rates the Michelin tires a 8.7 and the Continental tires a 8.4 (pretty close). Looking at the price difference, the Michelin tires are regularly $178, on sale for $165. The Continental tires are regularly $145, on sale for $125. Some quick pounding on the calculator tells me that at the regular price that is a $132 total change and at the sale price it is a $160 change. It would appear that part of the equation used to keep the new 2.3 Z3 under the $30,000 MSRP was to use cheaper tires.

Using the same methods I turned my attention to the M roadster tire swap. The Tire Rack rates the Pilot SX tires at 9.0 but the Dunlop SP8080E tires are not reviewed. Using the Tire Rack’s search engine, I found the price on the SP8080E tires and discovered that the price difference for the four tires is only $2, so dollar-wise they seem to be equal counterparts. (Well, except for the fact that some of the Dunlop SP8080E tires are becoming out of round).

1.9 Z3 with standard 16″ Michelin HX tires

Front

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot HX MXM – $178 ($165 on sale)

Rear

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot HX MXM – $178 ($165 on sale)

1.9 Z3 with rare1 16″ Michelin SX tires

Front

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $201

Rear

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $201

2.3 Z3 with standard 16″ Continental tires

Front

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Continental ContiSportContact – $145 ($125 on sale)

Rear

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Continental ContiSportContact – $145 ($125 on sale)

2.3 Z3 with rare2 16″ Michelin HX tires

Front

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot HX MXM – $178 ($165 on sale)

Rear

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot HX MXM – $178 ($165 on sale)

2.8 Z3 with standard 16″ Michelin HX tires

Front

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot HX MXM – $178 ($165 on sale)

Rear

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot HX MXM – $178 ($165 on sale)

2.8 Z3 with rare3 16″ Michelin SX tires

Front

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $201

Rear

Wheels: 7Jx16 (46mm offset)

Tires: 225/50/16 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $201

2.8 Z3 with optional 17″ Michelin SX tires

Front

Wheels: 7.5Jx17 (41mm offset)

Tires: 225/45/17 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $234

Rear

Wheels: 8.5Jx17 (41mm offset)

Tires: 245/40/17 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $261

M roadster with standard 17″ Dunlop tires

Front

Wheels: 7.5Jx17 (41mm offset)

Tires: 225/45/17 Dunlop SP Sport 8080E – $242

Rear

Wheels: 9Jx17 (8mm offset)

Tires: 245/40/17 Dunlop SP Sport 8080E – $252

M roadster with rare4 17″ Michelin SX tires

Front

Wheels: 7.5Jx17 (41mm offset)

Tires: 225/45/17 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $234

Rear

Wheels: 9Jx17 (8mm offset)

Tires: 245/40/17 Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 – $261

(Note: prices are from www.tirerack.com as of 10/22/98)

1 Some 1996 1.9 owners reported receiving the better Michelin Pilot SX tires instead of the Michelin Pilot HX tires.

2 Michelin Pilot HX tires were on very early production versions of the 2.3 Z3. It now appears that every 2.3 is being delivered with the Continental tires.

3 Some 1997 2.8 owners reported receiving the better Michelin Pilot SX tires instead of the Michelin Pilot HX tires even though they were the standard 16″ tire size.

4 In the author’s opinion, this is false advertising, but in every magazine review/article/advertisement that I have seen, BMW used an M roadster with Michelin Pilot SX MXX3 tires. MZ3.Net is not aware of any M roadster owner in the US that has received the Michelin tires.