Toyota Supra VS Alfa Romeo 4C
- Modest cabin storage
- Firm ride
Alfa Romeo 4C
- Startling performance
- Superbly in tune with the road
- Addictive to drive
- Lacking gear
- Rich servicing costs
It's been 26 years since the Toyota Supra was last (officially) on sale in Australia, and thanks to a joint venture with BMW, that's also produced a new Z4 Roadster, it's back in fifth generation (A90) form.
Produced at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, this car launches the GR brand in Australia. Its formal name is the Toyota GR Supra. GR stands for Gazoo Racing, an initiative of Toyota president Akio Toyoda, now representing Toyota motorsport here and overseas, from World Endurance sports car racing to the world rally championship, long-distance rally raids, and heaps more.
Toyota invited us to the mega Phillip Island race circuit and the twisting roads around Victoria's South Gippsland for a first local drive.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Alfa Romeo 4C
Nothing could’ve better prepared me for my drive in the 2019 Alfa Romeo 4C than a trip to Sydney’s Luna Park.
There’s a rollercoaster there called Wild Mouse - an old-school, single carriage coaster with no loop-the-loops, no high-tech trickery, and with each ride limited to just with two seats apiece.
The Wild Mouse throws you around with very little regard for your comfort, gently impinging your fear factor by making you consider the physics of what is happening underneath your backside.
It’s an unbridled adrenaline rush, and genuinely scary at times. You get off the ride thinking to yourself, “how the hell did I survive that?”.
The same can be said with this Italian sports car. It’s blisteringly quick, it’s superbly agile, it handles like it has rails attached to its underbody, and it could potentially do brown things to your underpants.
|Engine Type||1.7L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
A price close to a hundred kay is not to be sneezed at, but the A90 Supra delivers performance and dynamics to challenge sports cars costing twice as much. And if it was our money, we'd live without the extras and opt for the GT.
This fifth-gen car is an uncomplicated drive, and I mean that in the best possible way. Forgiving, fast, and huge fun. Toyota's push to build more excitement into its global product range is really building momentum now.
Is this new Supra on your sports car radar? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Alfa Romeo 4C7.1/10
People might wonder if there’s a reason to buy an Alfa Romeo 4C. It has some great dollar-for-dollar competitors - the Alpine A110 does most of the things the Alfa does, but in a more polished way. And then there’s the Porsche 718 Cayman, which is a considerably more, well, considered option.
But there is no doubt the 4C stands alone, a sort-of cut-price alternative to a Maserati or Ferrari, and nearly as rare to spot on the road as those cars, too. And just like the rollercoaster at Luna Park, it’s the sort of car that’ll leave you wanting another go.
Would you take the 4C over a Alpine A110? Let us know in the comments.
With bulges and curves everywhere, the new Supra's distinctive exterior tips its hat to the iconic Toyota 2000GT of the late 1960s with its 'double bubble' roof, long bonnet and short cabin, as well as the previous A80 Supra that's been such a hit in the grey market here, but was never officially imported by Toyota Australia.
The design has so far polarised opinion, but in the metal, it definitely has presence, and believe it or not the wheelbase is 100mm shorter than the 2+2 86's, and with a wider track it's muscular stance is no surprise.
In every other key measure the 86's more powerful stablemate is larger, at 4240mm long (+139mm), 1775mm wide (+79mm), and 1292mm tall (+7mm). Toyota says it normally sets a minimum ground clearance guideline of 130mm, but to get the Supra's centre-of-gravity as low as possible sat the Supra at 119mm.
Stand-out elements are the evil LED headlights, rising and rounded front guards, that double bubble roof, curvaceous hind quarters and pronounced rear spoiler (with echoes of a Porsche 911 'ducktail').
Kind of disappointing to see what appear to be inlet and exhaust vents on top of the front guards and in front of the rear wheelarches are filled with black plastic blanks, but trust me, you're never going to miss an A90 Supra.
Seven standard colours are available, named after iconic racetracks (if you don't like them blame the Toyota Australia employees who came up with them) – 'Fuji White', 'Suzuka Silver', 'Goodwood Grey', 'Monza Red', 'Silverstone Yellow', 'Le Mans Blue', 'Bathurst Black' and the optional 'Nurburg Matte Grey' (available on GTS only).
Inside, an asymmetric centre console sets up a classic cockpit style interior, and the digital instrument layout is exactly what you want in a performance-focused coupe – digital speedo on the left and vibrant rev counter at the straight ahead. An 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen sits proud of the dash above the ventilation stack.
The grippy sports seats look and feel great, and the leather sports steering wheel sits on the slightly slimmer side of chunky.
Liberal use of glossy 'carbon fibre-look' trim on the console actually looks good, and the instantly recognisable gearshift is one of several pieces of BMW hardware on the inside. A clear as crystal BMW build sticker inside the driver's door aperture is another giveaway.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
Slap a Ferrari badge on it, and people would think it was the real deal - a pint-sized performance hustler, with all the right angles to get plenty of glances.
In fact, I had dozens of punters nod, wave, mount ‘nice car mate’ and even a few rubber-neck moments - you know, when you drive past and someone on the footpath can’t help but forget they’re walking, and they stare so hard they might well collide with the upcoming lamp-post.
It really is a head-turner. So why does it only get an 8/10? Well, there are some elements of the design that make it less user-friendly than some of its rivals.
For instance, the step-in to the cabin is enormous, because the carbon-fibre tub sills are huge. And the cabin itself is pretty tight, especially for taller people. An Alpine A110 or Porsche Boxster are much more amenable for day-to-day driving… but hey, the 4C is markedly better than, say, a Lotus Elise for ingress and egress.
Also, as smart as it still looks, there are elements of Alfa Romeo design that have moved on since the 4C launched back in 2015. The headlights are the bit that I dislike most - I had a real thing for the spider-eyes lights of the launch edition model.
But even if it isn’t unmistakably Alfa Romeo, it’s unmistakably a 4C.
Strictly a two-seater, the Supra offers plenty of space for its occupants, but storage space is modest.
There's a small oddments tray in from of the gearshift which incorporates a wireless phone charging pad, as well as a USB port and 12-volt outlet. There are pockets in the doors, but they're small (forget bottles), a slim glove box is better than none and there are two decent size cupholders between the seats. The cupholders sit in what looks like it should be a lidded storage box, but it doesn't budge one millimetre.
The boot space looks bigger than Toyota's stated 290-litre (VDA) volume and includes a netted storage space behind the passenger side wheel tub, four tie-down anchors, plus a 12-volt socket and an elasticised retainer strap on the driver's side. There's no cargo separator between the boot area and the cabin, so you can squeeze a bit more stuff in behind the seats.
Don't bother looking for a spare of any description, a repair/inflator kit is your only option in the event of a flat.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
You can’t get into a car this small and expect a lot of space.
The dimensions of the 4C are tiny - it’s just 3989mm long, 1868mm wide and only 1185mm tall, and as you can see from the pictures, it’s a squat little thing. The Spider’s removable roof could be great for you if you’re tall.
I’m six-feet tall (182cm) and I found it to be cocoon-like in the cabin. You feel almost as though you’re tying yourself to the tub of the car when you get into the driver’s seat. And getting in and out? Just make sure you do some stretches beforehand. It’s not as bad as a Lotus for ingress and egress, but it’s still hard to look good clambering in and out of.
The cabin is a cramped space. There’s limited head room and leg room, and while there is reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, the seat only has manual slide and backrest movement - no lumbar adjust, no height adjust… almost like a racing bucket. They’re hard like a race seat, too.
The ergonomics aren’t terrific - the controls for the air-con are hard to see at a glance, the buttons for the gear select take some learning, and the two centrally-mounted cup holders (one for your double-shot mocha latte, the other for a hazelnut piccolo) are inconveniently positioned exactly where you might want to put your elbow.
The media system is rubbish. It’d be the first thing to go, if I bought one of these, and in its place would be an aftermarket touchscreen which would: a) actually let you pair to Bluetooth; b) look like it was from sometime after 2004; and c) be more fitting for a car of this price tag. I’d upgrade the speakers, too, because they’re poor. But I can totally understand if those things don’t matter, because it’s the engine you want to hear.
The materials - aside from the red leather seats - aren’t great. The plastics used are similar in look and feel to what you find in second-hand Fiats, but the sheer volume of exposed carbon-fibre does help you forget those details. And the leather pull straps to close the doors are nice, too.
The visibility from the driver’s seat is decent - for this type of car. It’s low, and the rear window is small, so you can’t expect to see everything around you at all times, but the mirrors are good and the forward vision is excellent.
Price and features
In Australia, the Supra's offered in entry-level GT trim, priced at $84,900 plus on-road costs, and the GTS is a $10K step up at $94,900.
That puts you in the same band as cars like the Audi S5 Coupe ($104,400), Audi TT 2.0 TFSI quattro ($88,055) and S version ($101,855), as well as the ferocious BMW M2 Competition Pure ($99,900). But tellingly, even the top-spec GTS significantly undercuts the BMW Z4 M40i ($124,900), which some will read as a blue and white propeller badge with a $30K price tag.
Of course, the Supra's key focus is dynamic performance, but both grades are comprehensively equipped, the GT's standard features list including: 'leather-accented', heated and eight-way power-adjustable sports seats, a leather-accented sports steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, an 8.8-inch multimedia touchscreen (managing the 10-speaker audio system - including digital radio - sat nav, ventilation, and more), keyless entry and start, auto LED headlights, LED tail-lights and DRLs, rear LED fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch machined alloy wheels, an 8.8-inch 'Multi Information' digital instrument display, plus heated and folding electric exterior mirrors.
The GTS adds bigger brakes (with racy red calipers), plus one inch on the rims up to 19-inch forged alloys, a head-up display, premium JBL 'Surround Sound' 12-speaker audio, and brushed metal 'sports' covers on the pedals.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
Look, no-one considering an Italian sports car is likely to be wearing their common sense hat, but even so, the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is an indulgent purchase.
With a list price of $99,000 plus on-road costs, it isn’t affordable. Not considering what you get for your money.
Standard inclusions consist of air conditioning, remote central locking, heated electric door mirrors, leather sports seats with manual adjustment, a leather-lined steering wheel, and a four-speaker stereo system with USB connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. It’s not a touchscreen, so there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and there’s no sat nav… but the thing about this car is going the fun way home, so forget maps and GPS. And there’s a digital instrument cluster with a digital speedometer - believe me, you’ll need it.
The standard wheels are a staggered set - 17-inch at the front and 18-inch at the rear. All 4C models have bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights and dual exhaust tips.
Of course, being the Spider model, you also get a removable soft top and you know what’s neat? You get a car cover included as standard, but you’d want to put it in the shed, as it takes up a bit of boot room!
Our car was even further up the pay scale, with an as-tested price of $118,000 before on-roads - it had a few option boxes ticked.
First there’s that beautiful Basalt Grey metallic paint ($2000), and those contrasting red brake calipers ($1000).
Plus there’s the Carbon & Leather package - with carbon-fibre mirror caps, interior bezels, and a stitched leather instrument cover panel. It’s a $4000 option.
And finally, the Racing Package ($12,000), which includes a staggered set of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels with a dark paint finish, and those wheels are fitted with model specific Pirelli P Zero tyres (205/40/18 up front, 235/35/19 at the rear). Plus theres the sports racing exhaust system, which is awesome, and a racing suspension setup.
Engine & trans
The all-alloy (B58C30O1) unit is a closed deck design featuring a single twin-scroll turbo, water-to-air intercooler, direct injection, plus variable valve timing and lift.
Maximum power is 250kW, available between 5000-6000rpm, and peak torque of 500Nm is delivered across a broad plateau from just 1600rpm all the way to 4500rpm.
Despite loud calls for a manual gearbox, Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada so far hasn't incorporated a three-pedal version. Although, Tada-san is determined to keep the updates and upgrades coming, so you never know what's possible down the track.
The eight-speed auto is a close-ratio unit, overdriven on the top two gears, sending drive to the rear wheels via an active diff able to adjust from zero to 100 per cent lock-up. Sequential manual changes are available through the central shifter or wheel-mounted paddles.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
The Alfa Romeo 4C is powered by a 1.7-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 177kW of power at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque from 2200-4250rpm.
The motor is mounted amidships, and it is rear-wheel drive. It uses a six-speed dual-clutch (TCT) automatic with launch control.
Alfa Romeo claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.5 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest cars at this price point.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.7L/100km, the Supra emitting 177g/km of CO2 in the process.
Hardly fair to note consumption from the circuit launch drive (we were focused on looking where we were going, anyway), but over a roughly 160km rural B-road loop the on-board read-out saw us averaging 9.4L/100km, which included some fairly 'enthusiastic' sections.
A stop/start system is standard, at the time of writing Toyota Australia listed the minimum fuel requirement as 91 RON standard unleaded (to be confirmed), and you'll need 52 litres of it to fill the tank.
Alfa Romeo 4C8/10
Claimed fuel consumption for the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider is rated at 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres, so it’s no miser.
But, impressively, I saw real-world fuel economy of 8.1L/100km, over a loop that included urban, highway and ‘spirited’ driving on twisty roads.
The launch drive program combined a roughly 160km loop through Victoria's South Gippsland region and a lengthy Phillip Island circuit session. So, we were able to get a pretty solid picture of how the new Supra shapes up in local conditions.
First up, speed. Launch control is standard on both Supra grades and Toyota claims 0-100km/h in 4.3sec, although we've seen the car dip into the threes in independent testing overseas, and it feels quick.
Maximum torque is a meaty 500Nm, available from just 1600rpm all the way to 4500rpm, and extending your right ankle anywhere in that band delivers a serious shove in the back.
The eight-speed auto's rapid fire shifts make it feel more like a dual-clutch than a conventional torque-convertor auto, especially in manual mode using the wheel-mounted paddles.
The car is claimed to be torsionally stiffer than the 86, and even the carbon-rich Lexus LFA, so the strut front, five-link rear suspension set-up is hung from a stable platform. It keeps the car superbly well planted. Yet aluminium front suspension hardware lowers unsprung weight and keeps the Supra light on its feet.
It boasts a 50/50 front to rear weight distribution, achieved by moving the engine as far back as possible, and has a lower centre of gravity than the 86, which has a horizontally-opposed engine. At just under 1.5 tonnes it's also relatively light.
The electrically-assisted steering is accurate and progressive with good road feel, and 'Sport' mode fine-tunes engine sound and response, shift pattern, (active) damping, steering and the active diff. All elements are also adjustable individually. Plus the tricky diff adjusts from zero to 100 per cent lock-up.
In Sport the ride sharpens appreciably, and even in Comfort it's firm but definitely daily-drive acceptable, and after all, that's what you sign on for with a car like this.
And it all came together around the epic 5.3km Phillip Island GP circuit, which is kind of appropriate given this car knows its way around the Nurburgring.
Balanced, stable and seriously rapid the Supra ate up the flowing layout. Howling up to its 6500rpm rev ceiling it turns forward thrust into prodigious lateral grip, the fat Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber (255 front/275 rear) gripping hard, the chassis telegraphing every move, and the steering remaining super accurate and predictable.
The car was neutral in the long high-speed sweepers and, thanks to the tricky diff, put its power down with absolute authority out of both hairpins.
The brakes (ventilated discs all around with four-piston calipers up front) held up to lap after hot lap delivering good feel and washing off big speed without fuss. The GTS boasts larger rear rotors (354mm v 330mm) but you'd have to set-up a 24-hour endurance event to pick the difference.
Entertaining growls, pops and bangs from the exhaust were icing on the track-attack cake. It's brilliant.
Alfa Romeo 4C9/10
I said that it’s like a rollercoaster, and it really, truly is. The air doesn’t quite rush through your hair as much, sure - but with the roof off, the windows down and the speedometer constantly edging towards licence suspension, it’s a real hoot of an experience.
It just feels so tight - the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis is rigid and super stiff. You hit a cats-eye and its all so sensitive, you could mistake it for having hit an actual cat.
Alfa Romeo’s DNA drive modes - the letters stand for Dynamic, Natural, All Weather - is one of those proper examples of this type of system done well. There’s a marked difference between how these different settings operate, where some other drive modes out there are more sedate in their adjustments. There’s a fourth mode - Alfa Race - which I didn’t dare sample on public roads. Dynamic was enough to test my mettle.
The steering in Natural mode is lovely - there’s great weighting and feedback, super direct and incredibly in touch with the surface below you, and the engine isn’t quite as zesty, but still offers tremendous response on the move.
The ride is firm but composed and compliant in any of the drive modes, and it doesn’t have adaptive suspension. It is a stiffer suspension setup, and though the damping doesn’t change in Dynamic mode, if the surface is anything but perfect you will tram-track and twitch all over the place, because the steering feels even more dialled in.
In Dynamic mode the engine offers amazing response when you’re at pace, building speed incredibly and before you know it, you’re in licence loss zone.
The brake pedal requires some firm footwork - just like in a race car - but it pulls up strongly when you need it to. You’ve just gotta get used to the pedal feel.
The transmission is a good thing at speed in manual mode. It won’t overrule you if you want to find the redline, and it sounds tremendous. The exhaust is exhilarating!
With roof on and windows up there’s very noticeable noise intrusion - lots of tyre roar and engine noise. But remove the roof and drop the windows and you get the full effect of the drive experience - you’ll even get some "sut-tu-tu” wastegate flutter. It doesn’t even matter that much that the stereo system is so rubbish.
At normal speeds in normal driving you do need to be considerate of the powertrain because it is finnicky and slow to react at times. There’s notable lag if you’re gentle on the throttle, both from engine and transmission, and the fact peak torque doesn’t come on song until 2200rpm means there’s lag to contend with.
It’ll be a difficult choice between this and Alpine A110 and a Porsche Cayman – each of these vehicles has a very different character. But for me, this is the most go-kart like and it is, undeniably incredibly involving to drive.
With the need for speed comes the need for top-shelf safety, and the new Supra features an impressive array of standard active and passive safety tech.
The must-do boxes are ticked with ABS (with brake assist), vehicle stability control, and traction control on board, as well as 'Front Collision Warning' (Toyota-speak for AEB) with daytime pedestrian and cyclist detection.
In fact, a full suite of 'Toyota Safety Sense' assistance features also includes active cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure alert (with multiple alerts and steering assist), adaptive high beam and traffic sign recognition.
There's also blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors (with rear-end collision warning), active cornering assist, brake drying, and tyre pressure monitoring.
If all that fails to side-step an impact passive safety includes seven airbags (driver and front passenger, front side, side curtain, and driver's knee), as well as a 'pop-up bonnet system' to minimise pedestrian injuries.
The A90 Supra is yet top be assessed by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but a maximum five star score is a pretty safe bet.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
You’re in the wrong spot if you want the latest in safety technology. Sure, it’s at the cutting edge because it has an ultra strong carbon-fibre design, but there’s not much else happening here.
The 4C has dual front airbags, rear parking sensors and an alarm with tow-away protection, plus - of course - electronic stability control.
But there are no side airbags or curtain airbags, there’s no reversing camera, there’s no auto emergency braking (AEB) or lane keep assist, no lane departure warning or blind spot detection. Admittedly - there are a few other sports cars in the segment which lack safety smarts, too, but
The 4C has never been crash tested, so there’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP safety score available.
Toyota Australia has confirmed it's supporting Supra with the brand's standard five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, extending to seven years with the 'Service Advantage' program (that requires owners to carry out full log-book servicing for the first five years of ownership).
Also sitting underneath the Service Advantage umbrella is capped price servicing, locking in an annual service cost of $385 per service for the first five years of ownership. Service interval is 12 months/15,000km.
And just as Supra will be available for sale at all Toyota dealerships, Toyota Australia has confirmed servicing will be available throughout its national network of (300+) authorised service centres, with special tooling supplied as required to smaller rural locations.
Alfa Romeo 4C6/10
If you’re hoping that a ‘simple’ car like the 4C will mean low ownership costs, you might be disappointed in this section.
The Alfa Romeo website service calculator suggests that over 60 months or 75,000km (with service intervals set every 12 months/15,000km), you will have to fork out $6625 total. For a breakdown, the services cost $895, $1445, $895, $2495, $895.
I mean, that’s what you get when you buy an Italian sports car, I suppose. But consider you can get a Jaguar F-Type with five years of free servicing, and the Alfa looks like a rip-off.