Arriving in showrooms during the summer of 2019, the new MK5 Toyota Supra is one of the most anticipated performance cars of the past few years. This was especially noticeable among the many fans of the previous MK4 generation, which went out of production some 15 years ago. With a powerful engine, superb chassis and endless tuning options, that car keeps almost a mythical unicorn-like status. So, it was no surprise that everybody expected the upcoming car to follow the footsteps of its predecessor.
Finally, after years of false starts and endless teasing, Toyota revealed the fifth-generation Supra. And it was a surprise that nobody saw coming. Sure, the new Toyota Gazoo Racing Supra, as they call it, kept the original recipe. There is a twin-turbocharged inline-six under the hood, rear-wheel drive at the back and two seats in the middle. However, many fans were less than impressed, pointing out several downsides. Some found the performance figures, which are like those of the previous generation, to be very disappointing. Others believe that the price is too high. But the overwhelming complaint is that the MKV Supra is nothing more than a re-badged BMW Z4. At first glance, it is easy to see where this opinion comes from. With identical engines, shared chassis platforms, suspension, and many hardware and interior parts, this might seem like a rude attempt of badge engineering. But is it so?
Why is the new Supra basically a BMW?
The story of the new Supra goes back to 2012 and the introduction of the Toyota 86, a successor of the legendary hachiroku drift corolla of the 80s. The 86 was an instant hit, although it was developed together with Subaru and used their boxer engines. This reassured people at Toyota to look at ways to revive another prestige name – the Supra. However, without a suitable engine or the chassis to go with it, Toyota had to team up with a manufacturer that already had similar vehicles in its lineup. With inline twin-turbo six-cylinder engines and a Z4 roadster car as a part of their lineup, BMW was the obvious choice.
Still, this initial plan had several setbacks. The minor one was the fact that the BMW intended to discontinue the Z4. The more obvious problem, on the other hand, laid in the structure of this car, as it was a roadster. The design of these cars comes with the lack of a roof structure in mind, affecting structural rigidity and overall handling capabilities. To overcome this inherited weakness, Toyota and BMW developed an all-new platform. They designed it to be a solid enough foundation to handle both coupe and convertible variants, while still being rigid and also capable of managing a significant amount of torque.
With the overall vision for the project set, designers from Toyota and BMW worked together to develop the platform and decided on drivetrain and suspension setups. After initial issues, caused by language and culture barriers, the design started to happen at a rapid rate. Being an all-new platform, designers had the freedom to do whatever they wanted. With an aggressive wheelbase to track-width ratio, the car is agile and responsive. For the engine, an inline-six turbo from BMW was the only option. Other BMW sourced parts include the 8-speed automatic gearbox, suspension, and limited-slip differential.
Is the new Supra just a BMW?
With the main chassis and drivetrain components completed, BMW and Toyota design teams split off. From this point on, each team worked on exterior and interior design, as well as tuning of suspension and drivetrain components independent one from another. The main reason for this was that both Toyota and BMW wanted their cars to not only look different but also to have distinct driving characteristics.
The real difference is the most obvious on the outside, with the Z4 being a soft-top roadster with better middle-of-the-road appeal. On the other side, having an aggressive front, multi-tiered rear end, and muscular sides, Supra aims at true car enthusiasts. The interior, however, reveals many similarities with its BMW sibling. The steering wheel, climate control, and iDrive system are some of them. Still, Toyota designed the instrument cluster and several other interior features. Besides, the Supra has different handling characteristics and driving dynamics compared to the Z4.
Which BMW Engine is in the Supra?
As we already said, the new Supra has a BMW engine under the hood, despite a redesigned engine cover with a Toyota badge on it. The twin-scroll turbocharger, variable valve timing and lift, as well as direct fuel injection, make it a superb machine. It is not only more powerful than BMW’s previous inline-six engines but also far more reliable. Features such as forged internals, closed engine block, and charge air cooling give it a great tuning potential.
There is an interesting story behind the design of this new engine unit, called the B58. To make sure it is in line with its reliability standards, Toyota took part in both the design and testing phases. The engineers broke down several engines and sent parts to Japan for failure analysis and testing. To achieve quality and reliability goals, designers revised all parts not meeting Toyota standards.
However, many ask why Toyota used a BMW engine in the new Supra, as their own engine in the last generation was such a hit. The answer to this is easy – money. The famous 2JZ engine was one of the final iterations of the inline six-cylinder engine. They were used across the Toyota model lineup during the 80s and 90s. Today, with fuel efficiency and hybrid technologies being the focus, such engines gave way to four and six-cylinder units. Developing a whole new engine from scratch would be economic suicide. That is why using the BMW engine was the only viable solution.
Is the New MKV Better Than the MKIV 2JZ-GTE?
Leaving aside the BMW influence, the main question is whether this car can live up to the Supra name. Most car enthusiasts point out several questionable details, and the power that the inline-six puts out is on the top of the list. With 335HP and 365 lb-ft on tap, it’s not a huge bump over the 2JZ-GTE power plant. Although it might seem low on power, the B58 quick spooling turbo ensures a wide torque curve, resulting in a better powerband, both on the street and the track. Besides being very responsive, this engine also has a huge tuning potential.
The decision to offer only an automatic transmission sparked some fierce debates. Many believe that a true sports car must come with a manual gearbox. However, the Supra uses a ZF 8HP, an 8-speed gearbox with an automatic torque converter. With swift and smooth gearshifts, superb reliability and great torque capabilities, this automatic transmission is one of the best available on the market today.
More and more of the new GR Supra are being sold as we speak. Have you seen any around your town or a local car meet? Do you plan to purchase one? Let us know in the comment section below!