Toyota Supra review


What is?

A car that has been in the making for seven years and has returned 21 years after its last appearance. Yet it still resonates. Supra. We first confirmed this at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, when it was called the FT-1 concept. Since then, a lot of controversy. Mainly thanks to Toyota’s association with BMW.

Underneath, the Supra shares a platform, running gear, engine, gearbox and much of the interior with the latest BMW Z4. Another example of Toyota teaming up with other brands to make economy work (see also GT86/Subaru BRZ and Aygo/Peugeot 108/Citroën C1).

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But this association is different, because the Supra issues. It’s no ordinary sedan or newly introduced small coupe. The Supra badge has a history, a history that places it at the center of Japanese car culture alongside the Honda NSX and Nissan GT-R.

It’s a car that company president Akio Toyoda, a well-known oil man, said, “Supra is like an old friend who holds a special place in my heart,” and yet instead of building a custom Halo car from zero, the world’s largest automaker chose to ship large chunks of a moderately well-regarded German roadster. And build it in Austria.

Sure, Toyota’s version is different, but here’s the crux of the matter. Toyota has a history with the straight-six configuration. The new Supra should use it. But Toyota doesn’t make them anymore, and according to chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, it would have required not just an entirely new engine design, but an entire engine factory. It is not workable. So they needed a partner, and when it comes to straight-sixes, BMW is pretty much the only option.

The Toyota and BMW teams then worked together to develop their ideas into a prototype, based on a shorter-wheelbase 2-Series coupe called the Fullrunner. This was fueled by BMW dashboards and, after being shipped to Japan, Toyota dashboards. The green light was given and the two teams went their separate ways and developed their cars themselves. Tada-san only drove a Z4 just before it went into production.

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Enough background. The Supra looks better than the Z4, no question about that. It’s shapely, voluptuous, you know exactly where the engine is and which wheels are driven. But come closer. See the air vents on the hood, doors, under the headlights and taillights? You are wrong. Everyone.

Under the hood is BMW’s B58 3.0-liter single-turbo inline-six, modified by Toyota but still making identical power figures (335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque) as the Z4 M40i. This is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. 0-60mph takes 4.3 seconds, top speed is 155mph. Only two seats inside, hatchback in the back. The body is stiffer than the Lexus LFA, the weight distribution is 50/50. Leaving aside the controversy of BMW, it must be admitted that it looks good on paper. Prices in the UK start at a hair of over £50,000…

…unless you want to gloss over an even more absent heritage, in which case you can also have a 255-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder version. It’s a proven engine in plenty of BMWs, Minis, and even Morgans, and it works well with this eight-speed (yes, there’s not even a manual in the base car).

So, it’s time to see how it looks…

What’s the verdict?

A fully capable off-road coupe. But not a purebred Toyota.

It is a very complete coupe. Big enough inside, well equipped, good looking, quick and kind. It is adult, but compact, agile, but soft. It is an ingenious piece of engineering. A car you’d love to drive anywhere, a car that probably offers the best compromise between GT and sportiness of any car in its class.

But that also means it doesn’t really shine either. We seem to have an absurd choice in the £40-60k sports car market at the moment. There are Caymans and Alpines if you want handling, a BMW M2 if you want a surprisingly supple hot rod, and models like BMW’s M440i Coupe if you want something really grown-up. With many convertibles spread among all of them. But if you like the look of the Supra, and can’t resist its iconic badging, in its ’90s font, then the rest of the car is good enough to warrant giving it a try.

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