Will they? Won’t they? Why not? When already? Those were some of the questions regarding the Supra’s future asked by many since the cancellation of the 4th generation Toyota Supra in 1998 (2002 in other markets). Those questions were finally answered for 2020 when the newest Supra debuted, but with a startling twist. Toyota ended up collaborating with BMW of all makers to bring a set of fraternal twins into the world, the other being the new BMW Z4 roadster. Although more similar than not, the greatest differences are readily visible, someone not in the know would have no idea of the relationship at first.
While it’s billed as a collaboration, it’s hard to see much Toyota input beyond its own body design. There’s also the obvious point that the Supra isn’t a roadster, while the Z4 is only available that way. As such, it’s sort of brilliant, these two are unlikely to be cross-shopped against each other, however the price difference is significant enough (around 20% or more) that if any BMW intender wants what’s essentially a BMW two-seater without the folding top, they should take a serious look at the Toyota.
While the two makers agreed that BMW would basically take care of the engineering and components, Toyota did design their own body. Assembly is handled on neutral ground for both makers by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. It’s easy enough to understand that the market for both of these vehicles isn’t huge, and splitting the volume would make for a win-win situation.
Interestingly there are multiple models available for each with two different (shared) engine options, as of this year with the same power outputs no matter the badge (last year the 6 was less powerful in the Toyota). Supra of course is known for having an inline-6, which BMW does to perfection and also has plenty of experience producing in turbocharged form. Now for 2021 an inline-4 engine, also turbocharged, was added as another option. It’s easy to think of it as “the entry-level one” however as we’ll see it may be the wiser choice overall.
The styling is perhaps a little out there, it’s certainly no shrinking violet and makes a statement. Sort of looking a little like a baby last-generation Viper in profile, it’s low, bulging with muscle, fairly wide, and possesses lots of hood out front. The Turbulence Gray Metallic paint on this one was a good medium gray, never looking too dark or too light and allowing the light to play well with the angles/curves of the car. This is the first Supra to ditch the rear seats entirely, making the transition from grand tourer to track performer, thankfully the hatchback was preserved to at least maintain some practicality.
The front grille area looks a little like a Formula One car with supports for a front wing joining the upper to the lower regions, and the rear haunches are perhaps a little overdone but it’s certainly not anodyne, there will surely be a range of opinions.
More troubling are the array of fake vent inlets and outlets in various parts of the body rendered in black plastic that really have no place on a car such as this and could be removed without losing the overall message (or make them functional). I can’t dislike it though, at least it isn’t just aping old styling cues like many others including the upcoming Z, it’s its own shape and owns it proudly (if perhaps a bit loudly).
Yes, there’s no point in pretending that it’s as easy to climb into as a RAV4, it isn’t, and the difficulty factor is likely directly proportional to age and fitness level. But even I at 6’1″ managed it fairly gracefully, only requiring a slight turtle-like retracting of the head to get it in under the roofline. (Getting out though usually involved a hand on the sill area for a boost).
Once inside though, while there isn’t a huge amount of room laterally, there is lots of headroom. The double bubble roof allowed my 32″ inseam and the rest of me at least a couple of inches between the noggin and headliner, while the BMW engineers clearly had some lanky fellows on board to allow the seat to move way further back than I needed it to be.
The view dead ahead is great with lots of visible hood and fender, the front pillars are a little too close thus making them appear larger than they are (and blocking more of the view in that direction than preferred, not uncommon these days), but the side view is a little shallow. It’s not evident from the outside but from inside the upper side window line is a couple of inches lower than that of the windshield, requiring a slight ducking to see out if long of torso or not particularly reclined in the seat, sort of the effect I get when wearing a flat-brimmed hat, which I thus don’t do. The view rearwards is excellent but the 3/4 rear not so much, still, not as horrible as in some far larger vehicles.
One sits low but it doesn’t seem to be fully stretched out somehow. The cabin is clearly all BMW parts and pretty much all black in color (not grayish as it may appear) but somewhat less “techy” looking than most current BMW models and the better for it. It’s not trying too hard, rather what is there exists for a reason. The quality of plastics and switchgear is a step up from the usual Toyota fare and helps justify the pricing and sense of occasion as well.
The seats are covered in a combination of leather and Alcantara (the brand name of a suede-like material) with red and gray stitching. Very comfortable and grippy too, manually adjustable in this one but with 4-way electric lumbar as well as a button that causes the upper bolsters to squeeze closer together, an excellent feature for a car sold to people aged 18-81 or whatever with various different body shapes. More vehicles with sporting intent should offer this, it does a lot to hold one in place and makes the seats more comfortable overall.
The gauge cluster is different from BMW’s version with a tach placed front and center and the road speed displayed digitally to the side along with various bits of info accessible via the trip computer selector button on a stalk. Easily readable with good contrast and no nonsense. Center dash is a display screen that uses BMW’s iDrive system complete with the knob controller and surrounding menu buttons on the horizontal part of the console.
Navigation, JBL audio system (via Toyota, usually BMW uses Harman Kardon), and vehicle settings are all done using this. Not as intuitive as a regular touch screen, this is probably the one aspect that may annoy Toyota fans, there is a learning curve, although the screen can actually be used via touch as well.
HVAC functions are easy to access and adjust just below the row of vents and preset button module, while to the left of the steering wheel is a small button cluster for the lighting options with Auto as the largest and most central button. Cruise control is handled via the steering wheel which also contains redundant (to the iDrive) audio controls.
At the base of the center stack is a small cubby, no wireless charging mat but enough space for a phone, then the shifter, monostatic with a manual gate whose function can also be duplicated via shift paddles behind the wheel. A few buttons to engage Sport mode and assist functions along with the Active Stop/Start override switch are also housed within the genuine carbon fiber shell covering this portion of the console. While it looks it, there is not a bin under the elbow rest, which instead also houses the cup holders without getting in the way of elbows although the cargo area (and two large speakers mounted in the floor) are accessible by reaching towards the back.
That cargo area is larger than it first appears, while the hatch opens manually via an electric release, there is a bunch of space internally on either side of the opening and while the area is not particularly deep vertically it seems enough for this type of car. The shade is hinged in the middle so only the rear-most part lifts up but the front portion can also be unclipped from the edges.
Firing up the BMW supplied turbo-4 is as easy as pushing the starter button upon which it jumps to life with a healthy but completely socially acceptable roar. Producing 255hp @5,000 rpm and 295lb-ft of torque @1550rpm via its twin scroll turbo, I believe this is the same engine that I reviewed in the BMW 430i xDrive Coupe a few months ago. As there, it’s amazingly smooth but seems endowed with a bit different character, certainly with a different aural signature in Sport mode.
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