Toyota Supra VS Lexus RC
- Modest cabin storage
- Firm ride
- Smooth, effortless V6
- Better looking than before
- Tweaked chassis feels good
- Useless rear seats
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|
It's 2019 and the Lexus RC has been with us for four years which means it's time for a mid(ish)-life update. A glance at the specifications and tech details for its very low-key, late 2018 arrival suggests not much has changed. And let's be fair, it hasn't.
The mild refresh has brought a few changes in spec (in the right direction), price (the wrong direction, but few things are free in this life), and styling (you be the judge).
|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.
The RC's time on my drive was preceded by a cheaper, V8-powered Mustang, so it was fascinating to compare the Japanese approach to the American. They're not really competitors, obviously, but the Lexus' ability to cosset the driver while still showing a good turn of speed was an interesting counterpoint.
The 2019 RC350 isn't a step-change - if you want one of those, double your money and get the delightfully nutty RC F - but the changes inside, outside and underneath will certainly please the fans even if it doesn't bring in new ones in huge numbers.
Does anyone still even notice luxury coupes? If you do, is Lexus even on the radar?
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.
As a whole, I've always thought the RC to be handsome, but the headlights - as on the IS - always made me wince a bit. There's too much going on, which is weird because the rest of the car is very easy on the eye.
As is common with a mid-life facelift, the work all happens at the front and rear. There's a revised bumper, tweaked mesh pattern in the spindle grille, and a much better looking set of headlights - with much cooler LED daytime running lights and headlights. They're still a bit much, but they're not jarring.
The rear is a little cleaner but I reckon it didn't need much work. Along with new wing mirrors from the gorgeous LC coupe and new wheel designs, it's a subtle update, but a good one.
Inside is little-changed, which is good and bad. A new brushed-aluminium dash inlay, a new (naff) analogue clock, and not a huge amount else. The switchgear has a lovely damped feel, nothing clicks or snaps and it really is very serene indeed. Few cars can match a Lexus interior for feel and touch.
Some of the design decisions are confusing, though. A rotary dial to change driving modes looks more like it should be used to control the media system, and the media system's touchpad is really annoying.
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.
As ever, a sports coupe is the not the place to consider starting your DIY career, but front seat passengers luxuriate with plenty of space. A good-sized glove box joins two cupholders in the centre console which also has a decent-sized bin for hiding things, as well as a sensible place to put your phone (no wireless charging, sadly).
Rear seat passengers have very little space for their limbs or heads but at least the seats are comfortable. Two more cupholders back there, but really, nobody will use them.
The boot is a very useful 423 litres.
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.
While you can have an RC300 in the mid-sixties, the F Sport starts at $77,529, $200 extra than before. On the face of it, it doesn't look like amazing value, but get a Euro competitor and you'll be paying more.
You get 19-inch alloys, a 17-speaker stereo, four-wheel steering, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, sat nav, electric heated and ventilated front seats, leather everywhere, a limited-slip diff, variable ratio steering, adaptive dampers, keyless entry and start, and an improved safety package.
The 17-speaker stereo is a treat but the media system is not; controlled from the console by a touchpad, it's hard to use and a pain to navigate. It has Bluetooth and USB connectivity with terrific sound, but it requires patience to operate - which includes the time to get the required qualifications (okay, slight exaggeration). And there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to take the edge off. Pity.
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.
The RC350 packs Lexus' creamy 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6, a step up from the RC300's turbo four-cylinder. Power remains at 232kW/380Nm, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque-converted automatic.
The RC350 cracks the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, which isn't bad considering it's a hefty beast at over 1700kg.
The RC300's turbo four spins up 180kW and an impressive 350Nm if you're keen to save a few dollars upfront and on running costs.
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.
Lexus says the 350 will manage 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle but I scored a rather less convincing 12.8L/100km. Again, that's probably not bad considering its weight. The tricky dash display had me thinking it was an amazing 7.8L/100km, but it was km/L...
There is no stop-start, cylinder-on-demand or battery regen tech to save fuel - features its European rivals all have at least one of.
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.
As it has ever been, the RC350 is one smooth, smooth ride. Even the way the doors open is relaxing: swinging wide open like the hinges are made of butter, (except butter that doesn't melt or sag). Look, I'm trying to avoid saying smooth again.
Engine start-up is barely audible and while pottering about the engine remains just as subdued. It's up to the digital dashboard, with its instruments clustered into a single dial with a digital speedo, to let you know what's going on. Few cars outside of the Lexus stable are this relaxing to drive.
What I don't remember from the last time I drove an RC was all-wheel steering. Either I wasn't paying attention or Lexus snuck it in - but it really makes a difference. It's not as aggressive as, say, the bonkers RC F or Renault Sport Megane, it's just there to help bring the heavy car around. It also seems better sorted than the same system in the bigger LC500. And the steering's variable rack works well with it as a partner, too.
The RC's adaptive suspension is so good at what it does. It never over-tightens the suspension but does make a difference in Sport+. It's not really in the 350's nature to take it out for a good thrashing, but it's certainly capable - if held back a little by its portly kerb weight and soft brake pedal feel.
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.
The RC comes with eight airbags (including knee bags), ABS, stability and traction controls, active bonnet, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, forward AEB and forward collision warning.
There are two top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX fittings in the back.
ANCAP has not tested the RC but it scored a 'Good' rating from the US IIHS test regime.
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.
Unlike parent company Toyota, Lexus offers a four-year/100,000km warranty. Also unlike Toyota, you don't get an absurdly cheap deal on servicing, and there's with no capped-price regime. Lexus wants to see your car every 12 months or 15,000km.
To soften the blow of no capped-price servicing, Lexus will either give you a loan car or, even better, come and fetch your car from you before returning it vacuumed, washed, and serviced.
You also get a fairly comprehensive four years of roadside assist and a few other perks.