Should BMW engines be dropped in other cars?
Rowan Horncastle: Wouldn’t you love to show these two to someone who knew absolutely zip about cars? I’m almost positive they’d think there wouldn’t be a shared chromosome between them. Look at them! With all its samurai slashes and curvaceous, complex lines, the Supra looks almost like it came from the 22nd century. Whereas your tube of toothpaste looks like it fell off the set of Downton Abbey. But there is something in common. And not just the fact they get everyone’s attention.
Stephen Dobie: The two turbos, five litres and ten cylinders of BMW power that’s unevenly distributed between them? All without a BMW badge in sight?
RH: Exactly. Some McCarthyists see this integration as utterly sinful and lazy behaviour by Toyota. To them, a Supra should be so Japanese it bleeds wasabi – so a German engine is an insult. But your Morgan is as British as an overly-buttered crumpet, yet – it seems – people have just shrugged off the newfound Germanic pacemaker. Which is ironic, given the historical tussle between the two nations has provided years of playground jokes.
SD: A lorry first reversed a crateful of BMW V8s through the Malvern gates in 2000, so the integration of a 2.0-litre 4cyl from a 1 Series into this Plus Four (and the same 6cyl as your Supra ending up in the Plus Six) has barely sent a tremor through the bottom half of the internet. It’s sent a tremor through their dynamics, though – loads of turbocharged torque with all of BMW’s electronic assistance systems binned make Morgan’s entry level car quite frisky. Which I love. I also think the chuffs and whistles of turbocharging are so weird in a car still made partially of wood, they come full circle. They’re a really entertaining part of the experience.
RH: The thing is, on the whole, the Supra’s engine is a good one. It has plenty of torque, cruises comfortably and likes to rev. OK, it’s hardly characterful like an old hefty 2JZ lump, but it is equally as tuneable. Admittedly, it never makes a properly sonorous and scintillating six-cylinder noise – more of an enthused drone. But that’s what exhaust companies are trying to fix with header and manifold trickery. At least you have a gearbox to waggle around. That’s what I really miss, and would change the Supra’s personality for the better.
SD: Let me tell you why you’re wrong. Well, probably. I specced the manual on our Mog – because I’d feel a fraud of a car lover if I didn’t – but the ‘box they’ve sourced is longer geared than a Cayman GT4’s. I’ve since tried a Plus Four with the optional 8spd auto BMW usually lashes onto this engine as standard, and it was a notably quicker, more thrilling car. Eek.
RH: Ah, that’s not the answer I wanted to hear. Excuse me while I just put my fingers in my ears "la-la-la". But I reckon it’s not the BMW engine and gearbox that makes most people throw a wobbly at the Supra, it’s the interior. It’s got the same displays, gearlever, switchgear and steering wheel as a 3 Series. Does yours?
SD: You only get German switchgear in the Morgan if you go for the auto. This manual is pleasingly short of buttons and just as simple to operate as Mogs ever were. The bits that do parachute in from elsewhere don’t offend me one bit. I’m looking out of the windscreen, not at the Peugeot wiper stalk…
RH: Ultimately do you think yours has suffered from the foreign exchange?
SD: I think it’s better for its European union. A punchy engine to liven up the chassis, and all the benefits of BMW’s arduous efficiency chasing – pop a clean little turbo in a lightweight sports car and you get 50-odd mpg on a long trip with ease. Such a grown-up thing to compliment, but I’ve got a Morgan and a moustache now. I am a grown-up.
RH: The problem is, no matter if you think it’s good or bad, this Supra will always be remembered for its corporate matrimony. What’s not helped is the GR Yaris – proof they can get it right when they go it alone.