Supra Vs. Z4: The Fine Line Between Toyota & BMW Sports Cars

  • The 2020 Toyota Supra is destined for greatness. But there’s a problem.
  • The BMW Z4 M40i is basically the same car albeit with a more powerful motor.
  • Which begs the question: when is a Toyota sports car not a BMW?
  • Where does one end and the other begin?

The much anticipated hype is over. In the immortal words of my colleague Tony Borroz, it’s time to stop frothing at the mouth since the 2020 Toyota Supra is finally here. And boy, what a journey it has been, huh? I’m pretty sure Toyota did everything possible to make the fifth-generation Supra a great car.

I must admit, the omission of a proper manual transmission is a heretical sin. But until a proper test drive is in place, I’ll allow the standard ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic to bask in the limelight. For now.

Carrying The Weight of The Car World

Younger generations might not realize, but the 2020 Toyota Supra is carrying a huge burden. Us older enthusiasts know the previous-gen A80 Toyota Supra is a legend, further bolstered by the popularity of The Fast and the Furious franchise. Which only means the new Supra has some huge shoes to fill. I bet it was feeling a bit nervous as the cover came off at the 2019 North American International Auto Show. Here’s a car not any bigger than the GT86, yet slated to be more popular than Toyota’s halo car, the Lexus LFA.

In my mind, it’s not exactly a big deal since the 2020 Toyota Supra is engineered with the right ingredients. It can easily become a great sports car. I mean, with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six, rear-wheel drive, and a limited-slip differential, all the bases are practically covered.

But what I can’t get off my mind is how the Supra is remarkably similar to the 2019 BMW Z4.

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2020 Toyota Supra. Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Same Car, Different Story

And if you’ve been reading about the new Z4, you probably know by now how it and the Supra are basically the same. We’ve all heard this before, right? The aforementioned Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ are the same car, much in the same way the Fiat 124 Spider is no different from the current-gen Mazda MX-5.

But unlike the Fiat and the Mazda that came with different engines (albeit with similar mechanicals), Toyota played it safe with the new Supra; similar to when they collaborated with Subaru in creating the 86/BRZ/FR-S.

Power Is Not Everything? Right?

Yes, but only if we’re talking about humdrum mini compacts or generic family sedans. When it comes to a new Toyota sports car bearing the Supra name, then no. Power IS everything! Especially in this day and age of ludicrously swift electric vehicles.

In order to prove this, let’s examine the Supra’s superstar predecessor: the A80 Toyota Supra. The A80 is motivated by the mighty 2JZ-GTE, which cranked out 326 horsepower courtesy of sequential turbocharging. Back in the day, it had more power than the Porsche 911 Turbo 3.6 and the E36 BMW M3.

And after 21 years of waiting, what do we get in the new Toyota Supra? 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft. of torque. Looks impressive, right? Not until you find out how the 2019 BMW Z4 M40i churns out 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque from the same inline-six.

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Photo: BMW of North America, LLC.

Turning The Tables

We were talking about the return of a legend? Right? So why is the new Toyota Supra down in power versus the BMW Z4? This is more difficult to understand when you’re expecting the new Supra to be faster, more focused, more exciting, and brasher than the old model.

Sure, the lack in power can be remedied by bolting on a couple of go-fast engine parts, but what’s the point? Where I’m expecting the BMW Z4 to be the cruiser and grand tourer of the duo, it came out to be the athlete. The BMW Z4 M40i scoots to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, while the Supra completes the job in 4.1 seconds. And this is despite the Toyota being a hardtop coupe.

And The Styling, Oh The Styling!

The 2020 Toyota Supra is not a bad looking car. But it’s not exactly a looker, either. I didn’t appreciate the styling of the new Z4 when it came out. But now that the cat is out of the bag for the Supra, I’m beginning to think the BMW is better looking for the intended purpose. I know beauty relies on the eyes of the beholder, and some folks might find the comical grin of the Z4 to be polarizing to say the least.

Viewed from the rear, the new Toyota Supra looks fine, but the BMW has a better rump in my book. If only Toyota was kind enough to retain the front styling of the FT-1 Concept for the new Supra, things could be different now.

On a brighter note, the new Supra inherited some of the brilliant design elements of the FT-1 Concept, like the double-bubble roof and upward sweeping line that forms the bulbous and aggressive rear haunches. I’m not sure how difficult it is to turn a concept car into reality. But if Mazda can do it with the new 3 (which thankfully looks pretty similar to the Kai Concept), why not Toyota with the Supra?

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The Toyota FT-1 Concept takes inspiration from the 2000GT, Celica, Supra, and FT-86 (Scion F-RS). Photo: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Did The Z4 & The Supra Have To Be The Same?

Well, they’re not exactly that identical. The Supra is a smidgen longer at 172.44 inches compared to the BMW Z4, which has an overall length of 170.2 inches.

However, the Z4 is 10 millimeters wider than the Supra, and I find this surprising. Imagine my eureka moment when I found out the new Supra is not any longer or bigger than the smaller, softer, and less-focused GT86. And the 86 is a 2+2 coupe while the Supra is strictly a two-seater. Here I am expecting a wider, more aggressive, and larger sports car than the Toyota 86.

I definitely need to curb my expectations the next time around.

Based on initial impressions, you will think you’re sitting inside a BMW as you rest your bottom on the driver’s seat of the new Supra. If not for the Toyota badge on the steering wheel and some dashboard switchgear, the car would be talking to you in a thick German accent.

When Is A Toyota Sports Car Not A BMW?

To answer the question outright, a Toyota sports car is not a BMW if it performs and feels like a proper Supra. Toyota claims the torque output of the new Supra is available from low rpms, and the gear ratios of the ZF eight-speed are close enough for an exciting driving experience. Is this enough to mask the sensation of having less power than the Z4?

Only time will tell.

I was expecting nothing less than a significantly detuned version of the Lexus LFA for the 2020 Toyota Supra. We’ll see if Toyota did enough to make the Supra a more hardcore and focused version of the BMW Z4, which it is supposed to be in the first place.

Alvin Reyes is the Associate Editor of Automoblog. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.

Photos & Sources: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., BMW of North America, LLC.