Recent Toyota-BMW Collaboration Will Bring Improvements To Both Companies
Making a new sports car can be risky business, but Toyota seems to have found a loophole. After seeing a good deal of success with the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ collaborative project, Toyota announced it was partnering with BMW to jointly create a duo of new hybrid performance vehicles, and thankfully, both automakers look like they will benefit from the other’s expertise.
Dubbed the “Silk Road” project, details on the new cars have been closely guarded, with only a few tidbits leaking to the general public. However, BMW is believed to be responsible for the chassis and ICE development, blessing the car with solid handling and an inline-six gasoline powerplant. Meanwhile, Toyota will take up responsibilities for the electrification and fuel-cell development, which makes sense for a company that offers models like the Prius and Mirai.
According to the Australian-based publication Motoring, the development is split into four parts: joint sports car development, fuel-cell technology, electrification technology and weight-saving technology. The platform will be derived from the 2015 BMW i8 due to its hybrid-drivetrain roots. Speculation includes the possibility of an aluminum space-frame chassis and carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) body.
It was recently confirmed that development is currently underway. Unlike the 2013-2015 Scion FR-S and 2014-2015 Subaru BRZ, which are essentially the same car with slightly different styling and badges, it’s expected that the Toyota/BMW joint collaboration will spawn two very different looking cars. The same frame-based platform will be utilized for both, but they will have different bodies.
Expect a global release sometime in 2018.
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Why it matters
Creating a new sports car through a joint venture like this is a good way to share the development costs, but it isn’t without difficulties.
If everything goes according to plan, speed lovers are sure to reap the unique benefits offered up by each automaker.
For example, it’s reported that Toyota has sent engineers to Munich to assist in the plug-in hybrid development, with extensive collaboration time required to sort out where exactly the batteries for the hybrid system will be placed in order to yield an acceptable weight distribution.
However, BMW is mostly keeping their test mule chassis under wraps, leading to frustration from Toyota’s engineers, who are no doubt eager to roll up their sleeves in applying the Japanese company’s hybrid and fuel-cell technology on a more extensive level.
Still, if everything goes according to plan, speed lovers are sure to reap the unique benefits offered up by each automaker.
For the drivetrain, the BMW Z4 successor will have several options to choose from, including a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder laying out 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 335 horsepower and more than 332 pound-feet of torque. But once blessed with Toyota’s tech, the plug-in hybrid variant (which will electrify the turbo 3.0-liter straight-six) will make a far more substantial 473 horsepower.
The Supra successor is expected to have the same turbocharged 3.0-liter powerplant in both ICE-only form and as a plug-in hybrid. As of yet, no details regarding the use of hydrogen fuel-cell technology have been released.
Expect to see a new production concept early next year.
However, you should expect glorious Bavarian sports car handling from both models, as the ICE-only variants are expected to weigh less than 1,300 kg (2,866 pounds), while the plug-in hybrids will weigh less than 1,500 kg (3,307 pounds), all thanks to engineering and weight-saving tricks no doubt informed by BMW’s experience in building the 3,455-pound i8 hybrid.
Motoring’s source says the two cars will be “about the size of a 911,” with a length less than 4,500-mm (177-inches), a width less than 1,840-mm (72-inches), and a height under 1,340-mm (53-inches). The wheelbase will be less than 2,500-mm (98-inches). At those dimensions, the cars will be smaller than both the FT-1 concept car and the previous-generation Supra, but slightly larger than the current model Z4.
As the FR-S and BRZ prove, these projects can result in some awesome automobiles, and with such iconic model names as Supra and Z4 attached to this one, greatness is definitely expected. I also really like the idea that the BMW and Toyota versions will be highly differentiated (at least in terms of the body), which should foster a bit of competition between the two when it comes to sales.
Hopefully the two automakers will play nice and get the product up and running quickly. Expect to see a new production concept early next year.
You can read our speculative review of the next Supra here.