Last year's Toyota FT-1 concept previewed the look of the new Supra
Autocar has already driven the FT-1 concept, virtually
The BMW/Toyota joint venture will give birth to a radically-different Z
The new alliance will also see a production version of the Toyota FT-1
The car's powertrain will draw on technology developed from Toyota's Le Mans efforts
An engine less than 2.0-litres in size and lightweight technologies developed for BMW's i3 and i8 programmes will feature
BMW and Toyota are planning to spin two different sizes of vehicle off their ongoing joint sports car project, allowing engineers from the two companies to deliver the next generation of Z4 and the return of the Supra name respectively.
The original deal to work together on a mid-size sports car was announced in 2012. Few details have been released since then, but BMW did confirm late last year that the project had entered the “concept phase” and that a technical feasibility study had been “successfully completed”.
Senior sources have now confirmed further details, including where the car Toyota produces will sit in the firm’s product line-up.
Speaking at the Geneva show, Toyota Europe vice-president and product planning chief Karl Schlicht said: “The intention with the new car is for it to sit above the GT86. It doesn’t replace that model; the GT86 goes on with its own mission.”
That positioning tallies with the return of one of Toyota’s classic sports car names. While the Celica badge has traditionally been used for models of the GT86’s size, the Supra name would give the firm a mainstream sports car flagship. It also allows the new car to be considerably more expensive than the GT86, reflecting what is likely to be a complex powertrain and high-tech construction.
As Autocar revealed last year, the two models are likely to feature a hybrid four-wheel drive set-up incorporating a BMW petrol engine and electric motors whose energy is stored in supercapacitors.
BMW is understood to be bringing its expertise in construction to the project, with the new sports car likely to follow the existing i3 and i8, and the forthcoming 7 Series, by making use of carbonfibre in its architecture.
Toyota’s most recent sports car concept, the FT-1, could be seen as a preview for the Japanese brand’s offering. Its 4.6m overall length is broadly the same as that of the last Supra, which was withdrawn from sale in 2002.
A model of this size would also be significantly larger than the existing Z4, but Ian Robertson, BMW’s board member with responsibility for sales and marketing, has stated that the two manufacturers have come up with a proposal that can satisfy different areas of the sports car market.
“The one thing we’re clear on now is that a platform for both companies can work,” he said. “The cars in themselves don’t actually need to be positioned the same. The platform can spawn two positionings.
“The concept works, the platform can deliver and now we have two proud sets of engineers - one group German, one group Japanese - who are each fighting and arguing for the car they want.”
When asked if the platform was scalable, to allow for the sort of difference in wheelbase that there could be between a Supra and a Z4, Robertson said: “Gone are the days when one platform was one platform. Most of our platforms are scalable these days.”
Robertson also said that no decision on production had been taken, but he suggested that a single factory would be used for both cars. “One part of the next phase will be deciding who builds the car - which company and in which country. We need to find out where the markets are and whether the biggest markets are the same for both companies.” It’s thought that a plant in the United States or Europe is more likely to be used than a facility in Japan.
Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, does not currently have access to the joint sports car program, but senior company officials have refused to rule out the idea in the longer term. “Toyota is next door,” said Lexus’s European boss, Alain Uyttenhoven. “We are one company and our head is Akio Toyoda, and we could do it. Right now, we are not going to have a common platform between BMW and Lexus. Purely speaking, though, we have access to everything which is Toyota.”
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