If you go hunting for BMW logos in the new Toyota Supra, you’ll be going down a very deep rabbit hole. They’re everywhere. Toyota may have designed its own body shell and interior for the Z4-related A90, but whether you’re happy about it or not, this is very much a car created with a box of bits from Munich.
Toyota will tell you, however, that its engineering team split from the BMW Z4 team way back in 2014 - as far as we know, the only communication after that involved a request from Tetsuya Tada and co to shift the engine. This split could enable Toyota to create something that feels quite different from the same pile of parts.
Sure enough, the A90 has its own springs, front anti-roll bar and front lower control arms. The adaptive dampers may be the same, but the software is tuned differently. The coupe body will be stiffer, and it saves about 40kg of weight compared to the open BMW with its folding electronic roof. Is all this enough to make the Supra feel significantly different? The only way to find out is to get the pair together on the same road.
Once you do, it hits home just how different they look not just on the outside, but the inside too. The Supra has a unique dashboard design and a different steering wheel to the Z4, but it’s littered in BMW switchgear including the classic rotary I-Drive controller and an unmistakable BMW pistol-grip gear selector. The infotainment screen is BMW’s too, although the Supra gets a distinct instrument cluster with a part digital/part physical rev counter. We dig it.
Many of the Supra’s interior parts do actually differ from the Z4’s, but there’s a catch: they’re simply shared with different BMWs. For instance, the climate control system and the aforementioned gear selector don’t match, but you will recognise them from many of Munich’s other models.
After a morning of driving both with frequent swaps between the two, the conclusion is clear - the two cars do feel extremely similar to drive. They make the same noise, are similarly capable, and handle their slightly porky weight figures quite well and in similar ways.
But there are still differences here. The BMW’s body control isn’t as good - there’s a constant vertical bob when you’re in Sport mode that just doesn’t go away. If I were to dig out my Little Book of Motoring Journalism Cliches, I’d call it ‘jiggly’. It’s not terrible, but the movement is uncomfortable and saps a little confidence.
The steering doesn’t quite feel the same, even though the rack itself is shared across both cars. As with the dampers, the software will play a large part in this. It’s the Supra that has the nicer steering - it feels more consistent than the BMW in terms of weight. The Z4 has a weird light spot in the middle, but as soon as you turn the wheel, the steering weights up quite unpleasantly. The wheel itself is a lot fatter, too. Why does BMW keep doing this?
The Supra seems to allow for more slip with the traction control on, but switch off the driving aids in either, and tyre-smoking tomfoolery is almost shockingly easy. It’s also worth pointing out that the Supra keeps things more simple with only Normal and Sport driving modes, while the BMW has an additional Sport + option.
So which is more fun? It’s the Supra. All of those little changes add up to a car that is ever-so-slightly more satisfying to drive. Plus, the Supra is the one that encouraged me to drive a little quicker. The fact the BMW’s a drop-top will be a factor in this, but so is the marginally sweeter setup of the A90.
That’s the keyword here - ‘marginally’. You do find yourself wishing the Toyota had more of a distinct character, and that it wasn’t so close to being a Z4 coupe by a different name. But it looks great, provides a good amount of entertainment and will garner far more attention than the BMW.
It’s the car I’d have out of the two, but which would you go for?