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Beyond the hype fantastic: What's the new Supra really like?

1w ago

44.4K

Was the new Toyota Supra ever going to crawl out from the shadow of its own monolithic hype and change our definition of what a sports car should be?

Of course not.

To have done so it would have needed to out-Porsche Porsche. And that was always unlikely given that the Stuttgart brand has predominantly built sports cars for the past 70 years. And Toyota quite rightly spends most of its time and money developing sensible cars that sell by the bucketload. Because that’s how you run a business.

But what Toyota and Gazoo Racing have actually done is produce a Supra that's burnt off the excess flab from its 1990s iteration, and slipped on a tight muscle top hinting at the sports car underneath.

After a day driving the Supra on track at the swooping Jarama circuit and threading it along the hilltop roads circling Madrid, it’s clear Toyota has put together a thoroughly great car. But does it have any magic under that curvaceous skin?

Agility over everything

The Supra's curves make it a wonderful car to gawp at – and photograph

To really understand what the new Supra is about you need to look at the actual engineering ingredients. Ignore the BMW bits – we’ll come to those in a moment – but look instead at the wheelbase. It’s short, and the car is relatively wide. Toyota’s engineers focused on making this ratio of wheelbase to track as square as possible, because along this graph line lies sportiness.

That’s actual science.

But what does it really mean?

Well, once you’re done whacking your head clambering into a cabin that makes a codpiece feel like an agoraphobic’s nightmare and have set off down the road, you sense the Supra’s pointiness from the first fast corner.

It turns in almost unnervingly quickly, but you don’t exactly get an immediate sense of how hard you can push the front end into a corner. It takes a while to really trust what the front tyres are doing. In reality it’ll grip and grip, with no understeer creeping in even on track, but you'll want to dive into turns on the brakes to build up your confidence.

Do this, and the Supra tucks in and turns like a good sports car should, pivoting slightly underneath you if you keep your foot on the brake pedal as you get to the apex.

The white's a great choice. It's a deep pearly white that bounces light everywhere – it'd be our choice

The Supra’s rear tyres, meanwhile, feel like they just want to dance wide. This is definitely a car that requires a steady right foot if you’re brave enough to switch off all the systems – and that sporty short wheelbase means it feels a tad unforgiving should you cock it up a bit.

In short, it’s a little twitchy on a bumpy road – and you’ll either love this sportiness if you’re a helmsmith of the highest order, or feel a bit cautious if you’re an average driver. Luckily the stability control’s got your back, so you can lope around in your comfort zone regardless.

On a smooth track it’s far easier to drive quickly, but over bumps and crests on your favourite backroad it doesn’t encourage you to throw it at corners as quickly as you would in an Audi TTRS. You have to engage your brain a bit, which is likely to please most driving fanatics.

It could use a little more drama

Why does the new Supra require a bit of skill? Well, that short wheelbase is being punted around by a lot of low-down torque form the BMW-sourced 3.0-litre straight-six engine. It bats against the traction control even out of third gear corners.

Despite its powerful low-down shove, the Supra’s engine isn’t the star of the show. Sure, it sends you down the road at a decent rate of knots but it’s unlikely to truly floor your mates when you come to show it off, despite the impressive sounding 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds. With a soft rev limiter you never really feel the need to rev it out. It surges rather than zings.

The Supra's side profile is classic Japanese sportscar, with a gorgeous ducktail spoiler flicking up at the back

It doesn’t sound especially amazing either.

As it comes from the Austrian factory, the Supra will crackle and pop when you’re showing off in a car park, but on the move it’s a far more muted affair. There’s no crackling or popping as you paddle your way up or down the eight-speed auto gearbox, and you soon stop winding the windows down in tunnels. It feels a bit of a miss, because surely some sonorous theatre is only hidden behind a few lines of code.

Hunkered in the Supra bunker

Likewise, the interior feels like it could’ve done with an extra dose of charm. There’s no doubting the build quality or the sporty hemmed-in feeling you get from a nice low driving position and shallow windscreen, and the infotainment is a re-skinned version of BMW’s iDrive system, so it’s instantly the best infotainment ever installed in a Toyota. It has the usual central control knob that lets you keep your eyes on the road while flicking between menus on the sharp 8.8-inch screen.

The interior is solidly built and is basically all BMW parts, which is great news when it comes to the infotainment system

But the steering wheel itself doesn’t scream ‘let’s twiddle this really fast and see what happens’ like the best sportscar wheels do. If Toyota had stumped up for a little colourful stitching you’d feel a lot happier about spending upwards of £53,000 on one.

As it stands the Supra is a thoroughly enjoyable sports car that’s only missing a little extra drama. Which, let's not forget, is largely how the last generation Supra started out.

Once this new car is in the hands of tuners and modifiers it’ll doubtless become the ludicrous purveyor of smokey nighttime drives the internet seems to want it to be. And Toyota’s left plenty of room for extra cooling to help tuners take the 335bhp engine northwards.

For now, however, it’s an agile sportscar that’s quick and challenging on technical roads. And it certainly offers a viable – and interestingly different – alternative to the Cayman. With an even sportier GRMN Supra coming in the next few years it could be high time the chaps in Stuttgart watched their backs.

Look. At. It.

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