Driving the new Toyota Supra - Full Review
The Supra Strikes Back. After two decades, the Supra is, finally, back. Does it live up to the hype of its movie star predecessor?
Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman
“It’s just a BMW, isn’t it?” Every Supra owner will indubitably be asked this annoying question at some point, likely many, many times. And that’s a real shame because, regardless of the backstory of how the new Supra came to be, it’s a wonderful sports car for the road. Yet, you might have noticed the real name of the Supra is the GR Supra. What is this GR you speak of? Is it the noise it (or you) makes when accelerating? No, GR stands for Gazoo Racing, the official factory skunkworks/racing division of Toyota. They are responsible for Toyota’s dominating TS050 Le Mans prototype and their title-winning World Rally Championship Yaris. The branding of GR in the United States is weak though, and is likely just a cause for confusion to the average person; not even close to the same weight of an M or AMG badge. I’ve delayed too long already because, spoiler, the new Supra is good. No, it’s great! But not quite perfect, at least not yet. The prior MkIV Supra is a legend of car folklore, immortalized by a certain Vin Diesel and Paul Walker film. As a result of this celebrity, its shapely body, a massive wing, and an engine that could withstand 1,000 horsepower, it achieved rapid collector status. To say there are expectations on this new replacement is a vast understatement. Those in the YouTube comments or an all-too-specific Reddit page will be quick to compare the new with the old, but it’s honestly not worth it. Having been so long between iterations, it’s more akin to apples and oranges.
On to the new Supra. It’s a sport car, right? A sports car must be desirable and evocative, but the original press photos left me in doubt with simply too much going on in the design. Seeing the GR Supra in the flesh, though, it looks great. Yes, it’s a little fussy with some fake vents here and there, but it looks purposeful and even menacing. The rear three-quarter is my favorite view with the wide, taut hind haunches leading to a sloping hood that disappears from view. Tungsten Silver is nice, but I prefer Turbulence Gray, as the darker shade produces more contrast and shadows created by all the curves and creases. I like the three dimensional tailights and the neatly integrated, flipping rear spoiler. The front bumper has two vertical slats in the center that are reminiscent of a 2012 Formula 1 car’s front wing and uprights. Cool.
So it looks good, but how does it go? Power comes courtesy of a 3.0L turbocharged inline-six, rated for 335 horsepower and 380 pounds of torque in this 2020 model. 2021 sees power bumped to 382 with torque unchanged. However, 335 does not disappoint. In fact, they’re definitely lying; Put your foot down for the first time and you’d swear it’s pushing 400 horsepower. Independent dyno testing has further confirmed this theory. An inline-6 is a naturally balanced and smooth engine, so unlike a thrashy and vibrating V6, this mill feels and sounds like a Bergonzi in the hands of a maestro. Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, anyone? It’s a remarkable revelation. Meanwhile, a ZF- sourced 8-speed automatic (where's the manual?) connects all that power to the rear wheels. While not a dual-clutch, it fires off shifts with the same tenacity of one, but is smoother around town and pulling away from stops. How fast is it? 0-60 is done in four seconds flat, 50-70 passing in two, and only 2.6 up a hill. That's fast, but do I have to comment on the launch control, though, which proved finicky. The first attempt was easy, just click a few buttons and away you go. But, immediate, subsequent launches initiated brake stands. Good if you’re into roasting Michelins. So it’s fast, making power with a Faulkner-esque sound and fury. The midrange is huge. Boost builds quickly, so lag is almost an obscurity; Even 5th gear at 3,000 RPM is ridiculously rapid. It does falloff ever so slightly above 6,000 RPM, but still pulls hard to the redline. Brakes are strong and progressive, but grabby at slows speeds. This made coming to a smooth stop difficult the first few tries.
How does it tackle corners? The steering may be numb, but the combination of a well-judged, neutral weighting with such natural linearity and response, it feels like telepathy. If you can think it, it will do it. This is further enhanced by the Michelin Pilot Super Sports’ huge grip and traction, too, while body roll is not in its vocabulary. A driver’s car this is, with the front end doing your every bidding and the rear following suit. If you want the rear to play, forget the baton and just command it with your right foot. A beautiful symphony to conduct. I drove the Supra up scenic Wentworth Springs Road to Ice House Road/Reservoir and then back down to US 50. Look on a map and you’ll mistake it for a Swiss Alpine Pass. Climbing to 5,000 feet, these are the mountain roads a true sports car is destined for. It certainly kept my friend in his modified Porsche 997 911 in check, and the Supra had its number on corner exits with the boost on the boil. Corner, accelerate, brake, corner, accelerate, brake, corner, repeat, repeat, and repeat. Nirvana defined for driving enthusiasts. But, there is a but. On these winding roads, the Supra is fantastic as already stated. But really push it, explore its capabilities and boundaries on sections you know well, and it just doesn’t quite hold up. You begin to notice that things become slightly sloppy, with the steering becoming soggy and losing precision while the rear skits and skirts about under load. Mid-corner bumps don’t help things either. It’s a shame, because it’s so good up to this point. Up to 8/10ths on public roads, it’s brilliant, but past that there is work that could be done. While it should be said that 9/10ths and above should be reserved for the track anyways, how it would behave at these extremities does leave a little doubt. I guess I’ll just have to find out for myself, hopefully soon! As Supras are popular to modify, a good set of coilovers could do wonders.
Inside, the cabin is comfortable with a fantastic driving position and gripping seats. There is, however, a lot of plastic behind the seats which can creak over bumps. Otherwise, the rest of the cabin is put together wonderfully well and with quality leather draped throughout. The center- residing infotainment system is the best I’ve ever used, and it has all the usual Toyota active safety components. If set in its proprietary sport mode, the exhaust emits childishly fun cracks and pops, but can drone on the freeway. Best to switch it off at those points then. I almost forgot to mention the fuel economy; HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? 70 MPH cruising yields 36 MPG, while the overall average was 28. Slow commuter cars don’t even get this good. Let alone a 4-second rocket like this. How???
Now, how do you answer the opening question, is it a BMW? Err...yes. Open the door, and you are greeted with Made in Austria by BMW. Look under the car and you’ll see BMW logos stamped everywhere. That best-ever infotainment system? A BMW product. The engine? BMW. But it DOESN’T MATTER. Without BMW’s help, this fundamentally great sports car wouldn’t exist. You want a new Supra? Here it is, so deal with it. More so, don’t buy it because it’s a Supra, but because it’s a desirable and capable sports car.
It might be built on a BMW assembly line, but Toyota does claim to have tuned it to their liking, whatever that means. At the end of the road, though, you can't help but admit that it still drives like a BMW, which is no bad thing since it's then one of the best driving new BMWs on sale today. So what we have then is a comprehensively accomplished sports car, and one that’s priced right, too, starting in the low 50s. The only flaws are a chassis that just barely starts to unravel from the ultimate vigor of the hardest of driving. It’s properly fast, looks great, and attracts the stares (the good kind, mind you). The only real competition comes from maybe its first cousin once removed: the BMW M2. The new 2021 is supposed to have small suspension changes so I’m keen to try and see how it does on my favorite roads again. I’m glad the Supra’s back, and so should you, regardless of its background and underlying origins. We can use more ‘reasonable’ sports cars in the world.
2020 Toyota GR Supra As-Tested Price $56,500 4/5 Pros: Wonderful Powertrain, Aggressive looks, It says Supra on the back
Cons: Lacks polish near and at limit, No manual available Verdict: The Supra is back, enough said.