Toyota Supra product planner interview at NAIAS

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After Toyota unveiled its long-awaited 2020 Supra at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, we made our way onstage to take a closer look and ask a couple of questions about the car. First and foremost, we had hoped to figure out how the Supra, though with less power than the BMW Z4 from which it borrows its engine, managed a faster stated 0-60 time than the Bimmer. We found Ben Haushalter, Toyota’s senior manager of planning, who was willing to yield to our inquiries — even if, in the meantime, BMW adjusted its own 0-60 time for the 3.0-liter Z4, to be quicker (on paper at least) than the , making our original question somewhat moot.

The first thing we asked was why the Supra was down on power from the Z4.

Ben Haushalter: So when we developed the car, we weren’t necessarily putting both vehicles together, from a development standpoint. We developed the [Supra] from a holistic perspective, so that the engine is balanced to the chassis, and vice versa. We feel right now that the 335 [horsepower] and 365 pound-feet of torque is quite good for what the car is from a power-to-weight ratio, from 0-60 acceleration standpoint. It’s very balanced. It’s a sports car methodology that we share with 86. The engine and chassis are in harmony with each other, and that development methodology is shared by the same Chief Engineer [Tetsuya Tada] between both cars.

John Beltz Snyder: Was it purposefully detuned to fit better with the —

BH: To fit better. It’s not purposefully detuned. 335 is kind of the sweet spot right now with how the car handles.

JBS: Is it geared differently than the BMW, too?

BH: No it’s — we don’t know the details on BMW’s final gearing, so I can’t comment on that.

JBS: Can you tell me a little more about the gearbox that’s in this car?

BH: It’s a ZF eight-speed automatic, 8HP, that’s common throughout the industry.

JBS: What did you do to save weight in this car?

BH: There’s a lot of technology involved in weight savings. A lot of aluminum. The hood, front doors, both the inner and outer structure are aluminum. The whole front suspension is built out of aluminum, the control arms, the knuckle. The engine cradle is aluminum as well as a large cross-body shear panel on the front of the car is all aluminum. The rear hatch on the back of the car is actually a composite — polypropylene and glass fiber material. Numerous body braces around the car are all aluminum as well.

JBS: Is there anything else about the car’s development — like, I know you strove for a 50:50 weight balance.

BH: Yep. Achieved that.

JBS: How did you get there?

BH: The engine placement in the car, there’s a little bit of a story there. In the original packaging layout, the engine was about four millimeters further forward than it is now, and we weren’t hitting that perfect 50:50 weight distribution. So late in the development of the program, we actually moved the engine back to get to that 50:50 split that was really important from a handling and balance standpoint. As well as in the choice of the materials for the suspension. So the front is all aluminum, for light weight, and the rear actually has more steel in it to balance out the mass throughout the car.

JBS: What’s next for the Supra, is there [both laughing] — I know you can’t talk about —

BH: Future product, we can’t comment on — standard comment — but rest assured, lifecycle management will be a big part of this vehicle program.

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