Which is why the new Supra uses BMW power.
Ever since the 2020 GR Supra was first announced, and even in the speculation period leading up to the reveal, an angry sub-section of the internet has complained about how the car is not powered by a Toyota engine. Since the Supra was co-developed with BMW and rides on the same platform as the new Z4, it uses a BMW-sourced turbocharged inline-six.
Toyota hosted journalists to drive the new Supra for the first time this week, and during a dinner conversation with the Tetsuya Tada, the Supra’s chief engineer and Toyota’s performance boss, Jalopnik asked some very important questions about why the Supra uses BMW power instead of an in-house engine.
Toyota knew from the onset that the new Supra, like its predecessors, needed to have an inline-six engine. But since Toyota doesn't currently build an inline-six, it had to go somewhere else. "It wasn’t a matter of lowering costs,” Tada said. "The Supra had to have an inline-six. BMW had a good inline-six.” Tada explained that for Toyota to build its own in-house inline-six engine, it would have required "another factory" and asked, "how realistic would that be?”
Toyota simply didn't see enough future potential for an inline-six in other vehicles. "Aside from the Supra, there aren’t too many cars in existence now where an inline-six would be better than the engines we’ve already built,” he said. "In the past, lots of automakers had straight sixes. You should know exactly why. It’s a very difficult engine to package. You lose space for the driver and the passenger.” That's why this new Supra lacks a back seat - because it would have been too difficult to package.
When the 86 was co-developed with Subaru, Toyota made a similar packaging decision to use a boxer engine. "Everyone thinks it was for a low center of gravity, but that’s not true,” Tada explained. "We always wanted [the 86] to be a two plus two. And Boxer engines are very short."
Developing a brand-new engine for the Supra would have also translated to a much more expensive vehicle with a longer development period. $50,920 isn't cheap but it is relatively affordable. If Toyota made its own engine, the Supra would have taken two or three more years to develop and the price would have been over $100,000. "To make the car so expensive would defeat the purpose of a Toyota sports car,” Tada said. "That’s why it doesn’t use exotic materials like carbon fiber.”