2019 BMW Z4, a preview of the next Supra?

BMW unveiled the 2019 BMW Z4 to the motoring press recently.  Is this a preview of the upcoming fifth generation Toyota Supra?

Perhaps one of the most anticipated automotive debuts this year is the new Toyota Supra and BMW Z4.    BMW has just recently released pictures of the 2019 BMW Z4 enabling us to see its new sportier roadster.  Perhaps, this is a glimpse of what we can expect to see with the upcoming Toyota Supra when it is to be unveiled publicly at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2019.

Six years ago, Toyota entered into a partnership with BMW to collaborate on the development of a shared platform for the Supra / Z4.   BMW is building the platform as well as the inline-6 engine powering the upcoming Supra.  Toyota engineers will massage the finished product to create the driving characteristics associated with the legendary Supra.

Toyota has been known to engage in partnerships with companies that have skill sets and resources that may be lacking internally.  Toyota partnered with Subaru to build the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ and with Yamaha on the development of the V10 engine powering the iconic Lexus LFA .

What does BMW get in exchange for their role in the development of the upcoming Supra?  They get access to Toyota’s expertise with fuel cells and electrified platforms, technology that has proven itself time and time again.

A new inline-6 cylinder engine

While Toyota currently has a very good rear-engine platform underlying the Lexus LC, one of its available engine options is a V6 in hybrid configuration.   Toyota has not produced an engine in an inline-6 configuration since the 2JZ went out of production with the Mark IV Toyota Supra in 2002.

In the meantime, BMW has continued production of engines in an inline-6 configuration, most recently with the B58 engine.  The B58 most recently replaced the inline-6 N55 that succeeded the N54.   All of these engines are inline-6 turbocharged engines.

Like the legendary 2JZ, the N54 has a reputation of being overbuilt and can support up to 700 horsepower on stock internals.  In other words, it is straightforward to substantially increase the output of the N54 without making any changes to the inside of the engine.

Like Toyota with the 2JZ, BMW has won the prestigious International Engine of the Year award five successive years in a row and Ward’s 10 best engines three years in a row for the N54.  BMW’s replacement engine, the N55 won Wards 10 best engines two years in a row.

The 2019 BMW Z4

The production version of the 2019 BMW Z4 you see is from a recent press event held at Portugul’s legendary Estoril race track.  It is powered by a new 3.0 turbo charged inline-6 cylinder engine producing 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque.  This is sufficient to propel the new Z4 from 0 to 60 miles per hour in a quick 4.4 seconds.   The upcoming Supra will have a mildly detuned version of the same engine that puts out 335 horsepower.

There is a second engine option available in the upcoming Z4, is a 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 255 horsepower.  Toyota Supra Chief Engineer Testuya Tada has said that the Supra will also be available with a four-cylinder engine option.   For prospective buyers who would like to transplant Toyota’s legendary 2JZ into the new Supra, the four cylinder Supra is a direct replacement.

The upcoming Z4 is also rear wheel drive and have a 50:50 weight distribution.  Whereas the Supra is a hardtop vehicle, the Z4 is available only as a convertible.  However, I would expect that the upcoming Supra will also have 50:50 weight distribution in both the 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder versions of the vehicle.

The fact that a car does not have a roof does not necessarily imply weight savings.   It has been my experience that convertible vehicles are often heavier than their roofed counterparts because of the added support needed to deal with stresses that would have been absorbed by the B and C pillars.

Putting power to the pavement in the upcoming BMW Z4 is an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and launch control.    A manual transmission option will be available.  However, it is only for the European market.   American buyers are limited to the automatic transmission.

The upcoming BMW Z4 certainly looks sportier than the model it replaces.  However, I expect that the Supra will look sportier still.  Camouflaged prototypes and even the Gazoo Racing version that was unveiled in Geneva earlier this year seem to confirm that.

Concluding thoughts

While I absolutely love the BMWs of the 80s and 90s, I have not been a fan of the more recent cars.  However, I really like design of the new Z4, particularly the tail-end of the vehicle.

My son has been exploring the possibility of a BMW E92 335i as a first car.  As part of my research into the car, I have come to appreciate the N54 and BMW’s legacy of inline-6 engines.

While the BMW Z4 is exciting, I wait with great anticipation of seeing the next generation Toyota Supra has to offer.

What do you think?  Please add your comments below.


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