In the tuner glory days of the 90s, top rung on Toyota’s performance latter went to the Supra. Twenty years later, Supra hysteria largely fueled by The Fast & the Furious has rendered clean examples of the 4th-gen car all-but-extinct, with prices more than double the car’s retail for examples sporting over 100k miles.
Toyota can’t turn back time and build more MK IVs, but plans to launch a reboot of the Supra platform in 2018 have enthusiasts excited for good reason. A product of collaboration with BMW, the new design looks striking and promises to perform. There’s just one thing wrong with it—the engine. Let me explain…
2JZ, thanks for everything
The Mark IV Supra Turbo featured a twin-turbo inline six driving the rear wheels. It was a torquey, sweet-sounding tribute to one of motoring’s favorite engine configurations; engine code 2JZ-GTE. Dom Torreto’s skinny mechanic Jesse put a price on the 2JZ’s head with a few short lines, and any chance of a Supra Turbo living out its years to be preserved for posterity in stock form was instantly, unforgivingly dashed.
Toyota delivered a gem in the 2JZ, but BMW has built a reputation for silky-smooth straight sixes. The top-of-the-line Z5 is expected to use just such an engine, probably turbocharged and strapped to a hybrid system for added performance and fuel economy. The Supra, however, gets a Lexus-derived V6.
Does that mean it will be slow? No, not even a little bit, but the fact that there’s even a possibility for the car to use the same layout as its predecessor makes me wish Toyota had opted to use the German power plant.
Reasons to Get Inline
There are several reasons why the inline six makes a better power unit in performance applications than a V6. The V configuration is a harmonically unbalanced product of the need to save space, which means it must be more complex to run less smoothly.
The Supra derives its classic sports car proportions, a long hood and short rear deck, from cars that used that layout because they used an inline six. Before Toyota gave the tuner crowd god’s gift to dyno pulls with the JZ’s stout bottom end, Jaguar, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes and yes even Toyota in the classic 2000GT helped elevate this engine to legendary status. There is heritage at stake here, people!
Fewer automakers use the layout today because of the shift to front-wheel-drive layouts where packaging becomes an issue. BMW has been the one holdout offering a consumer-grade version of the motor, but Mercedes is joining the fold once again because there’s no reason to abandon this layout unless you’re only interested in building short econoboxes.
Want a Supra? Buy a Z5
With the launch of the 2018 Supra, Toyota will be one car away from completing their much-anticipated revival of the 90s lineup that included the Supra, AE86 and MR2. The ’86 became an honest ‘Yoda this year, and you could point out that its legacy also includes a different engine layout, but there’s no shortage of rev-happy fours out there.
The new Supra and Z5 will use four-cylinder base engines. Upmarket buyers can expect around 400 horsepower from both premium trims. Unlike the BMW variant, the Supra will be offered as a coupe at launch, but I suspect that once the folks from BMW’s M division get a chance to work with this platform, they’re going to offer something with a hard top. Twenty years from now, that’s the car that will be celebrated as the MK IV Supra’s spiritual successor. That’s the car you want.