BATTLE OF THE CLONES: 2019 BMW Z4 vs Toyota GR Supra

12 September 2019 - 08:26 By Denis Droppa
They share the same mechanicals but the Supra (right) sports a more flamboyant body. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
They share the same mechanicals but the Supra (right) sports a more flamboyant body. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

However you view the “cloning” exercise between the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra, the fact is that neither of these two-seater sports cars might have existed without the economies of scale that the technical partnership made possible.

Yes, the Supra is essentially a dressed-up Z4, and neither manufacturer made any secret of this. The turbo 3.0 engine and eight-speed auto gearbox are Bavarian, and managing the power at the rear wheels is an electronic differential.

The question is, has Toyota added enough of its own flavour to make these two cars more than clones with different badges? We assembled the German-Japanese duo for a side-by-side test to find out.

Most aspirant buyers won’t necessarily have these two cars on the same shortlist as the Supra’s a hardtop coupe and the Z4 a soft-top roadster and they serve different purposes. But we wanted to see how much they differed in character, if at all.

For starters, there’s so much BMW switchgear inside the Supra’s cabin that it’s jarring to see the Toyota badge on the steering wheel.

Dig deeper and the differences are more apparent however. The Z4 takes a distinctly more premium direction with its interior trimmings, with more metallic finishes as well as ambient lighting. It’s a generally smarter and classier cabin.

Supra cabin doesn’t have as much brushed metal as the BMW but its Alcantara seats are grippier. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Supra cabin doesn’t have as much brushed metal as the BMW but its Alcantara seats are grippier. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The Supra cabin is sparser and makes use of more plastic, including the buttons, and the digital instrument panel adopts a different, more sporty look.

Even the keys reflect the class division with the BMW fob being heavier and decorated with a metallic finish.

Both cars are filled to the brim with luxury features but it’s the Toyota that comes better equipped straight out of the box, and standard items in the Supra include a head-up display and active cruise control, which are extra-cost options in the Z4.

It’s in the exterior styling where the major difference lies. The Toyota is the more dramatic looker with its slash-cut curves, double-bubble roof and distinctive duck tail. It’s the more overt showoff, looking like a car that would fit right into a Fast and Furious movie.

The BMW, on the other hand, is more suavely styled. It has a lot more presence than the previous Z4 and the large kidney grille creates a real sense of occasion, but it’s just not as angry looking as the Supra.

Z4 interior has an overall classier feel, but comes with fewer standard features. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Z4 interior has an overall classier feel, but comes with fewer standard features. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

There are differences in practicality too, with the Toyota coupe offering direct access between cabin and boot so you don’t have to get out of the car to deal with smaller luggage — you just reach back for it.

In contrast the Z4 has a bulkhead between the cabin and cargo area, and there’s almost no stowage space behind the seats, save for a small storage net.

For sun- and wind-lovers the Z4 has the extra benefit of being able to go roofless at the press of a button, with the soft top operable at driving speeds up to 50km/h. There’s an impressive lack of wind noise when the roof’s up, as the soft top is very well insulated. 

The impressive part of the Z4 is how little scuttle shake there is in this roofless car, and if felt almost as solid as the hardtop Supra. The BMW’s body has been well braced to make up for the lack of a solid roof, which is why it’s a little heavier than the Supra.

On the road there aren’t significant differences in regular driving between our two protagonists. What kind of car you get depends largely on which driving mode you choose. Both cars become distinctly angrier with their engines, transmissions and suspensions set to sport modes — and in both of them you can fiddle with the individual settings; for instance, softer suspension with a quicker throttle or vice versa.

It’s a very close contest in straight line acceleration, but the difference is more clear on the handling track. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
It’s a very close contest in straight line acceleration, but the difference is more clear on the handling track. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

It took some high performance tests to expose some differences between the twins, and even then they didn’t expose any huge chasms.

In straight line acceleration at Gauteng altitude there was very little to choose between the identically powered cars, with the slightly lighter Supra setting a best 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds and quarter-mile sprint of 12.7 seconds — beating the BMW by just one-tenth of a second in each case.

Interestingly it was the BMW that was one-tenth ahead in the 60-120km/h overtaking sprint.

Either way, the performance differences are miniscule and it will be the driver with the quickest reaction time that will win any traffic-lights dice.

On the handling circuit the contrast was more pronounced. Both these rear-wheel drive cars offer crouched-down, roll-resistant handling with tails that can be playfully teased into slides.

It was the Supra that rocked our worlds more with its slightly more civilised and predictable demeanour. The Z4 felt a little edgier and seemed to be more prone to bouts of unexpected oversteer on the driving limits.

The Supra took more aggressive treatment to get unruly, and bringing the driver’s counter-steering skills into play. This was largely due to the Toyota test car wearing grippier and more track-focused Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres versus the Z4’s Michelin Pilot Super Sports which are more suited to everyday road use.

I also preferred the Supra’s thinner steering wheel, which felt more natural in my grip than the Beemer’s thicker tiller. The perforated Alcantara in the Toyota’s seat back also grips the body slightly better than the Beemer’s regular leather, though both cars have heavily-bolstered bucket seats.

Supercars they’re not, but there’s plenty of driving entertainment on offer here for around a million bucks. These cars help turn a mountain-pass jaunt into a satisfyingly high-spirited affair. The BMW straight-six 3l turbo engine can be made to howl quite evocatively in both cases, without being as aurally dramatic as an AMG V8.


VERDICT — Denis Droppa

Unusual bedfellows though they may be, BMW and Toyota have created a pair of cars that are capable of some intense driving thrills.

The Supra is more of an overt party animal, largely due to its beast-from-the-east styling, and it’s also the better track car due to its stickier rubber.

The BMW is also capable of slicing and dicing the bends with great finesse. It just packages its talents into a more grown-up vibe.

SECOND OPINION — Phuti Mpyane

Despite carrying weight and aerodynamic penalties, the numbers returned by the Z4 are encouraging and prove it’s very much an athlete in the traditions of BMW roadsters.

The Supra is the more exotic looking next to its guppy-eyed rival. Picking one is a matter of tastes and lifestyle choices. I’ll take the Toyota to Kyalami racetrack and the Z4 to Margate. 

Either way, this is a sizzling pair of hell-raisers against the tag-team they were born to frustrate, which are the Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman.


Tech Specs – BMW Z4 M40i

Engine

Type: Turbocharged six-cylinder

Capacity: 2,998cc

Power: 250kW

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission

Type: Eight-speed auto

Drivetrain

Type: Rear-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 4,6 sec (as tested)

Fuel Consumption: 13.ll/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 169g/km

Kerb weight: 1,562kg

Standard features

Sport brakes, M sport differential,  adaptive M Suspension, wind deflector, interior and exterior mirror with automatic antidazzle function, electric seat adjustment with memory for driver's seat, child seats Isofix attachment, touch screen infotainment system, cruise control, navigation, seat heating for driver and passenger, automatic air conditioning, auto start stop function, stability control, ABS brakes, four airbags, rollover protection system, tyre pressure indicator, leather seats, wireless smart phone charger

Cost of ownership

Warranty: Two years/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km

Price:  R1,036,699

Lease*: R21,989 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Tech Specs – Toyota GR Supra

Engine

Type: Turbocharged six-cylinder

Capacity: 2,998cc

Power: 250kW

Torque: 500Nm

Transmission

Type: Eight-speed Auto

Drivetrain

Type: Rear-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 4.5 sec (as tested)

Fuel Consumption: 15.ll/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 177g/km

Kerb weight: 1,495kg

Standard features

Sport brakes, sport differential,  adaptive Suspension, antidazzle mirror, park distance control with reverse camera, touch screen infotainment system, stability control, lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, electrically-adjustable seats with heaters, head-up display, auto start-stop, navigation, dual-zone climate control, ABS brakes, five airbags,  tyre pressure indicator, leather and Alcantara bucket seats, wireless smartphone charger

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Three years/100,000km

Service plan: Four services/80,000km

Price:  R1,092,300

Lease*: R23,572 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

* Performance tests conducted at Gerotek using a Racelogic Vbox

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