The Toyota Supra is back. But let's have some perspective, please. Nostalgia fuels our love for the last-generation car more than its sports car bona fides. Its price was outrageous for its time, and the resulting glacial sales actually killed off the once-booming Supra franchise (it sold a tenth of what its predecessor did). Since then, it's been lionized in popular films and video games, but when the 2020 Toyota GR Supra reaches showrooms on July 22, generations of fans will find a mature, Nürburgring-capable sports car, not the Tokyo-style street racer of yore.
The partnership that birthed the 2020 Supra coupe and BMW Z4 convertible makes the Bimmer the intriguing point-of-comparison, not a wholly unrelated Toyota that died more than 20 years ago. With all respect to the car's loyal tuner crowd, Toyota's job is to sell Supras, not to do fanservice to grown-up tuners or trade in nostalgia. Without BMW engineering and components, for which Toyota ponied up development cash, this Supra wouldn't exist. Nor would the Z4.
That's a win-win for anyone who'd like to see sports cars survive. As it happens, I'm almost assuredly the first auto journalist to have tested production versions of the Toyota and BMW back-to-back: I drove a Z4 down from New York for the Supra's first media drive at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia.
For sports cars that share so many genes, they couldn't feel more different. The rightness of BMW's and Toyota's strategy, developing these cars separately using the same mechanicals, practically blows my mind when I jump from the BMW into the Toyota and back again – and it should impress anyone who does the same. When compared to the soft-top BMW that feels richer and more grown-up with heftier responses, the hardtop Supra looks and acts like a frisky, tuner-friendly Toyota – a fact that will immediately divide many enthusiasts into one camp or the other. The easy cop-out would be to say that the Supra and Z4 are different cars for different buyers, and that's true. But since I drove them both, forget cop-outs: Let's tease out those differences.