BMW would not have renewed the Z4 if it wasn’t for the Supra. While this may or may not be true, we live in the best possible timeline – where both the Z4 and the Supra exist. The Toyota Supra is a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car built to be a more serious sports car than the GT86. BMW Z4 is a soft-top roadster built by BMW to be more than capable on track, but a luxury convertible as well.
The two cars look very different from each other. The GR Supra looks juvenile, with its fake vents, true-to-concept styling, and the double-bubble roof – it looks like a proper sports car. A Japanese one, no less. It has a low-slung, wide stance. So does the BMW, but it looks nothing like the Supra. It looks quite distinctly like a car which could be found in La Jolla, California driven by someone stylishly dressed. Think of it that way and the new design starts to make sense.
On the inside, the Supra gets switchgear from the BMW parts bin – it looks great and works very well. The gear lever is clearly from BMW – we’ve seen it in the new Morgan Six Plus as well. But where you don’t see it, is in the new Z4. BMW have stepped it up a notch with the Z4. There is leather on the seats, door cards, and armrest, and you can get it in four different colours – white, black, magma red, and cognac.
The similarities between these two cars are the engine and the drivetrain. The chassis was jointly developed by Toyota and BMW to be used on both cars. Both cars were conceptualised and constructed at the BMW facility in Magna Steyr near Graz, Austria. Toyota claims that the Supra has a chassis which is stiffer than the LFA. Not only is that a high benchmark, but also a feat of engineering, since the chassis is made up of steel and aluminium.
Then there’s the engine. Let’s consider the 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine. It develops 340hp in both cars. Toyota had an inline-six – the mighty 2JZ – but to bring that up to emissions while turbocharging it, would have taken time and effort. So they went with the other popular I-6 engine – the B58. It offers power, linear delivery, and smoothness. Then comes the transmission. The companies chose the ZF-8HP because it works for neither of them. Toyota needed a manual transmission, and BMW needed a dual-clutch. But the former is unpopular among segment buyers (more people drive automatics), and the latter is too expensive. That’s why the companies went for the smoothest gearbox they could find. This 8-speed gets planetary gearsets, so it can be placed lower in longitudinal engine layouts. The result? A centre of gravity which is located close to the GT86’s. Oh, and the ZF-8HP can shift in 200 milliseconds, which when you consider a GTR takes 150ms, that really isn’t bad.
But the two cars are certainly different. In a Car & Driver test which they did in May this year, Supra clocked a quarter-mile time of 12.3 seconds at 113 mph. The Z4 will do the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 110 mph. Hence, the Supra is faster and a highly capable sports car, while the BMW is an excellent-handling roadster that can give you a greater sensation of speed, but is actually a bit slower than the Supra. The Z4 feels luxury and comfortable enough for a long distance road trip while the Supra, while offering a lovely cockpit, you can see where it might start to age in design a little sooner and the ride is that little more harsh. With similar price tags it really is hard to choose between the two, however if you are in the market for either, it is easy to determine which one would suit you better.