Would you be interested in a lighter, quicker — and less expensive iteration of BMW’s Z4 roadster? With a hard top rather than a soft-top?
Then step right up! Toyota has what you’re looking for — in a package that’s very similar but not similarly skinned.
What It Is
The Supra name goes way back to the ’70s when Toyota up-rated the Celica to compete with other Japanese sports cars of the time, especially the Datsun (now Nissan) 240Z. By the ’80s, the Supra became a separate model in its own right and — like the Nissan Z-car — went through a succession of redesigns that resulted in a quicker, more capable but also heavier and more expensive car. Eventually, both cars were cancelled because not enough people could afford them anymore.
Nissan brought back the Z car in the early 2000s, and now Toyota has brought back the Supra.
Though it doesn’t look it, the two cars share an underlying chassis as well as the same BMW-built drivetrains. But the Z4 is roadster – a convertible – only.
The Supra is a hardtop only.
It’s also only $43,190 to start versus $49,700 for its BMW not-so-Doppelganger.
You can also get it with the same BMW inline six that costs $63,200 at the BMW store — for the M40i version of the Z4 — for just $54,540 at your local Toyota store.
Unfortunately, both cars also come with one other thing that may put off sports car fans — an automatic transmission, only.
If you want to shave some more weight, Toyota now offers an A91-CF Edition of the Supra. It comes with a set of light-weight alloy wheels, carbon fiber outside rearview mirrors, rear spoiler and trim.
A more affordable version of the BMW Z4.
Some will think it looks better than the Z4.
Hatchback’d rear opens up a surprising amount of usable cargo space for a car of this type.
What’s Not So Good
BMW makes great engines but so does Toyota. Why not a Toyota engine in this iconic Toyota sports car?
Automatic shifts quickly, superbly — but it’s not a manual.
It’s a shame the lightweight parts are only available in the highest-priced version of this car.
Under The Hood
The Supra comes with your pick of either of two BMW engines. The standard engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that produces 255 horsepower and 295 ft.-lbs. of torque.
The optional engine is BMW’s 3.0-liter inline six, also turbocharged. It produces 382 horsepower and 368 ft.-lbs. of torque. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic that sends the power to the rear wheels.
There is no manual transmission option, which seems odd until you understand BMW’s way of looking at things.
Which is according to the numbers.
Modern automatics are electronic transmissions; they can be programmed to shift with the exactitude of a mathematical calculation. They shift faster and more accurately — and more consistently accurately — than any human hand and foot can change gears.
If you want the consistently quickest acceleration, the consistently best lap times, the modern electronically shifted automatic is the way to roll. It is part of the reason why so many of the highest-performing supercars are now also automatic-only.
On The Road
There is one important difference between the Z4 and the Supra that may not be mechanical but has a very functional effect.
The Supra is about 100 pounds lighter than the Z4 (3,181 lbs. versus 3,287 lbs.) because it is a hardtop coupe rather than a soft-top convertible and so doesn’t need the additional structural bracing that must be added to strengthen the structure of a car without any roof structure. There are also no electric motors to open and close the top.
This makes the Supra slightly quicker than the Z4 and tighter — as well as less expensive.
With its standard 2.0-liter engine, the Supra gets to 60 in about five seconds flat. With its optional 3.0-liter engine, the run can be made in 3.9 seconds.
At The Curb
Unlike the Toyota 86 — which is unmistakably a Subaru BRZ with a Toyota badge — the Supra looks nothing like the Z4. It is more voluptuously styled, with suggestive hips and graceful sweeps, wasp-waist-tapering rear glass and an impressively complex hood stamping that folds inward toward the centerline and rolls over to blend with the front fenders.
It is gorgeous — and it is functional.
This is another story not told by the numbers.
The numbers will advise you that the Supra has 10.2-cubic feet of cargo capacity and that its BMW brother with the same mother has a dead-heat 9.9 cubic feet. But the Z4 — being a soft-top roadster — has a trunk with a very tiny opening. The Supra’s glass-topped rear hatch opens wide — to allow the option of slipping an eight-foot long 2×6 into the car and then being able to close it for the ride home.
One of the nicest things about this Toyota-via-BMW is that you can turn off all the “safety” nannies, including lane keep assist, automated emergency braking and traction/stability control by depressing a single button on the center console. No need to waste time disabling each one, one at a time — as in almost every other car.
The Bottom Line
This Supra might have been even better if it were a Toyota; but as it is, it’s a head-turning value-priced alternative to the BMW.
(SET IMAGE) epe092821adAP.jpg (END IMAGE) (SET CAPTION) View the Toyota Supre GR this week. (END CAPTION)
Eric’s latest book, “Doomed: Good Cars Gone Wrong,” will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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Last Updated: Monday, Sep 27, 2021 18:07:04 -0700