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A hallowed nameplate, a sports car niche under siege, and a collaboration between two storied automakers unavoidably makes for one controversial vehicle.
Created seemingly through the sheer willpower of enigmatic Toyota frontman, Akio Toyoda, the new Supra is part of an effort to right a misguided ship, with Mr Toyoda promising to make the Japanese juggernaut fun again.
Of course, at such an absurdly large zaibatsu the bean counters always win, so instead of developing its own inline-six engine and all-new sports car architecture, Toyota chose to split development costs with BMW, allowing the Deutsche automaker the scope to produce another Z4.
After what felt like the longest, most excruciating teaser program in the history of car teasers, it arrived here in late 2019, and is even freshly updated for its second model year with even more power. Is it as deserving of legend status as all those elements would suggest? Let’s take a look.
|Toyota Supra 2021: GT|
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The weirdest thing about the BMW Toyota tie up for the end consumer is the Supra doesn’t share any familiar tech or spec items from the rest of Toyota’s range.
The inside is clad entirely in BMW electronics and switchgear, with Toyota providing a steering wheel, some different (but still synthetic leather bound) seats and… well… that’s about it, really.
Our car is the lower of the two available trim levels, the GT, wearing a not-very-Toyota price tag of $84,536, before on-road costs. And look, I know nobody is buying a Toyota Supra because of its value proposition, but maybe they should be, because it’s worth noting: to hop into an equivalent inline-six BMW Z4 you’ll need to part with $129,900 (MSRP) for the M40i.
The Supra also provides an experience in league with other coupe toys like the Jaguar F-Type (V6 - $172,735), Porsche 718 Cayman ($115,543), perhaps even Renault’s Alpine A110 (Pure $98,388), and Ford’s Mustang (GT - $66,690) which is more a muscular cruiser than these smaller corner carvers.
Then there’s the perhaps more direct competitor, the Z34 Nissan 370Z which I think we can all agree is a little past its prime. It can be had with a manual, though, and with an MSRP of $63,490 for an equivalent spec it’s at least worth reminding you that it exists.
Do you see what I mean, when it comes to the Supra though? It might be an expensive Toyota, but in context of its niche, it’s surprisingly good value. Certainly, it’s a more attainable re-birth of a Japanese domestic market performance icon than the R35 Nissan GT-R or NC1 Honda NSX managed to be.
Back to the spec front, and our base GT scores an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen running BMW’s 'iDrive' software. It has built-in navigation, but unlike cars in overseas markets, annoyingly misses out on Apple CarPlay (something I only figured out after hours of trying to connect my phone in vein), a 10-speaker audio system (not very good), and a 8.8-inch digital instrument cluster (cool, but not very customisable), an auto-dimming rear vision mirror, dual-zone climate control, carbon-look interior trim, and power adjustable seats with (rare) side bolster adjustment.
On the outside there’s full LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, heated and folding wing mirrors, and dual stainless-steel tailpipes.
Performance-wise the Supra scores adaptive suspension, variable ratio steering, paddle shifters, an active limited slip differential, and Michelin performance rubber.
What do you miss out on by choosing the lesser GT? Just a head-up display, larger 19-inch alloys, alloy sports pedals, larger rear brakes (with red calipers all-around), and a premium audio system.
All-in-all then, not a bad package for a sports machine. The missing phone connectivity, which is probably something to do with BMW wanting to offer it as a paid option, is particularly grating when parting with this much cash, but thankfully the safety suite is pretty good. We’ll get into that later.
I know there’s a camp of people who don’t like the swoopy, curvaceous design of Toyota’s new performance flagship, but to those people I say: wait until you see it up close before dismissing it.
It really is a sight to behold. There’s so much about it that is unexpected. What took me aback is how small it is. Its elongated snout and slinky beltline may make it look large in pictures, but in real life you get a sense of how close to the 86 it is.
It’s no trick of the light either, the Supra is only slightly longer and wider than the 86 but has an even tighter wheelbase. Eyebrow raising considering its much larger engine.
We’ll get into that later but suffice to say the controversial bodywork won over friends, family, and even random punters who stopped me to chat about it.
All agreed the new Supra looks miles better in the metal than it does in pictures. It was even refreshing to see it in this particular blue hue, as most of the hero examples are grey or red.
If nothing else the Supra’s commitment to the jet-fighter design, complete with contrasting underbody spoilers, LeMans-style lower brake light cluster, and odd little plastic cutaways on the bonnet and door frames all set this car well apart from its rivals.
It is as a Supra should be. A performance car statement. A distinctive silhouette to be loved by its fans and derided by rivals.
Inside, and things get decidedly less… Toyota. Little effort has been taken to cover up the BMW interior fittings, things like switchgear, dash materials, multimedia suite, and even the push-start ignition will all be familiar if you’ve helmed a recent Bimmer.
One benefit of all this BMW-ness is that the cabin construction is a bit more that of an organic European sports machine than the occasionally sterile by-the-numbers approach taken by Japanese manufacturers.
The Supra isn’t without its own interior flair, though. The dash cluster has been re-worked from a BMW unit to one that suits the Supra’s exterior design better, with darkened sections, and a blend of digital and physical elements that contributes to the immersion this car provides.
We can assume Supra customers don’t necessarily care about value, but it’s almost guaranteed that they don’t care about practicality.
Unlike the smaller 86, the Supra has no rear seats, and it’s also light on cabin storage, with two bottle holders in the centre (which have to double as phone holders), a shallow wireless phone charging bay under the climate unit, tiny binnacles in the doors, a tiny glove box, and that’s literally all there is.
This is particularly surprising, as I even awarded the Z4 points for being surprisingly practical for a two-seat coupe. Looking back at that car, it’s frustrating to see the BMW’s huge centre console box, hidden rear shelf, and abundance of headroom have all been removed to make way for the Supra’s outlandish design.
There are other things, too. Getting in and out of the Supra is a pain. Have you seen that aggressive roofline? There’s just no graceful way to do it, much less so if you have limited space to open the doors in, say, a unit complex, or multi-story car park.
Then there are some small design flaws that a normal Toyota would never be plagued by. A particularly annoying one is when it rains, opening the bootlid causes a bucket load of water to run off its sides and into the boot itself. Nice.
The boot is not huge, but still larger than the Z4's, at 296 litres, about on-par with a small hatchback. It’s awkwardly shaped, though, with a small loading aperture and much of the available volume hidden underneath the bodywork to either side.
It’s usable, but certainly not for larger luggage items, and might require extra organisation for smaller ones.
Toyoda-san said the BMW tie up was necessary to gain access to an in-line-six cylinder engine, a core part of any Supra’s DNA.
A far cry from Toyota designed-and-built in-line sixes from days past (the cult of the previous Supra’s 2JZ engine will always cloud this nameplate) the BMW-sourced B58 engine is still regarded as one of the best straight-sixes money can buy.
For the 2021 model year, Toyota has bumped the power from 250kW to 285kW while maintaining 500Nm of peak torque (available in a wide band between 1800-5000rpm).
Naturally, the Supra drives its rear wheels via an (again, BMW-sourced) eight-speed (traditional torque converter) automatic and has an active limited-slip differential as standard – you’ll need to rely on this for certain behaviours associated with this nameplate reserved for track days, as this new Supra only has an electronic handbrake.
It’s a lot of engine for a very small car, and the 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in just 4.1 seconds now, according to Toyota.
If you’re in the market for a two-seat sports coupe fuel economy is unlikely to sit at the top of your priority list, but we’re here to give you a complete view of the car anyway, so here goes.
The Supra’s official combined cycle consumption number is as low as 7.7L/100km, but if you drive the car the way it's likely to be driven, you’ll score significantly higher.
How much higher will depend on how much stop-start traffic is in your world, but in my week of smile-inducing, accelerator squeezing action the test car returned a rather disturbing fuel figure of 18.7L/100km.
Not anywhere near the claimed figure is it? My colleagues have all done much better than that, and I’d challenge you to try to get close to the claim, but if you’re driving one of these it would just rob you of the intended experience.
While Toyota points out the Supra is technically capable of running on base-grade 91RON unleaded petrol, it still recommends mid-shelf 95 for optimal performance. The Supra has a 52-litre fuel tank.
Now to the good stuff. The Supra’s purpose for existence. It better deliver, right?
It does. This is a dedicated driver’s car, which is totally engrossing behind the wheel. The rare kind of machine that can behave as an extension of the driver’s body.
All that BMW stuff, the weirdness of this Supra’s body and interior fittings melt away, as it becomes you, the texture of the road, and the sweet, rich aural treacle of an inline-six engine on-song.
Some may scoff at the 285kW/500Nm engine output, but in something this small I think it’s the correct size and output to keep everything under control.
Indeed, the Supra boasts a 50/50 weight distribution which is no mean feat considering how front-loaded a tiny frame like this could be.
Part of the brilliance of the B58 engine, too, is how much effort BMW has invested in order to make power delivery gloriously linear. This car predictably rides up the revs, with a strong, almost naturally-aspirated feel.
The turbo surge gradually winds up as you let the gears ride out. It’s rare to even hear the turbo, with the only occasional reminder being a distant release of air as the gears kick up.
It doesn’t quite have the sledgehammer performance some rivals might offer, but that’s not what this car is about. It's so clearly about the corners.
The steering ratio is absurdly tight, causing this little coupe to turn on its axis with ease. Once you become accustomed to such an instantaneous reaction S-bends and even hairpins become a joy to navigate. Even just sitting in this car makes you long for your nearest back country road.
There’s a constant air of European refinement about the Supra, too. While its adaptive dampers are brilliant in the corners, they are also surprisingly forgiving over every day suburban bumps.
This car is miles better for daily driving than the sheer brittle brutality of an 86 or 370Z, for example.
It’s not without its flaws though. While it does add a bit of comfort to the every-day, exiting a corner with a few corrugations or bumps can have the car jiggling about as the dampers try and stabilise everything. Sport mode can help tighten this up, but of course has the cost of making it much harsher.
And yes, this car would be unreal with a manual transmission. A prototype is said to exist, but the eight-speed automatic is fast, slick and everything this car needs.
The gear ratios are so tight that shifting all the way down to second is a rarity, but they still open up that opportunity to ride the rev range out in more scenarios.
That rear differential works absolute magic to keep this car’s power under control out of the corners, but again, the chassis is so communicative it’s not exactly hard to feel what the rear tyres are doing.
The only thing that’s a little disappointing is that the paddle shift mode needs some sandpapering. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, and I’m absolutely glad the car has it, but it will sometimes throw a half second delay in the mix. It can be just enough to make for an immersion breaking moment.
What’s it like when you’re not squeezing joy out of a back road? Naturally, there are a few compromises. It’s low so you’ll want to watch your clearance on speedbumps and ramps, and the limited visibility over its elongated nose and the rear wheel arches can make parking a bit of a chore.
This car also has some squeaks emanating from the roof in a very un-Toyota-like fashion, a reminder of its convertible underpinnings, and the BMW multimedia screen seems a bit dull during the day, even with the brightness turned all the way up.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
Safety hasn’t been forgotten in the Supra, despite its purpose-built sporty nature.
On the active front is auto emergency braking which works at freeway speeds with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, and a rather advanced stability control program with active cornering assist, brake standby, as well as track-focused fade and drying functions.
The Supra does not have an ANCAP safety rating as it hasn’t been independently tested, but does also score a suite of seven airbags (front, side, curtain, and driver’s knee), hill start assist, pop-up bonnet, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
It’s probably worth noting at this point that the Supra isn’t actually built by BMW or Toyota. It’s built in Graz, Austria by a company called Magna Steyr.
As it turns out, all it takes for a BMW to be affordable to own is another company’s badge on the front.
Excuse my cynicism, but with all BMW running gear, the fact that the Supra is covered by Toyota’s competitive five year and unlimited kilometre warranty, as well as services fixed for the first five years at $385 per annual visit is great.
At least, it is when you consider the equivalent Z4 is still covered by a three year warranty, and if you want a comprehensive service program, the Bimmer will set you back up to $786.80 per year.
Part BMW, part Toyota, all a masterclass in corner-carving fun, the new Supra is not the car fans were asking for, but perhaps the one they should have wanted all along.
It comes with its share of sports car compromise, but the feeling this car leaves you with when rolling back into a far-flung suburbia with hot brakes and a smile on your face is the one all car enthusiasts dream about.
|GT||3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$87,126||2021 Toyota Supra 2021 GT Pricing and Specs|
|GTS||3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$97,126||2021 Toyota Supra 2021 GTS Pricing and Specs|
|GTS +alcant Seats +matte Paint||3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$102,126||2021 Toyota Supra 2021 GTS +alcant Seats +matte Paint Pricing and Specs|
|GTS +alcantara Seats||3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$99,626||2021 Toyota Supra 2021 GTS +alcantara Seats Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||9|
|Engine & trans||10|