The 2020 Toyota Supra, made with German engineering

The 2020 Toyota Supra Mark V is made with German engineering.  What about Japanese reliability?

Almost 18 years after the last Toyota Supra rolled off the assembly line, the latest Toyota Supra, the Mark V has finally been revealed in production form.  The question on many enthusiasts’ minds is whether or not the new 2020 Toyota Supra lives up to the reputation of the icon that it replaces.

The Toyota Supra Mark IV (A80)

The Mark IV was designed and built when Toyota had something to prove, that it was capable of producing a world-class supercar. As a result, everything that Toyota had went into the development of the Supra.

The Mark IV was built using the same recipe of history’s legendary racecars, a powerful engine wrapped in a lightweight package. Toyota’s engineers were able to lose 100 kilograms or 212 pounds over its predecessor. This was accomplished through the use of lightweight materials and ingenious engineering. The carpet fibers of the Mark IV were hollow to save weight.

To power the Mark IV, Toyota designed and built the 2JZ-GTE, a 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline-6 engine producing between 220 to 326 horsepower. For once, the American market received a vehicle that was faster than what was sold in the domestic market. Japan’s automobile manufacturers had a ‘gentlemen’s agreement to limit horsepower to 280 horsepower.

When the Supra’s twin-turbocharged engine with the Getrag/Toyota V160 gearbox, the result was supercar performance. The Mark IV was also offered with a 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmission.

The Toyota Supra Mark V (A90)

In development since 2012, the Supra Mark V retains the element that defined the previous generations’ of the Supra, the inline-6 cylinder engine. However, it has been almost 20 years since Toyota last produced such an engine. As a result, it went ‘outside’ in search of the expertise it needed.

BMW has been producing inline-6 cylinder engines since the early 1980s. Called the ‘baby six’ line of engines, the BMW M20 engines started production in 1977 having an engine capacity up to 2.8 liters. A straight-six layout is the simplest engine layout that posses both primary and secondary mechanical engine balance, resulting in much less vibration than engines having fewer cylinders.   It is also a more compact design than a slanted engine design and easier to build since straight-4 and straight-6 engines can share an assembly line.

It wasn’t only engine development of the Mark V that was handed off to BMW, it was development of the entire drivetrain. In fact, both the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4, that pretty much share the same platform are being built in Austria by Magna Steyr, a contract auto manufacturer that also handles production of the Mercedes G-Wagen.

The Supra will use BMW’s single-turbo 3.0 liter inline-6 B58B30 engine. This is the same engine powering BMW’s new Z4 and M240i. The version of the B58 powering the Supra puts out 335 horsepower whereas the engine powering the Z4 puts out 382 horsepower. This difference is likely the result of how the ECU powering each vehicle is programmed. It is worth noting that the BMW Z4 goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds whereas the Supra takes a scant 4.1 seconds to accomplish the same.

Like the 2JZ-GTE the inline-6 cylinder engines produced by BMW can handle a lot of power with minimal modifications. I have friends that have been able to reliably extract over 600 horsepower from older versions of BMW’s inline-6, the N54 with just a larger intercooler, turbocharger, fuel-injectors and a remapped ECU. The engine did not have to be opened to extract this power, just like the 2JZ-GTE powering the Toyota Supra Mark IV.

While the Mark IV was only available in an inline-6 engine configuration, the current Supra will be available with an inline-4 cylinder engine. In this case, it is BMW’s 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, codenamed the B48B20.

There are many Supra enthusiasts who long for a Supra powered by the legendary 2JZ-GTE. Fortunately, the engineers at Toyota planned for this as chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada is on record for saying that the four-cylinder Supra is the car to use as it is engineered for such a swap in mind.

Other parts from the BMW parts bin

BMWs involvement in the development of the Supra extends to the entire drivetrain. This means the transmission as well, in this case an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. While Toyota has stated that the Supra will be available with an automatic transmission only, for now, they will consider a manual transmission as well if demand is “overwhelming”.

Brakes for the new Toyota Supra also appear to be sourced from BMW. Prototypes have been spotted at Goodwood running brakes from the BMW G30 5-Series running both B48 and B58 engine configurations.

Designed and refined by Toyota

All of this information begs the question, just what is Toyota’s involvement in the design and development of the Mark V? Toyota of course designed the Supra Mark V that was based on the FT-1 concept car that was unveiled in January 2014 at the North American International Auto Show.   This is the same auto show where the production Supra was just unveiled five short years later.

Toyota is also responsible for tuning the Supra to give it the driving characteristics that make it uniquely Toyota. This includes the driving dynamics and other features.

This brings us back to where we started, will the Toyota Supra live up to the expectations of the legendary Mark IV?

That remains to be seen. While it has many of the characteristics that defined the previous Supra, it also has a very heavy dose of German engineering added to the mix. This often includes great driving characteristics but often at the cost of Japanese reliability.

In my mind, while driving characteristics and engineering are very important, Japanese reliability is what sets Toyota apart from the competition. In this case, I will hold off until we have the data in the next few years.




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