2020 GR Supra: So, It Is A BMW Or A Toyota? The Answer Is…

The 2020 Toyota GR Supra impressed us during our test drive, but even so, everyone wants to know if it is a “real” Supra, in the vein of its predecessor.

That’s the million dollar question, and one that will likely be debated for years to come as the model was created in collaboration with BMW. While there’s two sides to this coin, cynics will quickly point to the sticker on the door which says the Supra was made by BMW.

Case closed, then? Well, it’s not that simple. According to Supra chief engineer Tatsuya Tada, Toyota wanted to build a sports car, but BMW originally tried to dissuade them. Following personal changes in Germany, the two companies decided to create Porsche Boxster and Cayman competitors.

Announced in 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding between the two companies called for the “joint development of architecture and components for a future sports vehicle.” At the time, Toyota President Akio Toyoda said “I believe BMW’s strength is in developing sports cars” and “I am excited to think of the cars that will result from this relationship.”

The companies kept details a closely guarded secret but, a year later, they announced plans to conduct a “feasibility study to define a joint platform concept for a mid-size sports vehicle.” This eventually led to the creation of a sports car mule, based on the 2-Series, called the “Full Runner.”

BMW and Toyota worked closely together at the beginning of the project as both companies had to agree on certain parameters such as dimensions, hardpoints and lots of other stuff. Afterwards, though, the two (supposedly) went their separate ways and Toyota says there was little communication between them as development progressed. As a result, Tada says he not entirely sure how much the Supra and Z4 have in common.

He did, however, give BMW credit for making the cars more different from each other than what they could have been. As he explained, the company’s original approach echoed that used on Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. However, BMW told Toyota not to focus on using as many common parts as possible, but rather figure out what they want to build and then look to see what components can be shared. While Tada said he wasn’t entirely sure how much the cars have in common, he did suggest 90% of the parts are at least slightly different.

Besides the unique body panels, Toyota “identified nine areas of the vehicle’s rear structure to be reinforced to increase rigidity” during testing. As a result, the Supra is more rigged than the, already stunningly rigid Lexus LFA.

The Supra also has a uniquely tuned suspension, exhaust and stability control system. The cabin is also unique, even though it uses a number of BMW-sourced components.

Was the BMW partnership necessary?

The simple answer is probably no. Toyota is a billion dollar company and they could have thrown tons of money into developing the Supra themselves. Of course, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. In particular, a Toyota official suggested the Supra probably wouldn’t have happened without the partnership. That’s understandable, as the sports car segment is small, has low volumes and sales typically decline after a model has been on the market for a year or two.

To help counter these issues, the partnership was formed to lower development and engineering costs. Some fans might not be happy about this, but it’s nothing new.

While the 86 and BRZ are first example that springs to mind, Fiat and Mazda teamed up for the MX-5 and 124 Spider roadsters, while Mercedes has provided powertrains for the Aston Martin Vantage and Infiniti Q60.

Perhaps we should just judge a car on its own merit rather than where, or by whom, it was constructed. And the 2020 Supra has a premium ride, great handling and good performance, which means that it’s pretty much delivering on what a petrolhead is asking from a sports car.

  • Alexandro Pietro

    Was made by coach-built!

  • AMG44

    Well without a partner there is no Supra. As the development costs for such a low volume sports coupe doesn’t make sense in current market climate where everyone just rushing to get a crossover. And Toyota chose the best partner known for their inline 6 cylinder engines.

    • Bo Hanan

      The RC-F (a lighter version of it) with a 3.0TT would have been a better choice I think. This is similar to the 93 Supra/SC 300/400. This would have also kept it in the family. And Toyota could have found a partner to build a straight-6..

      • mas921

        lexus RC is much heaver AND have about half the rigidity of the A90, so no it would’ve been a far worse choice

  • izzey04

    BMW will regret giving their engine to Toyota…this seems better than Z4

  • TheBelltower

    It’s a billion dollar company that makes money selling appliances. They haven’t been successful building sports cars for many years.

    • SpongeBob99Swell

      You weren’t even going to buy one anyways. It’s always those who never intended to own a Supra are complaining about the new car. We get it, you wanted Toyota to invest over half a billion dollars in development of another JZ platform that will power one car and well sell in very limited numbers like the last generation (even the LFA) did. It would’ve been priced in the $100K range and then you would really be reacting if that was the case.

      • TheBelltower

        Obviously I’m not going to buy one. I’d buy a BMW 100X over before considering a Toyota. But it’s not unreasonable for people to respond to Toyota’s ridiculous overexposure of this car since some of their engineering claims are completely stupid. If I hear another Toyota spokesperson blather-on about the double hood latch, a BMW mechanism since forever, I’m going to throw an egg.

  • SpongeBob99Swell

    “…We’ve driven prototypes of both, and each have their own personality. Unlike the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ “Toyobaru” platform-sharing coupes–which are nearly indistinguishable from each other in styling or feel–the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 have their own distinct personality, body, interior design and package, and driving dynamics. So don’t be tempted to say they are the same car: One with a roof and one without. The Supra is every bit the slick Toyota you expect it would be and should be.” -Chris Walton, author from MotorTrend

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