Photo: Toyota

You may think that Toyota and BMW worked incredibly closely on the new Supra and Z4, collaborating daily if not hourly to jointly ensure their sports car project would be a success for all. Except if you did, you’d be wrong!

CNET Roadshow editor Tim Stevens was at the prototype drive like we were, and there he caught a very interesting tidbit of information from the Supra’s Assistant Chief Engineer Masayuki Kai. Kai said that not only did the two car companies not work together in development, they actually haven’t spoken at all about it since 2014—two years after the project was greenlit.

It seems that Toyota and BMW agreed on sizing and the mechanicals for the (almost entirely BMW-based) sports car, then went their separate ways for development:

“We agreed on the packaging,” Kai said, “like where is the hip-point of the driver, what’s the wheelbase, the width, where’s the fuel tank, where’s the A-pillar, this was around the middle of 2014... After that we completely separated our team. After that, no communication with each other.”

How complete was the communication black-out? Kai doesn’t even know how much of the shared components developed for both Toyota Supra and BMW Z4will actually be in the Z4. “Basically, the platform is the same... so we assume that we are using the same components, but as I mentioned, we are not sure that they will use the same components.”

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At the same time, we have seen the two prototypes testing together, but even from that it’s difficult to say just how directly and frequently the two companies communicated with one another.

But Kai says he didn’t even know how the Z4 drives, demurring to the reporters there who may have tried it. So it’s more like mom and dad lived in the same house for a bit, but are since seeing new people even though they love the kids (the Z4 and Supra) very much and sometimes people are better off apart, you know? Life doesn’t always move in a straight line, and all that.

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Anyway! Our drive of the prototype revealed lot more BMW than Toyota, right down to the iDrive-style controls and that inline-six engine noise, as we’ve all suspected. But tuning and development is an extremely complicated process that affects everything from engine and gearbox response to steering, ride and handling.

While it’s unlikely the Z4 and Supra will be radically different from one another—I honestly don’t think you could tell much difference between a BRZ and an 86 even if you drove them back to back, for example—it will be interesting to see what these two companies have come up with using the same hardware as a starting point.

I eagerly await the comparison tests, to say nothing of more interesting battles like the Supra against the BMW M2.

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