BMW and Toyota JV creates Z4 replacement
Back in December, we drew some attention to a joint venture between BMW and Toyota. The partnership would combine the technical knowledge of the two companies, with the goal of producing a series of new engines and platforms.
In December, the first of these rolling technical collaborations resulted in the unexciting Toyota Verso, which received a small-capacity BMW diesel engine.
Back then we also speculated about the identity of a rumoured sports car to be co-developed by the two marques. Toyota had space to move because the 86 was priced aggressively enough to constitute the ‘bottom end’ of its market, but BMW had to worry about the Z4, a car that has been creeping up in price.
These questions have now been answered, with BMW confirming that it will build a
full-on replacement for the Z4, while Toyota will try to create a modern-day Supra, by jointly developing a sports car.
Slicing through all the nostalgia, the most exciting aspect of the new cars is that they will be hybrids. But don’t expect a repurposed Prius, because BMW and Toyota have no intention of using even a single battery pack.
Instead of trying to store energy for long periods of time, and burdening the car with heavy lithium-ion battery packs, the sports cars will use a technology Toyota used for its Le Mans cars: supercapacitors.
These pieces of tech can rapidly store and release kinetic energy (perfect for brake recovery systems such as KERS) but weigh less than traditional batteries. The technology was also at the heart of the Toyota Yaris Hybrid R, which had a combined output of 309 kW.
From what we understand, a 2,0-litre BMW direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine will sit in the front of the car, and will power the front wheels, while the supercapacitors and electric motors will be linked up to the rear, giving the platform pseudo all-wheel drive capabilities.
BMW will also employ the knowledge it gained from building the i3 and i8 to the structural parts of the platform. The plan is to use a mixture of high-strength steel and carbon fibre for the chassis, while the exterior will be formed from carbon fibre-reinforced plastic.
Although both cars will sit on the exact same platform, they will be fitted with unique exterior and interior styling traits.
The news that this project will take over the Z4 nameplate is a bit of a shocker. The Z4 has been a very successful car for BMW, and it has the added bonus of acting as an aspirational model within the brand. It is therefore quite unusual for something as radical as an all-wheel drive hybrid with Toyota input to wear an established moniker such as this.
From Toyota’s side, the Supra badge holds more than just a few links to the first The Fast and The Furious movie. It is also Toyota’s last chance to show that it has what it takes to build a fast and exciting car. The 86 might be fun, but it is no Supra, a car that went toe to toe with Nissan’s R34 Skyline GT-R and frequently broke the 500 kW mark with aftermarket tuning.
But, with the amount of brand capital now invested in this joint venture, we are getting very excited. If this was a poker game, it would be akin to BMW and Toyota going “All In”, except that if they pull it off, we all win.