Comparison Review: 2020 Toyota GR Supra vs. 2020 BMW Z4 M40i

supra vs z4 review

Words: Calvin Chan

Photography: Calvin Chan

Published: September 14, 2019


Ketchup or mustard? Neither of them taste better than the other, however they both serve different purposes, palettes, and foods, complementing and augmenting their taste. The same goes for the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra, both cut from the same cloth and lie on the same platform, use the same engine and parts, all supplied by BMW, but have been tuned and designed in entirely different ways. Like twins separated from birth, the Z4 has ended up becoming a soft-top roadster, while the iconic Supra has become a dedicated sports car coupe, now with a German heart. 



Supra is a nostalgic, emotion-evoking name with a cult following stretching across the globe. But now that it borrows BMW ammunition, you could argue that the new Supra is no longer a purebred Japanese coupe with a durable, tunable, and unstoppable 2JZ engine. But keep in mind that without BMW, this new Supra probably would not exist. In this modern day and age where SUVs and trucks rule the road, and subsequently the accountants, low-volume sports cars are hardly financially viable. 


Historically, Supras have only used inline-sixes as well, an engine specification which is lacking in the current Toyota arsenal. Think about how much money it would cost for Toyota to design, develop, test, and certify a brand-new bespoke inline-six engine, gearbox, and an entire chassis just for a sports car that would barely cause an uptick in profits when compared to the perennial RAV4? This would require a vast pool of money, and perhaps even a new factory for manufacturing - hardly a sensible talking point at the annual corporate retreat. Outsourcing it is, and who else has a history of building some of the sweetest, smoothest, and most powerful inline-sixes that rev up to the stratosphere? That’s right, BMW. Add in their reputable build quality, premium materials, and tunability, and you have a recipe to shine. And since when was having a BMW engine a bad thing?



The Z4 has also undergone a bit of a transformation itself. Ditching the hardtop roof in place of a lighter fabric roof, the Z4 has slimmed down but with a stiffer chassis, more horsepower, a new suspension, and a new badge for its inline-six models: the M40i. Without the need to store a fixed roof panel, trunk space has increased as well, and with modern fabric materials that are incredibly durable and heavy duty, the argument for a hard top and its accompanying detriments - more weight and a higher center of gravity - have become difficult to justify. BMW made a good decision here. The cloth cap retracts down in a speedy ten seconds, and the operation can be done up to 50 km/h, so you can hold down the button while you scour the parking lot.



Despite sharing the same platform, the Supra and Z4 look two worlds apart. The Supra sports a clean, bulbous, and a rather refreshing design, keeping signature cues like its ducktail spoiler and double bubble roof. Draped in a Stormtrooper-like white paint and paired with its exceptionally long hood, the Supra commands more attention than the comparatively subdued and sober Z4. The BMW on the other hand is longer, wider, and taller than the outgoing Z4, yet it dons a wonderfully composed silhouette that’s easy on the eyes. It’s got sporting pretense, alluding to the more athletic demeanor in the face of constantly being labelled as a leisure open-top roadster. It’s got incredible visual presence from the rear too, like a shrunken 8 Series



The Z4 and Supra use the same B58 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six, 8-speed automatic transmission supplied by ZF, adaptive dampers, a sports exhaust, and limited slip differential. In the BMW, the engine has been tuned to produce 382 hp and 369 lb-ft, while the Supra is quoted at just 335 hp and 365 lb-ft, 47 hp and 4 lb-ft less than the Bavarian. However, with a 103 kg curb weight difference between the two, the Supra actually accelerates two-tenths of a second faster than the Z4 from 0-100 km/h, hitting it in 4.3 seconds. 


Further, some Supra owners have already been getting 440+ horses just with a quick ECU tune and no bolt ons. That means for under a grand, you can completely transform the car yet keep some semblance of reliability. Toyota was smart in this regard, knowing that most of their cars wouldn’t stay stock for long. Keep in mind that only ten years ago, the Audi R8 supercar produced ‘only’ 420 hp from its naturally aspirated V8 engine. Toyota created a platform, a canvas, a blank slate if you will, with prime ingredients so that owners can take their own path and create something personal and special. In that regard, the Supra succeeds but I just wish they called it something else. The Supra has become Tokyo’s iconic street racer immortalized by the Fast and Furious franchise. The name alone stimulates hype and attention, but there is just so much to live up to, and I’m not so sure the new Supra reaches that insurmountable standard.



But let’s get right to it. What are they like to drive? Inherently, the Supra is the lighter, stiffer, and more dedicated track weapon, and right off the bat you can tell it’s more focused, even when you’re not approaching its street-legal limits. The Supra’s engine tuning feels surprisingly more naturally aspirated and linear than the Z4. The revs hang a bit too long however, forcing me to take control via the paddle shifters and row my own gears to squeeze out the pulp from this powerband. Revving out to the 7,000 rpm redline in both cars does not seem to equate to much extra thrust either, as they quickly run out of steam just after 6,000 rpm. 


The Supra may be horsepower-handicapped compared to the brawny Z4 but out in the real world, the Toyota is faster and keeps pace without breaking a sweat. It’s one thing to have power, it’s another to control it, and the Z4 has got a whole lot of the former. That said, the Z4 handles its 382 hp effectively without overwhelming the chassis. The rear wheels come loose when you’re leaning too hard on the power but its body control and sense of balance makes it easy to predict and modulate. There’s character and charisma in the way it grooves. Lag is all but imperceptible, and the impeccable 8-speed is the keystone that glues the powertrain together. There has never been a happier marriage between engine and gearbox in the blue roundel’s history. 



The Supra however needs to spend more time tuning that borrowed gearbox, as it exhibits vibration and unnerving forward lunges during hard aggressive upshifts, and overall just isn’t as calm or as collected as the Z4. The Toyota’s steering feel is lighter and more tactile though. There are no dead spots like the BMW, offering a more linear build up in rotation that constantly fires grip information straight to your fingertips. You feel more connected to the road. Both cars use the same staggered tire size setup but the Supra ends up being friskier, nimbler on corners, and you get a feeling that the entire car is cohesively melded together. Its motions are well tempered and deliberate, entirely usable on a daily basis, but slightly rougher riding.


While judging by roadster standards, the Z4 is very stiff, compared to a coupe it’s not as buttoned-up, fluid, nor as eager to rotate at speed. It takes a detailed eye to notice the Z4’s windows shaking and that general sense of floatiness when crashing into road imperfections, but it’s there. The Supra doesn’t settle as well after bumps with the same grace and cat-like soft landing, and the Z4 remains remarkably poised no matter the road condition, and comes off as a more natural driving partner. Got a long journey ahead? I would be grabbing the keys to the BMW, flipping that roof down, and opening the floodgates to its orchestral exhaust.



Without glass, plastic, and steel hindering the sound waves, no matter which ride you choose, your ears will be flooded with a symphony of BMW tunes: pops, bangs, high-rpm screams, you name it. What this inline-six can provide, our cochlea absorbs, sonically pleasing our souls with a warring drumbeat that hardly ever gets old. Contrary to what you may think, the Z4 and Supra actually sound slightly different. The Toyota offers a more hollow, metallic, and higher pitched noise, whereas the Z4 gurgles in a lower, deeper tone with more burbles on downshifts and overrun. The variations are minor and will take a sharp ear to detect, but listen to our Exhaust Notes videos below of both the Z4 and Supra to decide which sounds better for yourself.




Looks, drive, and noise aside, it’s the BMW that nails it down with an ambient interior oozing with colourful leather and top-shelf materials. The steering wheel is bulky, thickly padded, and cozy to grasp, and the center console itself is ergonomically sound with expensive feeling buttons and dials. The infotainment display is better integrated into the dashboard than the Supra’s, and overall the BMW cabin feels more cohesive, simplistic, and worthy of that premium badge. Whether or not that justifies the Z4 M40i’s $11,100 price hike over the Supra depends on individual taste, but the amenities and first-class materials do make it a close fight.



The Supra on the other hand, while sharing carbon copy internals, utilizes last-generation BMW bits. So despite being familiar territory, the thin-rimmed steering wheel, seat controls, and memory buttons, all hark to the outgoing BMW Z4 model instead. That’s not a terrible thing, with layers of carbon fibre panelling gracing the oddly shaped center console. Unlike how it’s designed in the Jaguar F-Type, the Supra’s passenger-centric console blocks the driver off with that knee pad divide, and subsequently makes it harder to reach the center storage areas. Visibility isn’t terrible in the Supra but the cabin feels undeniably smaller and more cramped than the Z4 with the roof up or down. Furthermore, the window portals are tiny bunker-like slits that you can barely stick your head out of - Chevrolet Camaro much? The Z4 offers excellent wind buffering even when going triple digit speeds with the roof and windows down, however with the Supra, everytime you get past 60 km/h, the wind turbulence coming through the rolled down windows is near intolerable, capable of punching a hole right in your eardrums.



I can do without the BMW instrument cluster, which is fully digital and features shapes, fonts, colours, and nonlinear gauges that make it difficult to read on the fly. Locating the required information is harder than finding Waldo on a seven-page spread. On the flip side, the digital gauges in the Supra have been surprisingly well executed, with a large tachometer that appears deceivingly analog perched right in the center like a Porsche 911. The shared 8.8-inch infotainment screen is possibly the best interior bit that Toyota has stolen, and is far superior to their in-house units found in the RAV4 and Camry. User-friendly with simple, clean menus, the unit is incredibly functional and able to be controlled by both touchscreen and rotary dial. It retains BMW’s signature eight-shortcut buttons hovering over the dash as well. Still, the Supra’s touchscreen is awkwardly sitting on the dashboard, and angled in a way that sunshine washes out the graphics rather easily.


Truthfully, when driving around at three-tenths of these car’s limits, the delta separating the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are minimal. Ergonomics, brand prestige, and nostalgia aside, you have to realize that both of these cars are catered towards slightly different types of buyers. In reality, you won’t be cross shopping between these two. Instead, the Z4 will be fighting the 718 Boxster, F-Type Convertible, and Mercedes SLC, whereas Supra owners are deciding between the M2 Competition, 718 Cayman, and Audi TT RS instead. Still, in the daydreaming bubble of the car enthusiast, pairing two vehicles together for a comparison does not always come down to logistical reasoning.



In that regard, the purposeful Z4 is my pick of the litter when it comes to boulevard cruising. There just isn’t anything the Supra can offer to replace the feeling of wind brushing on your face, the sunshine giving you an orange tint, and having an unfiltered seat to the straight-six exhaust. The car itself may not summon the same kind of nostalgic fan-following as the Supra but it’s no less of a sports car because of it. For purebreds and track enthusiasts on the other hand, the Supra will be your winner with its more focused driving dynamics, a more buttoned down rear end that shows off its breadth of talents, and a cheaper price tag. When it comes to my driving requirements, six days out of seven, I’m choosing the Z4 for its open-top theatrics. On that one day I need my adrenaline fix, it’s the Supra that I will be going after. To each his own, but it sure is nice to have both.


Photo Gallery:


Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i nitro yellow san francisco red Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i rears Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i comparison


Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i versus Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i which is better Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i sunset


Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i


Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i canada


Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i wheels front fenders


Toyota Supra and BMW Z4 M40i exhausts supra nitro yellow badge


supra nitro yellow rear quarter view z4 m40i interior z4 m40i center console


2020 Toyota GR Supra black interior 2020 Toyota GR Supra carbon fibre center console gear shifter 2020 Toyota GR Supra same door handles bmw


2020 Toyota GR Supra digital gauges 2020 Toyota GR Supra sport mode button



Model: 2020 Toyota GR Supra

Paint Type: Absolute Zero
Base Price: $64,990

Price as Tested: $66,290
Wheelbase(mm): 2,470
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,381 / 1,854 / 1,294

Curb weight (kg): 1,540
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six
Horsepower: 335 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 365 lb-ft @ 1,600 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD

Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.9
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.9 / 7.9 / 8.9

Tires: 255/35R19 front; 275/35R19 rear



Model: 2020 BMW Z4 M40i

Paint Type: San Francisco Red
Base Price: $76,100

Price as Tested: $84,895
Wheelbase(mm): 2,024
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,337 / 1,864 / 1,303

Curb weight (kg): 1,643
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six
Horsepower: 382 hp @ 5,500 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 369 lb-ft @ 1,850 - 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.1

Tires: 255/35R19 front; 275/35R19 rear





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