2020 Supra: Toyota's Japanese spin on German engineering
Toyota insists that it developed the 2020 Supra without consideration of what BMW was doing for the Z4, upon which the Supra is based.
In today’s world of rationalized product lines with optimized bills-of-material sharing for maximum scale, the corporate case for low-volume sports cars is tricky. A desire to return its Supra (last produced in 2002) to production led Toyota to partner with BMW, sharing the CLAR architecture, underpinnings and drivetrain from that company’s latest (G29) Z4 roadster and contracting out assembly to Magna Styr’s Graz, Austria plant.
It makes for a strong example of the benefits of global markets, as this arrangement lets Toyota return a flagship sports car to showrooms. It even features an inline 6-cylinder engine, which was a hallmark of earlier Supras. The shared parts leave fans wondering whether the 2020 Supra is a real Toyota, or just a BMW in disguise.
In this case, the engine is an undersquare BMW 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder, code-named B58M30 01, rather than the 2JZ of the previous Supra. In Supra specification, the engine is claimed to deliver 335 hp (249 kW) and 365 lb·ft (495 N·m), which compares to 382 hp and 369 lb·ft (285 kW and 500 N·m, respectively) in the Z4. Toyota doesn’t want to discuss whether there are any hardware differences between the engines, leaving the possibility that the Supra is a simple software upgrade away from BMW-level power. Both cars use a ZF-supplied 8-speed planetary automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
Differences seem to be mostly cosmetic, along with a different state of engine tuning. The styling clearly includes cues to historical Toyota sports models, but still manages to look like a Z4 because of the underlying proportions. “It combines the heritage of the 2000 GT, the 86 and the Supra,” insists Tetsuda Tada (left), chief engineer. “We made sure there were remnants of that in the side view.”
But other than visually, Toyota didn’t seek to push the Supra away from the Z4. “It wasn’t a specific intent to differentiate,” explained Tada, who insists that Toyota doesn’t know anything about the Z4. “Toyota had a vision of what a Supra should be and created it. Our car is a coupe and theirs is open, so the advantages of each are different.”
The transmission is the same, even if manual-shifting enthusiasts might wish it were different. “The automatic transmission is highly refined,” insists Tada. “It is geared so you can concentrate on driving.” He doesn’t rule out a manual, however. “If the market demands one, we’d consider it.” And maybe there could be engine upgrades too. “BMW has variations of the engine, 500-horsepower ones,” Tada noted. “The beauty of sports cars is always looking for improvement.”
If Toyota had input in BMW’s development of the chassis, it may have been the requirement to design the production car with racing modifications in mind from the outset. “It is the first volume Toyota built with the premise of being a race car,” Tada said. “The hardest part of building a race car is being able to cool it. If you can’t cool it, you can extract maximum performance. There is space for an enlarged radiator and passages for air flow.”
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