It’s been a long time coming, and after a 21-year hiatus in the United States, the Toyota Supra finally back.
However, this has been met with mixed reviews from the automotive world. Yay! It’s back. Boo! It looks like a BMW Z4. And, I must admit, I have swung between these two emotions myself.
But after a day behind the wheel and some time spent with execs, I have a better understanding of the Toyota/BMW partnership and what it means for the Supra.
Here are five things to know:
The Supra is a coupe
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but the second part of this statement is: The 2019 BMW Z4 is a convertible. And never the twain shall meet.
That was part of the Toyota/BMW agreement so that the waters don’t get muddy. The two automakers collaborate, and BMW builds the convertible, while Toyota builds the hardtop coupe. Yes, BMW has previously had a Z coupe in its lineup, but it won’t anymore starting with the 2019 model year.
In fact, when Tatsuya Tada, Supra’s chief engineer, talked about the partnership, he compared the Z4/Supra relationship to the relationship between the Porsche Cayman and Boxter. Complementary not competitive.
The Z4 and Supra interiors are more different than you think
If you look at the Supra’s interior without looking at the Z4’s interior, you’ll be tempted to think it’s a carbon copy. From the iDrive-like interface to the multimedia dial, it looks a lot like a BMW interior. A lot.
And yes, the telematics are distinctly BMW – right down to the wireless Apple CarPlay that we’ll discuss below.
But. When comparing the 2019 Z4 and Supra next to each other, they don’t look alike.
Tada acknowledged the similarities but said the interior parts are 90 percent different.
Wireless Apple CarPlay may come with a subscription fee
Toyota has just started putting CarPlay in its vehicles. Now the partnership with BMW has allowed it to become the second automaker that offers this feature wirelessly.
It’s a neat trick that eliminates the need for pesky wires, especially since Supra also has an available wireless charging system. No muss, no fuss.
But if you are familiar with BMW at all, you know that everything is an option on its vehicles. And BMW’s CarPlay system is the only one out there that currently charges an annual subscription fee. Since Toyota is borrowing this tech from BMW, that begs the question: Will Toyota also charge an annual subscription fee?
Toyota execs didn’t say yes. But they didn't say no, either. It’s “under discussion” was the official line. CarPlay in Supra will come with a 4-year trial, which gives Toyota some time to make up its mind on the whole fee-add thing.
The engine is BMW’s inline 6-cylinder
One of the biggest reasons – if not the biggest reason – Toyota sought out a partnership with BMW is because of its inline 6-cylinder engine. Z4 had one. Supra needed one.
Even though it’s the same engine, it’s been tuned differently. The Supra’s engine will deliver 335 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. This is about 50 horsepower less than the Z4, and it translates into a 0-to-60-mph time that is 0.2 seconds slower (4.1 in the Supra vs. 3.9 in the Z4).
Less horsepower doesn’t mean less fun, however, and Tada said they didn’t add more horsepower because it wouldn’t make track lap times any faster.
There is no manual transmission
Enthusiasts everywhere are sniffling a bit over this omission. Yes, the 8-speed automatic is swift and smooth, and yes, the automatic will work to shift gears faster than a human and thus make the Supra go faster quicker.
But still. In this driver’s humble opinion, there is nothing that provides greater satisfaction or connection to the car than a well-made manual.
At present, there are no plans to put a manual transmission in the Supra in the U.S., and it’s worth noting that the Z4 is automatic-only as well.
The Bottom Line:
There’s no denying the relationship and, in some cases, design similarities between the Z4 and the Supra. But both vehicles were developed separately and are intended to be more complementary than competitive.
Plus, as several execs pointed out during the press preview, without this partnership, Supra would likely still be two to three years away from launch.
Personally, I’m glad it’s here now.