Love the new Supra? Say thanks to BMW—and the Toyota Mirai
The return of the Toyota Supra has been controversial, to say the least. Many of the nameplate’s most ardent fans, especially die-hard Mk IV Supra loyalists, feel betrayed by the car’s BMW underpinnings. Yes, it looks cool, and yes, it’s blisteringly fast. But why wouldn’t Toyota build a sports car of its own making, rather than restyle a hard-top Z4 and slap on a historic badge? Weirdly enough, the answer to this question lies with the Toyota Mirai.
Before we get into that, however, let’s remember that Toyota isn’t keen on repeating business missteps. The prior two all-in sports cars that the notoriously conservative company produced—the Mk IV Supra in the mid-’90s and the 2012 Lexus LFA—were financial disasters and poor sellers. Lately, Toyota much prefers to farm out any project it deems risky to other companies. The Toyota 86 is more or less a Subaru, for example, and the Yaris iA was a Mazda2.
That the Supra is the product of another such partnership isn’t surprising. Most unexpected, however, is the recent revelation that the entire Supra and Z4 project is the result of corporate horse trading over the Mirai’s hydrogen and hybrid technology. In fact, it was BMW that first approached Toyota in hopes of inking a deal for access to precisely this technology, which made its first public appearance under Munich’s auspices with the 2020 i Hydrogen Next concept (essentially a fuel-cell-powered X5 that’s slated for 2022 production).
The news comes to us courtesy of Hagerty’s Jason Cammisa, who dissected the Supra/Z4 project’s genesis in his latest video. BMW was unlikely to even go ahead with a Z4 sports car until Toyota pitched the Supra in exchange for hydrogen and hybrid Synergy Drive tech, but the prospect of a convertible model on the production line at Magna-Steyr in Austria, alongside the hardtop Supra, perhaps provided sufficient economies of scale for both models to exist.
Check out the video below for the full background, as well as some glorious on-track antics that involve the lovely BMW M2 CS thrown in for good measure.