RAC Cars News


When BMW met Toyota

By raccars Published


The two companies have collaborated on a new project, but would you buy the BMW or the Toyota?

On the face of it, BMW and Toyota are radically different car makers. However the two have come together to create a pair of four wheel drive hybrid sports cars: the BMW Z5 and the new Toyota Supra. The project got underway back in 2012, but with the mechanicals all in order, the German and Japanese companies are starting to diverge, each putting its own stamp on the new models. The Z5 convertible has already been spotted in testing and Toyota is expected to have reached roughly the same stage in development.

A new Toyota Supra

BMW will use the Z5 to replace the excellent but aging Z4 and Toyota's half of the project will fill in for the discontinued and much missed Supra sports coupe, which has been off the scene since 2002. The FT-1 concept car shown by Toyota a couple of years ago gives a strong idea as to how the new Supra is likely to look, one step up from the GT86 in the manufacturer's model line-up.

The Supra will be Toyota's flagship sports car, a more expensive and sophisticated model than the junior GT86, itself about to be given a facelift, in the same way that the old Supra was the big brother of the Celica. The old Supra was a hugely popular model among boy racers and has appeared in plenty of films, TV shows, video games and music videos including Gran Turismo and 'The Fast and the Furious'.

Hybrid sports cars

Both the BMW Z5 and the Toyota Supra will use advanced four wheel drive hybrid powertrains, using BMW petrol engines and supercapacitors to store the energy generated by Toyota's electric motors. Effectively the rear wheels will be driven by BMW and the front wheels by Toyota. It's a novel plan.

Toyota will no doubt draw upon its experience with the TS050 Hybrid Le Mans racer, so think regenerative braking and lithium ion batteries. The technology allows the firms the option to create plug-in hybrid versions later on. This will be the first time a Toyota has been available with a dual clutch gearbox, with current Toyota hybrids and those of its sister brand, Lexus, using a rather clunky CVT transmission.

Lightweight construction

Like the i3 and i8 and the BMW 7 Series, the Z5 is expected to be of carbon fibre construction. Despite the pooling of resources to create the platform architecture, both firms believe that they will be filling rather different gaps in the market and will appeal to slightly different demographics. Certainly the two cars are very different in size, with the Japanese model somewhat larger than the two seater German roadster. Design-wise they are set to be two very distinct models, with the collaboration limited purely to the hidden parts of the vehicles.

Debuting in 2018

While production details have yet to be finalised, both cars could be built in the same facility, probably in Europe or the USA. Toyota has yet to even confirm that the new car will be the Supra, but making new applications for the trademark in the USA and Europe is a fairly definite statement of intent. Both models should be revealed in 2017, ready to reach the market in 2018. The BMW is thought to be first, with the Supra following shortly after.

Toyota's luxury offshoot, Lexus, is not a part of the joint venture but the company has apparently not ruled out the idea of expanding the programme further down the line.

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