Toyota finally let the media have at its new Supra 3.0 with a manual transmission. It’s the first time the new A91-generation Supra is being offered with a manual transmission and it’s currently the only one of the Supra/BMW Z4 twins to have a manual, though the Z4 should be getting a manual soon enough. But that actually got me thinking about the Supra and Z4. And that addition of a manual transmission might just make both cars worthy competitors for the Porsche Cayman and Boxster.
Since I’ve worked for BMWBLOG, I’ve written countless articles comparing various BMWs to the Boxster/Cayman twins. Every time I write about such a topic, the Porsches are always deemed better and, at least with this current Z4 and Supra (which is essentially just a Z4 Coupe). There were always several reasons why but one of which was that the Porsches offered manual transmissions while the BMWs (and Toyota) don’t. Another reason is that the Boxster and Cayman are bespoke sports cars, built from the ground up to be sports cars. Most BMWs are built on shared architectures that underpin everything from family sedans to SUVs.
The BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra were both designed and built together, on the same modified CLAR chassis, which is the closest thing to a bespoke sports car chassis as you’re gonna get from BMW. Only the Z4 and Supra are built on that version of CLAR, which is has a shorter wheelbase than every other CLAR-based car, it’s lower, stiffer, and only sports two seats. If the Z4’s modified CLAR architecture is the closest we’re going to get to a proper sports car chassis, at least for a long time, it’s also the closest we’re going to get to a proper Boxster. And, if the Supra is just the hard-top version, it’s the closest we’re going to get to a Porsche Cayman competitor.
So in a way, the BMW Z4 and Toyota Supra are essentially BMW’s (and Toyota’s) answer to the best sports cars in the segment. However, none of that matters if the cars aren’t good enough to compete with the Porsches. So, with their sporty chassis and newfound manual transmissions, will they be able to genuinely compete with the spectacular Cayman and Boxster? Honestly, no. The Boxster is a far superior driver’s car than the Z4 and the Cayman will eat a Supra’s lunch. However, that doesn’t mean Zupra twins aren’t worth buying. In fact, they’re excellent in their own ways.
The BMW Z4 is a little hot-rod of a convertible. Its stonking 382 horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six engine, short wheelbase, and rear-wheel drive make it a hilariously overpowered, raucous roadster. And it’s only going to get better with a manual. While the Supra is a surprisingly capable, sharp sports car with a traditional front-engine, rear-drive handling balance. It also looks spectacular. Now that the Supra also comes with a manual (and the Z4 will as well), it can provide the driver thrills necessary for a sports car in its price point.
While neither car can out-Porsche Porsche, they both offer interesting alternatives for similar money and now (and eventually in the case of the Z4) offer manual transmissions to increase driver involvement.