Toyota GR Supra - The Japanese Cult Car Is Back
By Marc Rutten
Enough has been said about what is possibly the most anticipated new car release in the last give years. The Toyota Supra is back on the roads after being absent for the last 21 years. Based on the styling cues of its conceptual ancestor, the FT-1 concept car, which was revealed in January 2014, the production, A90 Supra is finally here. The Supra brand became a cult phenomenon due to the Fast & Furious movie franchise and its large number of fans, who admire to this day the level of customisation you are able to achieve with the predecessor of the A90, the A80 version of the Japanese sports car.
As commonly known by many, its styling and BMW-related underpinnings have been a hot topic for debate. Yes, underneath the Supra you will find a platform similar to the latest BMW Z4 M40i model, sharing the same running gear, engine, gearbox and large chunks of the interior with the BMW roadster. A decision which has been widely criticised, but one that falls in line with other examples within the Toyota line-up, for example the GT86 and Aygo were established to make the economics work. Without the partnership no Supra would ever have returned.
Still the unmistakable flavour of the Bavarian architecture is present throughout the car. BMW logos are visible throughout the engine bay, the familiar BMW gong sounds can be heard across the cabin and a majority of the controls and features both inside and under the bonnet are borrowed from BMW, making the development and production costs a lot cheaper. This is all a known fact and has been thoroughly discussed by journalists and fans alike. Nothing new here, although it is the starting point of my story, because for someone who has driven many new BMWs over the past years, including the brand new Z4 M40i only a few months ago, the Supra was able to show its unique character. On the face of it, it is an engaging, desirable sports car, which has a character of its own, but one that is not without flaws.
To touch on the way it drives, I feel I should start at the front of the car and under the bonnet. The single-turbo 3.0-litre straight-six, known among BMW fans as the B58 engine, and the eight-speed torque converter, auto gearbox are sourced from the Bavarians and offer the exact same characteristic as the Z4 M40i. The smooth power delivery from the six-cylinder engine is officially set at 340hp and 500Nm, but feels considerably higher when you are on the move. Independent dyno runs have confirmed that the Supra's engine tune produces up to 370hp and more than 550Nm, which is considerably more than its Bavarian ancestor, something which is noticeable in the higher rev range. The sprint time from 0 to 62mph is set at 4.3 seconds.
The overall performance provided by the drivetrain is not ballistically fast, but best described as one that combines a wonderful mid rev range with the oomph, tone and behaviour familiar to what the Z4 offers. The gearbox has its flaws on down shifts, but the additional push in the top end of the rev range is where the Supra shines. On the subject of the exhaust, there is a similar behaviour between both cars. Inside the interior, the Active Sound Design provides a synthesised tone, which is combined by a pleasing baritone on the outside, as well as pops and crackles from the exhaust should you find yourself in Sport mode. Any improvements to the system can be achieved via the aftermarket offerings, allowing you to remove the fake exhaust noise inside the cabin and the OPF filters in the exhaust line, which are currently spoiling all the fun.
The noticeable differences continue when you are on the move and take on twisty roads and sweeping turns. The more poised behaviour of the suspension is clearly felt when you drive the new Supra. The GT characteristic of the Z4 is taken onwards and moved into a more sporty territory that combines a lower centre of gravity with a suspension set up that is balanced and great fun, but does sometimes have the tendency of slightly loosing its compliance in the rebound and damping of the struts, especially at the rear. The front-end however offers a lot of grip with the rear providing great levels of playfulness. It will slightly wiggle its hips when you are on it.
Add this to the sharpened steering, which often feels a touch too nervous and isn't as precise as its direct competitors. The Supra is no doubt a true sports car that constantly tells you are driving a Japanese flavoured machine that is capable of putting a smile on your face, but it never really lets you rest on long cruising distances. In comparison to its competitors such as the Alpine A110, the Porsche Cayman and the BMW M2 Competition, it is able to offer a package that stands its ground among the others with each one offering their own unique strengths and characteristics. The Supra is the charismatic sports car with its adrenaline-fuelled charms that could well convince a discerning buyer that only wants to drive a sports car with a Japanese badge.
For those who are after some adjustability, there are two driving modes inside the cabin, Normal and Sport, altering the pre-sets for the steering, transmission, active diff, stability control and the stock adaptive dampers. If required, you can adjust the sport mode by choosing Individual mode and I would suggest you do, putting all but the active dampers on sport. Surprisingly, there is no Sport Plus option on the contrary to the Z4 and it feels as if the engineers have based their Normal driving mode set up on what the Z4 calls Sport with the Sport mode in the Supra being Sport Plus in the Z4. A more comfortable driving mode like in the roadster isn't offered, which isn't a shame but something worth noting.
After one week behind the wheel of the Supra, it is not a difficult task to summarise that this sports car feels crisp, well connected and quick. The responsiveness and set up is good, but not brilliant and allows for a lot of room to play and tune. It even feels as if the BMW and Toyota engineers left more room on purpose, supporting aftermarket parties to develop an even more confidence-inspiring and quicker sports car. Seeing how the tuning world has reacted to the release of the Supra, this thought doesn't feel too far-fetched from reality.
The improvements are straight-forward and an easy addition to the package which is able to share pure enjoyment and fun all around. An improved suspension coil-over kit and aftermarket exhaust system are an absolute must. Additionally strut braces under the bonnet, improved brake pads and an engine tune over 400hp are a nice to have. Installing the BMW M steering rack from the M2 Competition in the Supra is the ultimate upgrade, but a wish which cannot easily be achieved. Other than these points you are pretty much good to go if you don't want to go mental on a visual parts, like wide-body kits, suspension bags, wings and massive splitters.
For those of you who are interested, more powerful variants are expected to follow relatively soon, and according to sources Toyota have tested a version with a manual gearbox, although they haven't committed to putting a manual version on sale yet. On the contrary to BMW, who will release a manual version for their Z4 sDrive model range sooner rather than later. Time will tell when other members will enter the arena under the Supra, but for now we have the base model, which offers plenty of strength and dynamic reserve, and plenty of likeability too.
Photos by @xbayt
Toyota GR Supra