The BMW Z4 has reached the end of its life cycle, which means it’s time for a replacement, and Toyota inexplicably forgot to conceive a successor to the iconic Supra when that model was discontinued a decade and a half ago. It’s good, then, that both of the automakers have teamed up on new sports cars—but they won’t exactly be Japanese or German.
BMW and Toyota have remained admirably officially silent on the progress of their joint venture, but there have been looser lips at Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung, which has reported that both the Z4 replacement and the reborn Supra will be built by the Canadian-owned Magna Steyr operation near Graz. (There, the cars will use capacity once assigned to the Mini coupe, Paceman, and Countryman; the first two models are dead, while Countryman production will move to the Netherlands in its next generation.) The paper insists about 60,000 of the two-door sports cars will begin rolling out of the plant annually in 2018, which means there isn’t much time left in the cars’ gestation.
While information on the Supra is thin on the ground, we do know that the BMW carries a G29 internal code name and is slated to wear a Z5 badge. Our insiders tell us the new roadster is larger than the Z4, hence the new name; the increase in size has been made, we’re told, in part as a compromise with Toyota’s needs for the Supra—and because BMW desires to leave a slot open beneath the Z5 for a possible smaller convertible model.
The new car won’t be heavier than the Z4, though, with BMW slated to resurrect the original Z4’s cloth-roof roadster layout, ditching the beefy and more difficult-to-package folding metal roof of the latest car. BMW also is promising a coupe version of the Z5, and our sources suggest it will be sold with both four- and six-cylinder power and offer a performance-oriented hybrid system to better its acceleration numbers. The inline six-cylinder engines will be variations of BMW’s existing turbocharged 3.0-liter family; the fours will belong to the next generation of BMW’s 2.0-liter unit, which will debut in Europe this fall. The Supra also will use a four-cylinder engine in the basic versions, but it won’t be sourced from BMW. Its higher-performance engine will be an all-new twin-turbo V-6, code-named 943F and allegedly making around 400 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.
While the cars will use different internal-combustion engines, people we’ve spoken to say the BMW and the Toyota get more closely related farther back: It was implied that the cars may share transmissions, albeit with different ratios, and that their multilink rear suspensions and differential housings would be similar.
This makes sense, of course—even more so if the cars share the hybrid system. And it also would make sense for that system to incorporate a disc-shaped electric motor integrated with the transmission housing (as most current German plug-in hybrids use), but such a setup would rule out a manual transmission for what is sure to be the priciest and best-performing version of each car.
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Today, the Z4 is the slowest-selling BMW model, but the tie-up with Toyota has slashed the development costs of its replacement while upping the tempo on technology. “We will occupy the segment once more,” BMW CEO Harald Krueger said earlier this year. “It’s not big, but it’s important for the strength of the brand. BMW has a long roadster tradition.” The Magna plant in Graz also builds the Mercedes-Benz G-wagen and assembled 103,904 vehicles in 2015; in addition to these sports cars, it will add a model for Jaguar next year.