Is the 2019 Toyota GR Supra just a BMW Z4 with a tin roof?

The iconic Toyota Supra is back and ready to invade SA's shores later this year. Here's the lowdown on what to expect

03 February 2019 - 00:15 By thomas falkiner
The 2019 Toyota GR Supra.
The 2019 Toyota GR Supra.
Image: Supplied

Toyota Supra? Hmm, sounds vaguely familiar. I guess. Why is everybody making such a big deal about it though?

Okay, so the Supra is to Toyota fans what the Skyline GT-R is to Nissan fans: at its peak an everyday driver that could stick it to exotic (not to mention fragile) European supercars costing twice the price.

Riding into the 1990s on the excesses of the Japanese Bubble Era, the Supra was the steely culmination of all Toyota's well-moneyed aspirations and supreme engineering know-how.

It cemented its legend when it landed a leading role in 'The Fast & The Furious'

Of course the nameplate had been around since the late 1970s but it was this fourth-generation model born in the year of Bill Clinton taking office and Nirvana's In Utero charting at No 1 that everybody holds in such esteem.

A hit with the tuner culture, the Supra cemented its legend when it landed a leading role in The Fast & The Furious. Literally overnight it became the poster car for a generation who dreamt of living one quarter-mile at a time.

Fair enough. But somebody told me that the new Supra is nothing but a BMW Z4 with a tin roof - true?

As a Toyota fanboy it pains me to say this but yes, the new Supra is basically just a re-skinned Z4. You see, it costs manufacturers big money to develop an all-new-from-the-ground-up sports car. So instead of building one from scratch it pays dividends to source one from another marque - an automotive phenomenon known as platform sharing that's been going on for decades.

The Abarth 124 Spider, for example, is nothing but a Mazda MX-5 with a Fiat engine. In the case of the Supra, however, Toyota didn't even change the engine.

The interior of the Toyota GR Supra.
The interior of the Toyota GR Supra.
Image: Supplied

Or the gearbox. Or the suspension components. Or the interior. Open the door and the cabin of the Supra is virtually identical to its Z4 sibling, with Toyota making no effort to disguise its BMW roots. All of which leaves me conflicted: I love the fact that the Supra is back but I do feel that Toyota could have done more to make it its own.

Jeez. This is disappointing. Might as well get the BMW then, right?

Yeah, it's not ideal but at least there's a halo model sitting in Toyota showrooms again - something I'm happy about. As for choosing the Z4 over the Supra, well, I'm not so sure. For despite being more or less the same car you can be sure that the Toyota engineers have set it up to drive differently.

With its stiffer coupé structure I'd hazard an educated guess that the Supra will be far more focused than the Z4 upon which it is based.

The ride should be firmer but the tradeoff will be keener reflexes through corners. And from what I've read on the internet about international publications piloting preproduction models, the Supra is indeed an absolute hoot to fling through the bends in anger. The BMW is more at home cruising city boulevards while the Toyota will no doubt favour the track.

Will it be fast in a straight line?

Fast enough we think. Unlike the weedy Toyota 86 the new Supra packs some real mechanical firepower courtesy of that BMW-sourced 3.0-litre inline-six motor. With 250 turbocharged kilowatts and 500Nm worth or torque this Japanese sportster will scamper to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds and onwards to a limited top speed of 250km/h.

Somewhere down the line Toyota will also offer the Supra with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder motor used in the BMW 3 Series and Mini Cooper S. Although sources say this will produce less power than the engine used in the 86.

One last thing: is it coming to SA and how much will it cost me?

Indeed it is. Toyota SA confirmed that the Supra would be here in June or July. There will be one model derivative and the engine will be the inline six. Price is yet to be confirmed so it's anyone's guess how much the new Toyota sports car will set you back. In the US it starts at just under $50,000, which, if you do the maths, is roughly R680,000.

However, going on the local pricing of the BMW Z4 I'd say that the Supra will command a price tag of just over R1m.