Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 – How Are They Different?

When it comes to historic car manufacturer partnerships, Mercedes and McLaren, Toyota and Subaru, and Shelby and Ford are likely to come to mind first. Some of those partnerships have given the world some of the most celebrated and sought-after models in history. The McLaren Mercedes SLR, Shelby GT500, and Subaru BRZ/Toyota 86 are all examples of manufacturers bringing their individual strengths to a common table in order to create something truly magical. 

With all of those examples, the partnerships make a lot of sense, Shelby and Ford have had a tight relationship since the early 1960s, Subaru and Toyota are closely linked in terms of location and heritage, and McLaren and Mercedes both have an extensive history in Formula 1 and racing in general. A few years ago, a more unlikely partnership began between two manufacturers that differ in more ways than they are similar. That partnership is the one between BMW and Toyota.

While the BMW/Toyota partnership began far before 2018, the ultimate result of their collaboration was the introduction of new versions of previous fan-favorite models from both manufacturers. For BMW, the G29 Z4 represents the second generation of the Z4 roadster which replaced the Z3 roadster and coupe from the early 2000s. Toyota’s new model, at the time, carried far more weight and came from a more hard-hitting and legendary lineage than BMW’s contribution. The MKV or A90 Supra had big shoes to fill, and its current reputation is still contested 4 years later.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 side by side. As a joint venture between the two companies, both cars have a fair bit in common while still maintaining individual identities. 

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BMW/Toyota Partnership

I’m sure that almost no one expected the MKV Supra to have a BMW powerplant under the hood. That begs the question, how did the BMW/Toyota partnership even begin in the first place? The relationship actually began quite a while before either the G29 BMW Z4 or A90 Supra were announced. The collaboration actually began in 2012 with the intention of creating a next-generation lithium-ion-based battery cell to be used in both companies’ future EV offerings. 

Beyond their efforts to develop a new form of lithium-air battery cell, Toyota and BMW also wished to collaborate on developing new hydrogen technology as well. In 2012, they planned to have a new hydrogen fuel cell stack, hydrogen tank, hydrogen battery, and hydrogen motor completed by 2020. The ultimate goal was to have a functional prototype vehicle ready, operating with zero emissions on hydrogen fuel.

BMW did eventually end up with a functional prototype of the BMW iX5 hydrogen SAV which is now in production. Toyota is rumored to be working on a similar vehicle which will likely be announced in the near future.

While alternative fuel solutions are interesting and important, that isn’t what had people excited about their collaboration. At the time, BMW and Toyota also announced that they would be working on a joint platform for a midsize sports car. That is the news that everyone wanted to hear.

According to Toyota, the ultimate goal of the sportscar project was “to combine each other’s (BMW and Toyota) technology and knowledge at a high level to maximize customer satisfaction.” Now that we have seen the end result in both the A90 Supra and the BMW Z4, it is clear that they accomplished that goal. 

Engine Options

One of the most scandalous attributes of the MKV Supra is its use of BMW powerplants. Looking back to the MKIV Supra, the notorious Toyota 2JZ-GTE engine was one of the model’s primary selling points. Not only was the 2JZ-GTE extremely modifiable, reliable, and powerful, but it also gave Toyota a new identity, proving that they could duke it out with Nissan and Mazda in the 1990s Japanese sports car race. Many diehard Supra fans found the A90 Supra’s use of BMW engine options blasphemous. While it is easy to see where they’re coming from, it is also important to look at the positives of that arrangement as well.

Straight-6 engines are BMW’s bread and butter. Ever since the BMW 303, the German marque has been known for developing the ideal blueprint for the straight-6 formula. When the BMW/Toyota partnership began in 2012 and the sports car project was underway, Toyota realized that they didn’t have any applicable straight-6 engines in their catalog that would work in the new chassis. BMW certainly did, though.

The cost of developing a new engine from the ground up is an almost incomprehensibly big expense. For that reason, Toyota decided to employ the BMW B58 straight-6 engine that BMW had already been using for a few years before the Z4 and Supra were released. 

While the Supra-purists’ argument still stands, there truly isn’t a better straight-6 engine supplier to team up with than BMW. In 2021, the MKV Supra also received the BMW B48 straight-4 engine, which is even more of a departure from the old Supra. Regardless, both engines have proven to be extremely reliable and modifiable, two of the main traits of the 2JZ-GTE. 

Toyota Supra 3.0 vs BMW Z4 M40i - BMW B58 Engine

While the MKV Supra came out a year after the G29 Z4M40i, the BMW B58 engine was the first motor offered in both. In both the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4, the BMW B58 is the top engine model available. The 3.0L BMW straight-6 has been around since 2015 when it replaced the beloved BMW N55 engine.

Compared to the BMW N55, the B58 has a closed deck block design, higher boost pressure, higher compression ratio, and a slight increase in displacement. It is not only one of the strongest straight-6 engines that BMW has ever made, but also one of the most powerful. 

The BMW B58 has been offered in seven different variants, not including the high-performance S58 engine. Power from the BMW B58 ranges between 320 and 382 horsepower, with both the Supra 3.0 and Z4 M40i falling close to the higher end of that range.

As of 2021, both the MK5 Supra 3.0 vs BMW Z4 M40i are equipped with the B58B30O1, which is also the variant used in the G20 BMW M340i, G01 BMW X3 M40i, G22 BMW M440i, and G42 BMW M240i. In B58B30O1 trim, the BMW B58 produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.

Before the B58B30O1 was introduced to the 2021 Supra 3.0, the 3.0 Supra employed another version of the B58 known as the B58B30C, which was only used in the Supra and not shared with any BMW models. The pre-2021 version of the Toyota Supra 3.0 was significantly down on power in comparison to the variant, producing 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque due to the fact that it was detuned by Toyota.

If you are interested in learning more about the BMW B58 engine, check out our BMW B58 FAQ guide.

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 - BMW B48 Engine

For the 2021 model year, the 2.0L BMW B48-powered Toyota Supra was offered in the United States for the first time. Despite being the base model MKV Supra, the 2.0L Supra isn’t a slouch by any means. It can still keep up with many other sports car rivals, producing 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

While the B58 is certainly the more powerful and engaging, the BMW B48 4-cylinder engine is a fan favorite in the BMW community for good reason. The B48 engine is a very versitile one that has been used in a wide range of BMW vehicles, from 3-Series models to their larger crossover SAV X3 models. 

Since B48 production began in 2014, the 2.0L BMW 4-Cylinder has been offered in 12 different variants, all putting out different power figures. The 255 horsepower B48B20O1 engine variant that the 2.0 Supra uses is shared with the BMW G20 3-Series, BMW G29 Z4, BMW G22 430i, and a few others. All of the BMWs that have used the B48 engine have been praised for their quick-spooling nature, due to the single BMW twin-scroll turbo, and reliability. 

Much like the 2JZ from the MKIV Supra, the BMW B48 is known for its reliability. One of the reasons that the B48 is so reliable is its use of forged internals. The BMW B48’s connecting rods and crank are made from forged steel, making them exceedingly strong and able to withstand a fair bit more power than the engine can produce from the factory. The fact that the B48 engine features forged internals and is an extremely easy engine to tune means that it is possible to get far more performance out of your 2.0L Supra than the factory-rated 255 horsepower.

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 - Chassis

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As we have already covered, the Z4/Supra chassis was a collaborative effort between BMW and Toyota, with neither company taking complete credit for its design. As a result, the underpinnings of both the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 are nearly identical. So, let's talk a bit about the chassis and what both cars share. 

Perhaps most importantly, from a chassis dynamics perspective, both the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 share a short 97.2-inch wheelbase. That is an important attribute, as the wheelbase plays a massive role in how a vehicle handles. As a general principle, cars with a shorter wheelbase tend to have a lower moment of inertia, which helps the car rotate faster. In simpler terms, cars with shorter wheelbases often handle better, have better turning radii, and are more agile at the cost of high-speed stability. 

The build materials for both the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are also very similar when it comes to the chassis. It is clear that Toyota and BMW both used BMW’s cluster architecture platform as there is a strong emphasis on material weight savings while still maintaining extreme rigidity. Most of the Z4 and Supra’s chassis are comprised of aluminum, including the subframe and control arms. Both BMW and Toyota wished to create the best handling car possible, hence the need for chassis rigidity.  

BMW has become famous for their unparalleled weight distribution, with most BMWs sharing a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. That can be said for the G29 Z4 as well. The 3.0 Toyota Supra also has a 50/50 weight distribution, making chassis dynamics more predictable. The Supra 2.0L has a 49/51 weight distribution due to the decreased weight of the B48 engine.

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 - Suspension

While there are many similarities between the BMW Z4 vs Toyota Supra, the two manufacturers still wanted the two vehicles to have their own identity in line with what each brand represents. As a result, BMW and Toyota decided to limit contact between each other when it came to identity-defining elements of each car, with the engine tune, exterior design, and suspension all falling under that umbrella.

Since suspension is such a crucial element of how a vehicle behaves, BMW and Toyota opted to tune the suspension differently. That said, most of the hardware is extremely similar between the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4.

Front Suspension

The Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 not only share many suspension and steering-related parts with each other, but also with other BMW models. The steering column in both the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 was pulled directly from the G01 X3 and has a steering rack that has the same 15:1 steering ratio as the BMW M2.

Other identical front suspension components include tie rod ends, suspension bushings, and subframe. One of the biggest suspension differences between the two is control arm length. Compared to the Z4, the Supra uses longer control arms, allowing Toyota to adjust camber differently than BMW. The adjustable front dampers on the Supra 3.0 are also tuned differently to vary the driving feel a bit more.

Rear Suspension

Moving on to the rear, it’s no surprise that the two vehicles share just as many rear suspension components as they do up front. These components include the upper control arms, trailing arms, track arms, and adjustable dampers. Once again, the rear adjustable dampers on the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 are tuned differently and there are likely multiple different spring rates available for both the Supra and Z4 based on trim.

Wheel sizing is slightly different across the Supra model range, with the 2.0 Supra coming standard with forged aluminum 18” wheels and the 3.0 Supra using 19” forged wheels. Despite using two different wheel sizes, the Supra and Z4 both come equipped with 255/35R19 front and 275/35R19 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. 

Ultimately, the suspension setups on the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 are almost entirely identical despite claims that the two companies worked on their suspension arrangements independently. Not only is the Z4/Supra suspension the same, but it is also shared with other models in the BMW lineup, with most of the components also being interchangeable with the BMW G20 3-Series. 

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 - Driving Characteristics

While up to this point it is pretty evident that the MKV Supra and BMW Z4 are much more similar than the two companies would like you to believe. From the engines to the chassis and suspension, its hard to imagine that the two would act very differently on the road. With that being said, there are some important distinctions that make the two feel different, but not so different that you’d know that you were stepping out of a BMW and into a Toyota.

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 - 0-60

Looking at 0-60 times of the 2.0 Supra vs BMW Z4 sDrive30i, it is clear that the BMW’s additional weight plays a role in acceleration. The 2.0 Supra has a 0-60 time of 5 seconds compared to the Z4 sDrive30i’s 5.2 seconds. While only a marginal difference, the 259 weight difference can be seen between the beefed-up Toyota Supra 3.0 GR’s 0-60 time compared to the Z4M40i’s 0-60 time. The Supra 3.0 can get to 60 in 3.9 seconds compared to the 4.4 seconds that it takes the Z4M40i to reach 60 mph. 

Handling

Beyond straight-line performance, it is widely concluded by multiple different sources that the Toyota Supra is the more fun car to drive. Most automotive reviewers that have driven both cars say that the Supra has a much more lively rear end, despite both the Z4M40i and Supra 3.0 GR sharing an E-differential. The slightly more unpredictable nature of the Supra has caused some to deem it as twitchy, but not necessarily with any negative connotation. 

Compared to the Supra, the BMW Z4 has seemingly received more praise for its handling characteristics from a purely practical standpoint. In sport mode, the Z4 is said to be extremely planted and predictable. It has been described as “reserved” by a number of reviewers. While it might get around a track faster than the Supra, it comes at the price of a bit of thrill. 

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 - Interior

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Due to the fact that both cars are so similar under their skin, the interior of both is an area in which BMW and Toyota could introduce a bit more of their brand identity. Due to the fact that the Supra comes exclusively as a coupe and the Z4 comes exclusively as a convertible, there are some inherent differences present between the two on the inside. Overall, the Supra feels much more cramped on the inside compared to the Z4. That is clearly amplified even further when the BMW Z4’s roof is lowered. 

With a nearly $15,000 price difference between the Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4, the interior of both is where quite a bit of that price discrepancy can be found. The BMW’s interior is unquestionably more premium feeling, complete with Vernasca leather and brushed aluminum finishes.

While the BMW Z4 comes in a variety of different interior colors and leather options, the Supra is relegated to a black-on-black leather interior. While that isn’t a bad thing, it is certainly missing a bit of flair that is present with the BMW Z4. 

In terms of infotainment and the digital dashes, BMW does it better as well. That is likely due to the fact that BMW supplied all of the internal electronics to Toyota as well. The Supra utilizes an 8.8” touchscreen main infotainment display, while the BMW makes use of a 10.25” touchscreen infotainment screen.

The Supra does its digital dash slightly different from the BMW, with a central tachometer as opposed to the split speedometer/tachometer combo in the Z4. Both cars use BMW’s well-polished iDrive system, however, the Supra still runs the older iDrive 6.0 version while the Z4 gets BMW’s new software.

Toyota Supra vs BMW Z4 Conclusions

What started out as an unlikely partnership ended with two very capable sportscars. Despite their fundamental and cultural differences, BMW and Toyota combined their strengths very well resulting in the BMW Z4 and the Toyota Supra. While BMW and Toyota claim that their collaboration ceased nearing the final stages so that both cars could have their own identities, the Z4 and Supra are extremely similar cars, both under their skin and in terms of how they drive.

The BMW B48 and B58 engines that power the Z4 sDrive30i, Toyota Supra 2.0, Z4M40i, and Supra 3.0 GR are fitting choices for the job. Despite many Toyota purists anger that the Supra’s new powerplant is not Japanese in origin, it is hard to argue with the B58’s performance, reliability, and efficiency. Both the Z4 and Supra are extremely capable cars, even in their lowest trim.

While the Z4 and Supra do differ in their suspension and engine tuning, the fact that the hardware is nearly identical make the small tweaks only slightly noticeable. Even so, the Supra and Z4 do have slightly different handling characteristics, with the Supra a bit more on-edge than the Z4. Some people might enjoy the more mature nature of the Z4, while others might feel constrained by the predictability. 

Ultimately, if you are trying to decide between the two cars, the decision boils down to how you’ll be using the car. From the inside, there’s no debate that the BMW is the nicer car. As it should be, with a $15,000 difference in price. The BMW Z4 is likely the better option for a daily-driven car. Between the Z4’s improved comfort, its on-street manners, and roomier cabin, the Z4 beats out the Supra as a usable weekend car. With that being said, you’ll likely have a better time at the track with the Supra. 

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