Toyota Supra VS Mercedes-Benz E-Class
- Modest cabin storage
- Firm ride
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
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|
To say Mercedes-AMG is popular in Australia is like saying the young people are fond of Drake, or that football fans seem to appreciate Ronaldo’s skills.
Per head of population we buy more of the three-pointed star’s go-fast specials than any other country on the globe. Typically, between 15 and 20 per cent of all Mercs sold here are of the AMG variety.
The ‘43’ suffix appeared on C and E Class variants, meaning a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 had been slotted under the bonnet, providing enough grunt for day-to-day enjoyment without the hardcore edge of a big-banger V8.
But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.
Powered by a 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder turbo engine, the 53-series delivers close to 15 per cent more power and a huge dollop of extra torque courtesy of its tricky ‘EQ Boost’ starter/alternator system.
So, has the civility and relative efficiency of Merc-AMG’s only slightly psycho E Class models been maintained, or has another beast been released?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
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 Mercedes-AMG E53 is a supremely refined and satisfying performance/luxury package. For those who want the practicality and style of a high-spec E-Class, with an extra performance boost (but not the full-fat V8 drama) it’s got to be an appealing option. Plus, the high-tech hybrid drivetrain is brilliantly executed and seamless in operation.
Does the E 53 AMG do enough to warrant the hallowed Affalterbach seal of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
Keen car-spotters will pick the E 53 courtesy of its ‘twin-blade’ radiator grille (in silver chrome) with black mesh insert in place of the standard E-Class ‘diamond’ version, and a distinctive ‘A-wing’ front apron design.
AMG-specific side sill panels link the front fascia to a rear treatment including a high-set diffuser panel and quad exhaust tailpipes finished in high-gloss (black) chrome.
The interior doesn’t vary dramatically from other high-end E-Class variants, the biggest differences being grippier, leather-trimmed sports seats, dark ash wood trim on the dash, console and doors, plus an ‘AMG Performance’ steering wheel trimmed in nappa leather.
A twin (12.3-inch) screen ‘Widescreen Cockpit’ media and instrument array includes the ability to scroll through an AMG-specific digital display, scrollable through ‘Classic’, ‘Sporty’ and ‘Progressive’ configurations.
Via the AMG menu it’s also possible to call up read-outs including engine and transmission oil temp, acceleration (longitudinal and lateral), engine outputs, turbo boost pressure, tyre temps and pressures, as well the current vehicle set-up.
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.
Despite availability in sedan, coupe and cabriolet form, the E 53 launch drive program focused exclusively on the coupe and cabrio.
Like all E-Class models the E53 offers plenty of space up front, as well as a generous, lidded console box incorporating multiple USB ports.
A second flip-top section in front of the media controller houses a pair of cupholders, oddments space and a 12-volt power outlet, plus there’s a medium-size glove box, and the doors feature long bins including big bottle holders.
Rear room in the sedan is typically E-Class generous, with three adults across the back seat a genuine option on shorter journeys.
Adjustable air vents are welcome, and a fold-down armrest houses two cupholders and a lidded bin, with another two USB ports provided. Door pockets incorporate bottle holders and there are map pockets on the front seatbacks.
The sedan’s boot capacity is 540 litres, more than enough to swallow a pram and accompanying baby ‘stuff’, or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). And the 40/20/40 split-folding seat back liberates yet more space.
Backseaters (two only) in the coupe and cabrio are well catered for. Legroom is surprisingly substantial, although with the roof up, at 183cm, headroom for me was just adequate. With the cabrio’s roof down however, that improved considerably. Worth noting that sensors in the front seats’ adjustment system stop them from hitting a rear passenger’s knees. Nice.
In terms of storage and convenience, there’s a pair of cupholders between the seats, adjustable air vents, map pockets, and some oddments space near the outside armrests.
Boot capacity in the coupe is 425L and 385L in the cabrio, with the rear seat splitting and folding to offer through-loading space. An electrically controlled, retractable separator in the soft-top’s boot defines the space filled by the roof when folded (which still leaves 310L).
Tyres are run-flat on all variants, so don’t bother looking for a spare of any description.
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.
Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG E 53 ranges from $167,129 (plus on-road costs) for the sedan, through $172,729 for the coupe, and $181,329 for the cabriolet.
Then the cabrio is something of an outlier, with the BMW M4 Competition ($165,615) again a smaller but faster and cheaper option. In the hunt for other performance-focused 2+2 convertibles, you’re into the entry-point of Porsche’s 911 line-up with the Carrera Cabriolet ($248,350) representing a close to $70k premium.
All variants are suitably well equipped. On top of the standard performance and safety tech detailed in later sections, the E 53 is fitted with dual-zone climate control, 13-speaker Burmester audio (including digital radio and Apple CarPlay compatibility), keyless entry and start, nappa leather trim, sports seats, ‘AMG Performance’ (flat bottom) sports steering wheel (also trimmed in nappa leather), adaptive LED headlights (plus active high beam), and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Also included are the Widescreen Cockpit display (twin 12.3-inch screens covering multimedia and instruments as well as ‘Linguatronic’ voice control), sat nav, ambient interior lighting (64 colour options), active cruise, a configurable head-up display, electric front seats (heated with memory), wireless phone charging, wood grain interior trim, electric steering column adjust, rain-sensing wipers, and a panoramic sunroof.
All that stacks up well for a contender in this part of the market. You pay the big bucks, you get all the fruit.
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.
Already used in other AMG models, including the entry-level version of the just-released flagship GT 4-Door, the E 53’s (M256) in-line six is a 3.0-litre all-alloy unit featuring direct-injection and a single turbo, supplemented by an electric compressor (turbo if you prefer) which builds up charge pressure prior to the main turbo coming on song. Turbo lag, be gone!
The EQ Boost starter-alternator is housed in an electric motor fitted between the engine and transmission, driving a 48-volt electrical system to support the additional compressor as well as the car’s traditional 12-volt functions (lights, cockpit, multimedia and other control units) through a DC/DC converter.
Maximum torque (520Nm) is available from just 1800rpm all the way to 5800rpm, with peak power (320kW) taking over at 6100rpm. But the EQ Boost’s hybrid party trick is the ability to drop in a brief full-throttle burst of 16kW/250Nm. Whoosh.
Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed dual-clutch auto transmission and an AMG Performance turned version of Merc’s ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system, using an electro-mechanical clutch to distribute torque between the permanently driven rear axle and variably driven front axle.
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.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is line-ball for sedan (8.7L/100km), coupe (8.8L/100km), and cabriolet (9.0L/100km) variants, emitting 199, 200, and 204g/km of CO2 respectively in the process.
Start-stop is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 66 litres of it to fill the tank.
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.
It only takes a few kilometres behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG E 53 to recognise that it fulfils its job description pretty well.
With claimed 0-100km/h acceleration sitting in the mid-4.0sec zone (coupe 4.4sec, sedan/cabrio 4.5sec) it’s fast, but not brutal. It growls without rising to the full-blown roar that’s become the aural signature of the current 63-series AMG V8s.
But don’t take that to mean meek and mild. It’s properly rapid and the sports exhaust, particularly with the drivetrain mapped to the ‘Dynamic Select’ system’s ‘Sport+’ mode leaves you (and everyone in a 200-metre radius) in no doubt that you’re driving something special.
Dynamic Select allows individual calibration of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering. Around town with everything dialled in to ‘Comfort’ the E 53 is as refined and compliant as any other high-spec E-Class.
Despite the standard 20-inch rims shod with low-profile run-flat rubber (245/35 front, 275/30 rear) the ‘AMG Ride Control’ adaptive damping combines with the overall air suspension system to provide excellent ride comfort.
Find a twisting B-road and push into ‘Sport’ or Sport+’ mode and the car’s character changes distinctly. All 520Nm of maximum torque is available from just 1800rpm right up to 5800rpm. And while that’s plenty, pin the throttle and an additional 250Nm (and 16kW), courtesy of the EQ Boost hybrid system joins the party.
Press on and as peak power (320kW) takes over at 6100rpm you’ll notice the horizon is approaching rapidly. The additional electric compressor means power delivery is beautifully linear, and the hybrid boost is undetectable.
The nine-speed dual-clutch auto is as smooth at parking speeds as it is at maximum attack. Manual changes (up and down) are rapid and positive, accompanied by entertaining blips and bangs from the exhaust in the more aggressive drive modes.
The coupe is the lightweight of the trio, weighing in at 1895kg, with the sedan and cabrio sending the needle roughly 100kg further to the right. But despite that not insubstantial kerb weight, and the all-wheel drive set-up, all feel light and nimble for their size.
While the variable steering adjusts seamlessly as lateral forces increase, no matter which mode is selected, road feel is modest at best. But the AWD system shuffles drive to the right wheel without fuss and power down out of quick corners is satisfyingly solid.
With all this performance, on-tap braking is critical, and the standard set-up is perforated and internally ventilated discs all around (370mm front, 360mm rear) clamped by four piston calipers at the front and single piston floating calipers at the rear. After an ‘enthusiastic’ session on the launch drive they remained progressive and strong.
The multi-adjustable sports front seats are comfy when they need to be, and with the side bolsters adjusted inwards, secure and grippy as G-force builds. Top-notch ergonomics complement this satisfying and well resolved dynamic package.
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.
You’d expect any current passenger model wearing the three-pointed star to be on the leading edge in terms of active and passive safety, and the E Class range scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2016.
The E 53’s crash avoidance tech includes ABS, EBD, brake assist, AEB, ESC, traction control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, fatigue detection, a surround camera system, tyre pressure monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.
And if a crash is unavoidable all models feature dual front and dual front side airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, plus full-length curtain airbags… even a first-aid kit.
The sedan features three top tether points and two ISOFIX child restraint anchor positions across the back seat, with a two-and-two count in the coupe and cabrio.
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.
Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist included for the duration. Not exactly leading edge when you think about Kia at seven years/unlimited km and Tesla’s eight-year/160,000km cover.
Scheduled maintenance for the E 53 is set at 12 months/25,000km, and service plans are offered at silver and platinum levels for up to five years/100,000km.