Six-Cylinder Engines Are The Heart And Soul Of The Supra, So Toyota Turned To BMW

The highly anticipated Toyota Supra will finally be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show next month and we’re learning more details about the upcoming model.

Speaking with Automotive News Europe, Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada said one of the main reasons the company decided to partner with BMW was that the Toyota no longer makes an inline-six cylinder engine. According to Tada, the straight-six is part of the Supra’s identity and customers expect nothing less.

While that sounds like an excuse, Tada said customer surveys showed a straight-six engine was a “non-negotiable attribute” in the eyes of fans. He went on to say, the “straight-six is the only engine with perfect balance and low vibration.”

As a result, the Supra will be powered by a BMW-sourced six-cylinder engine. The company hasn’t released specifications for its version of the engine, but it produces 382 hp (284 kW / 387 PS) and 369 lb-ft (500 Nm) of torque in the BMW Z4 M40i. This enables the roadster to rocket from 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in just 4.4 seconds.

The engine isn’t the only thing shared with BMW as Supra will also use the Z4’s platform and automatic transmission – among other things. Despite the similarities, Toyota was quick to point out that they tuned the engine, transmission and chassis for use in the Supra.

While Toyota is keeping a majority of details under wraps, the model will have an electric limited slip rear differential, a high-performance Brembo braking system and adaptive dampers. The report also says fans can expect a 50/50 weight distribution and a body that is nearly as rigid as the Lexus LFA.

One of the more interesting things to come out of the interview was reveal that Gazoo Racing is working on “sporty engines” for production models. Tada was coy on details, but hinted the powertrains might incorporate electrification for improved performance.

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  • Research Janitor

    Actually, makes it less appealing.

  • Six_Tymes

    “He went on to say, the “straight-six is the only engine with perfect balance and low vibration.”

    True, then WHY did Toyota stop making it, they should have never stopped. It was their best engine ever. Not unlike Jeeps old 4.0 straight six from years ago, both were one of the best engines ever made. Now, all eyes are on EV’s, will all engines become Dinosaurs soon? maybe, maybe not.

    • Dude

      Packaging is easier with a V6. Idk what other reasons there might be

      • SpongeBob99Swell

        A V6 engine doesn’t belong in a proper sports car, however. ESPECIALLY not a Supra (or the current GTR for that matter – a shame, that). They have always been I6’s and if you watch the interviews given from Akio Toyoda, this was a major part of his mandate.

        • Dude

          Sports cars shouldn’t have V6’s? Lol why? Many of the greatest modern sports cars have V6 engines. And I’ve seen what Akio has said. Legacy (/nostalgia) is cool and all, but I really just care about Toyota making a good fun car. I’m sure the Supra will be great but I’m sure it would’ve been just as great with a V6.

          (I’m not complaining but if they had gone with a V6 they wouldn’t’ve partnered with BMW and we probably would’ve gotten the car years sooner)

          • SpongeBob99Swell

            A true sports car for that matter. Because an Inline-6 is well-balanced and more responsive, as the motor is an inline configuration, there are no disruptive vibrations from banked angles. Unlike a V6, counter weights are needed to provide balance for a piston which might traveling in an unbalanced motion due to its banking position.

            What makes Inline-6 engines so desired by enthusiasts has a lot to do with the chassis which they were delivered in. One of the most iconic tuner examples is Nissan’s Skyline GT-R. It sported the Inline-6 RB platform from the first Skyline GT-R (C10) throughout the end of the R34 production. It wasn’t until the R35 that Nissan made the change to a V6 configuration.

          • Dude

            Look I’m well aware of the uses and benefits of an I6. No one is complaining about vibrations in modern V6 sports cars and most aren’t going to notice a difference in responsiveness. The number and configuration of an engine’s cylinders doesn’t not determine if a sports car is “true”. The NSX (new and old), Lotus Evora (one of the purest sports cars), Ford GT, Giulia Quadrifoglio (quintessential sports sedan), and GTR are all “true” sports cars.

    • Arthur

      Lots of reasons, more expensive to manufacture, typical gas mileage isn’t as good with an I6, packaging, but I would bet cost being the number one reason Toyota can’t justify making an I6 for future vehicles. The future of the IC is all about downsizing, small displacement engines, I3’s and I4’s with the help of turbo’s making between 150-250HP+ and still able to get high 20s to high 30MPGs and more if your not leadfooted. Toyota isn’t a boutique manufacturer and short of halo models like a Supra, all there other models are made in the hundreds of thousands and it makes no sense for them to use a I6 over a V6 in those applications that use a V6 (i.e. Camry, Avalon and many of their SUV offerings).

      • MultiKdizzle

        Wow. Good answer.

  • Blade t

    Who would’ve thought Toyota would sell a German car..

    • brn

      Well, they sold their version of the Pontiac Vibe.

  • SpongeBob99Swell

    Given everything being enhanced differently, from the engines, transmissions, chassis, suspensions, electronics, structure, power-to-weight distribution ratio, platform, rigidity, throttle response, etc, and also, basically the overall package.

    So, again, the upcoming Supra is still a Toyota overall, and feels like one too. I’m sure Toyota knows exactly what they are doing. I’m certain that the same company that made the LFA knows how to make a damn sports car. It has everything to do with profit, as well as development costs and reducing them. Sales for these types of cars don’t justify the cost of producing by yourself. Partnering lowers the cost for both parties involved and still allows enough differentiation to make the car unique, and makes it easier for both companies since these cars are expensive to produce (despite being alright-to-low volume sellers), making the car more competitive sports car-wise, pricing-wise, and within the segment it competes in (against the Jaguar F-Type, Porsche Cayman, Alpine A110, Audi TT, etc just to name a few). For instance the MKIV was in the $60k range back in the 90’s and they couldn’t sell enough of them to make it profitable. If they designed and manufactured a new drivetrain by themselves that car would end up being more than $100k. How many do you think they’d sell? Do you think it might fail like the last one? But Akio Toyoda wants to bring the Supra back to satisfy the fans and make it affordable. This is the only feasible way to do that. Understand their reasoning now? It’s either this or nothing and you get to make that choice for yourself, so really no real reason to bitch about it. At least they’re keeping the Inline-6 heritage alive unlike Nissan with the GTR and the 350/370 “Z” cars.

    • Actually this car is almost completely a BMW, developed by BMW. Supra is largely developed and tested in Munich, and when you look at the interior of the prototypes everything is BMW, even the idrive. If they change the design for the production car, we know what’s underneath. But I don’t see that as a bad thing.

  • javier

    “Six-Cylinder Engines Are The Heart And Soul Of The Supra, So Toyota Turned To BMW”

    do you realize how horribly pathetic that is ?

    • Vinny

      No. Not as pathetic as putting out hundreds of millions (or even billions) of $ to produce a brand-new engine for a niche sports car that won’t be much profitable to them. Might as well share the costs with someone who ALREADY has an inline-6 engine.

  • Mr. EP9

    And they couldn’t just do it themselves? Toyota has experience with six cylinder engines so it’s not like they couldn’t just develop one on their own. But, they were obviously trying to spend as little money on R&D so they split the cost with BMW while raiding their parts bin no doubt.

    I’m still waiting for the Detroit auto show so we can stop seeing it in camo.

  • Bo Hanan

    “The company decided to partner with BMW was that the Toyota no longer makes an inline-six cylinder engine. The straight-six is part of the Supra’s identity.”

    -So what does having BMW design your most iconic sports car do to its identity?

    • Nick099

      Good point.

    • PhilMcGraw

      I have a feeling when it comes to sports cars you are going to be seeing more partnerships moving forward, at least in regards to what we would refer to as “attainable sports cars”(those that are priced $75k and under).

      We talk a lot about the decline of sales of sedans but two door coupes and convertibles have experienced an even bigger drop in sales (about 10-15% more than your average sedan). It’s a risky proposition to produce a true sports car in today’s economy due to regulations, stingy buyers (those online who like to say they would’ve bought it if it had X), worse roads and traffic than before, and diminishing value proposition.

    • D3X

      See this is what I don’t get as well!

      So what does having BMW design your most iconic sports car do to its identity?

      BMW has their own identity entirely, taking theirs pretty much erases Supra’s.
      Toyota could have taken the basis of the LC500, LC-F and tuned that engine, gave the car a new look of the FT-1. If you look at the original FT-1 concept wheelbase, it’s 108″, the LC is 113″ which is much closer than the Z4 at 98″. You’ll get the longer hood and lower nicer profile that the LC has, imagine a Supra built on that?

      What’s even crazier is that the LC-F has a V8 that can output close to 600hp. So why are they settling with the Z4 at 369hp? No matter how I look at it, the Lexus LC500, LC500h, LC-F has way more Supra DNA in that thing more than this Z4 Supra wannabe.

    • Vinny

      You know how much producing a brand-new sports car engine costs from scratch? Hundreds of millions of $ from R&D and production. The Supra won’t even be much profitable to them, no sense in putting out hundreds of millions of $ or even billions to produce a new engine.

  • brn

    So the Supra won’t have a dipstick either?

    • Charles Chin

      BMW B58s doesnt have dipsticks haha

  • Matt

    If it shares the engine with Toyota and BMW models then it’s not unique is it?

  • Maisch

    It really is one of the ugliest engines you can buy, not that it matters to most people :), i really hope toyota had at least something to say regarding the drivetrain and that the BMW and toyota doesnt feel like badge engineered cars. As someone pointed out, in this day and age we should be greatful that sports cars are still developed, its really a tiny market.

    Regarding V6 and inline6, the sports car and racing history is full of V6es, i think you might have missed out on the last 100 years of motoring history.

  • excuses…..

  • Knotmyrealname

    So their BIW’s were largely helped along by BMW, and now too with the engines.
    And STILL they can’t release the damn thing.
    Day by day their ineptitude grows…..

  • Arsu Dhamaka

    Only reason toyota doesn’t want to develop such engines is because electrification is the future. They would rather invest into electric, hybrid engines. So outsourcing is the best option.

    • Kagan

      Despite being one of the biggest and richest car company!!!

    • javier

      so why not showcase that in a sports car ? no not some bs car like the LC hybrid. There was talk for a while about a hybrid E AWD supra. But they are like supra must have straight 6, i dunno supra heads from the last generation see a bmw motor and they are like sure right….It just seems like a chance for toyota to take a step forward with hybrids as things are headed that way anyway

  • BlackPegasus

    None of this makes any sense to me. Toyota’s engines are award winning performers with proven reliability and plenty of naturally aspirated power. Why did they really need BMW again? 🙄

    • Vassilis

      Because they have no sports car-appropriate option.

    • donald seymour

      NO, you are completely right; however, when it comes to Toyota the engine isn’t necessarily the end game. Toyota pulls stunts like this to find out what the competitor is doing.

    • Vinny

      Didn’t you even read? Financial reasons. Toyota doesn’t currently have an I6 engine, and to produce one from scratch costs hundreds of millions of $ – R&D. It’s not that Toyota is incapable of producing anything, but it makes much more of a financial sense.

      • ksegg

        I wonder if Toyota could have just taken the 2GR-FKS engine used in the Lexus IS and modified it to suit the Supra’s needs?

    • getoffme

      Tell me another manufacturer that makes an inline 6 cylinder that has been out for a while. Exactly, only BMW. Mercedes’ does not count as they’ve just started making them.

  • SteersUright

    Were this remotely true, they could’ve just bought the engines, like many other sports car manufacturers do. They farmed out the entire Supra. They fully well know it too, they just can’t admit it to you and I. This will likely not be a bad sports car, but it is also NOT a Supra. It will share all the common BMW strengths and weaknesses, as its 100% a BMW. Toyota fooled no-one in this endeavor. The boss wanted a sports car, so they bought one to keep him happy. Then they went right back to investing their own money in Camry’s.

  • Blanka Li

    So Supras will be catching on fire too then, correct?

    • Bo Hanan

      -“we needed a straight-6 engine so we let BMW design-engineer-build the car.”
      (rolls eyes)….

  • salamOOn

    so its just a bmw z4 with supra badges…. what a FAIL toyota, what a FAIL. SMH
    this makes more bad blood than not having a new supra.

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