The all-new Toyota Supra has finally arrived, but has it been worth the wait? We find out…Verdict4The Toyota Supra blends balance, agility, grip and poise with a punchy six-cylinder motor that delivers a hit of performance and (mostly) the engine note we were after. Whether or not Toyota’s collaboration with BMW affects the Supra’s authenticity, we’ll leave up to you. But there’s no doubting that this is a coupe with real talent and welcome character at a time when those traits should be applauded. That it’s pretty much as usable as a family hatchback is an added bonus.
There are few true automotive icons left, but it’s fair to say the Toyota Supra is one of them. But it’s also fair to say that the gestation of this fifth-generation model has been, well, fairly drawn out. But now it’s here in production specification – and we’ve driven it.
We’ll start with the elephant in the room: Toyota’s collaboration with BMW in the development of this A90-generation Supra.
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Both brands settled early on the characteristics for the shared platform. According to Toyota this meant a short wheelbase and wide track, to the point that the distance between the Supra’s wheels is actually less than a GT86’s, while its centre of gravity is lower, too.
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Following the decision on the basic principles, both companies went their separate ways to develop the cars using a tool kit of parts and components. Or so the story goes.
Interestingly, the Supra’s chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, told Auto Express that the car’s chassis actually uses some components from the next-generation line-up of BMW M cars. This has intentions as a serious, pure sports car then, and the rest of the spec list backs this up.
Toyota identified BMW as a partner, partly to stay true to the Supra’s heritage with an in-line six-cylinder engine. So, under the bonnet you’ll find a turbocharged 3.0-litre unit sending 335bhp and 500Nm of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential.
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Adaptive dampers control the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension set-up, with two modes to choose from. Big brakes take care of stopping the Supra.
Performance is of the strong, but not ridiculous order, with a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds. But this is a car that’s arguably governed more by how it feels to drive than the numbers.
In fact, Tada-san says as much, claiming that in search of improving body rigidity, while there were targets (1.6 times that of the GT86) in this area, testing was also conducted on how it felt to drive. If it felt good, the engineers went with it. Incidentally, the Supra ended up being 2.3 times less floppy than a GT86 – and even stiffer than the Lexus LFA supercar.
You sense this on the move, too. The chassis feels rigid and it means the suspension is softer than you might imagine. Ride quality in the dampers’ normal mode is genuinely impressive, as the Supra skips over bumps with little fuss or deflection. Sport tautens the body control further still. But there’s a level of compliance retained in this setting that means the tyres stay in contact with the road to maximise grip and traction.
There’s plenty of both, to the point where the Supra feels like it could easily handle more power. This brings us to the engine.
It’s good fit for the car, but not a great motor. Tada outlined that if Toyota had tried to go it alone and develop a new straight-six itself, the project would have been delayed by three to four years – and due to stricter noise regulations in-coming, the Supra would have been ghostly quiet.
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Thankfully, it’s not. There’s a pleasant musicality to the six-pot’s note, firing and settling to a purposeful but smooth idle, with a brawny tone through the mid range – and it’s here where the BMW-sourced (but Toyota-calibrated) engine is best.
Its peak torque is available from 1,600rpm and is sustained to 4,500rpm, so the Supra pulls hard out of corners. However, it’s not all that rewarding to rev out. It feels strained beyond 5,000rpm, tightening up and revealing its forced induction – along with a faint on-boost whistle from the turbo, a Supra trait – while the enhanced engine note also isn’t the most pleasant at higher revs. But then neither is a Porsche 718 Cayman’s clattery flat-four.
The eight-speed gearbox isn’t without complaint either. In auto mode it shifts smoothly, but take manual control with the steering wheel paddles and upshifts are a little jerky, and downshifts not as rapid as you’d like.
The powertrain’s flexibility is its greatest boon, giving you options to explore the chassis’ lovely balance. Be neat and drive tidily and the Supra will scythe through corners effectively, as it has lovely natural balance. Even at normal speeds you feel the perfect 50:50 weight distribution and the adjustability in the chassis.
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Tada-san was very explicit about Toyota targeting the 718 Cayman as the Supra’s benchmark. That car offers communication, involvement and rewards for driving well and, in a different way, so does the Supra.
Despite all the work Toyota has done, it’s still not quite as communicative through its steering. But what you get back from the chassis is a solid sense of confidence that allows you to delve into its dynamic repertoire and call upon its talent to manipulate the car into doing what you want.
It’s helped by that active differential that wants to turn the car into corners, coupled with steering that’s very responsive just off centre. Squeeze the throttle on the way out of a bend and you can feel the diff lock to hook the Supra past an apex, leaning on the front axle’s impressive grip. It’s agile.
Of course, with prices starting at £52,695, the Supra has to do more than just drive well. This is a car many will use to commute in, as well as to explore its limits at the odd track day.
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While the Supra’s interior design is different enough to the Z4 with which it shares some of its DNA, much of the componentry inside is BMW-sourced. That’s a good thing in some ways, as Toyota’s infotainment isn’t up to snuff, even in its most recent cars like the Corolla.
It’s a re-skinned BMW iDrive arrangement, with an 8.8-inch screen. Much of the other switchgear is from the Munich parts catalogue, too. The infotainment therefore works slickly, while the adoption of BMW software means for the first time in a Toyota you get Apple CarPlay connectivity. Material and build quality fits the price tag, as does the list of kit.
You get some great heated and ventilated sports seats that hold you nicely and compliment the sound driving position. Climate control is also standard, as is a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, sat-nav with connected services, adaptive LED lights, 19-inch alloys and lots of safety tech as part of Toyota’s Supra Safety+ pack, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, automatic high beam, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert.
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The cabin is tight, and although you sit low, forward visibility is good. The 290-litre boot is big enough for weekend luggage, so this is a sports car you could use every day. Toyota claims it’ll even do 34.5mpg.
But among all of this there’s still one niggling issue that comes back to that same elephant in the room. While the new Supra is an accomplished sports car, in Toyota’s collaboration with BMW – and despite its assertions that it went its own way during the development process – it feels undeniably linked to its German counterpart in the way it conducts itself. Some might say a little too closely, while others might not think that’s a bad thing.
But a little more Japanese individuality would have made the package even more appealing – especially as the automotive world heads towards an era of electrification. After all, as Tada-san told us, “the Supra is a final present to all the sports car fans before the regulations take over.”
It’s not perfect, but the Supra should be celebrated as an alternative to the tried and tested sports car establishment.
- Model: Toyota Supra
- Price: £52,695
- Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo petrol
- Power/torque: 335bhp/500Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
- 0-62mph: 4.3 seconds
- Top speed: 155mph
- Economy/CO2: 34.5mpg/170g/km
- On sale: Now
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