DRIVEN: Toyota Supra is finally back, going wheel-to-wheel with pricier sportscarsJul 26th, 2019
When the last generation of the Toyota Supra made its exit from the market some years ago, it was, roughly, a $70,000 car.
Today, nearly 20 years later, pristine and low-mileage copies of this machine are fetching six-digit price-tags in the used market. For various reasons, the Toyota Supra remained a highly sought-after machine, even decades after it stopped being produced.
Today, the Supra is back for model-year 2020. For the sports-car enthusiast, or anyone itching for a taste of world-class performance without the world-class price tag, it’s a machine worth serious consideration.
Specifically, by your writer’s estimation, there are three main reasons why.
First? It’s hardly less beautiful a machine to drive hard than a Porsche Cayman S (one of my personal favourite drivers’ cars of all time), though (similarly equipped), the Supra is tens of thousands of dollars cheaper.
That’s a lot of leftover funds for track-day admission, fuel, tires, and brake pads.
Second? Despite its track-day-ready setup, and ability to handle a day’s worth of lapping a 32-degree Mont Tremblant circuit in Quebec without breaking a sweat, it’s a remarkably easygoing machine to drive around town, too.
Quiet. Comfortable. It’s almost relaxing, actually. This is fairly remarkable, given that plenty of cars in this capability ballpark turn in a noisy and spine-busting ride in exchange for their handling capabilities.
Third? As a good sports car should, the Supra engages, flatters, entertains and encourages its driver, however they use it. Novice track-day enthusiasts will find plenty of capability to grow into — and a car that’s nicely set up for learning the ropes.
It’s flattering, not frightening, as you learn performance driving basics.
Track-day veterans will find Supra a real treat, too. It’s immediately responsive, predictable, keenly obedient, and largely unbothered by severe use, even in the summer heat. After reviewing in-car footage from over a dozen laps of Circuit Mont Tremblant on a scorching day, including plenty of time spent in full-throttle redline situations, I noticed the coolant temperature gauge didn’t even budge.
Translation? You’ll run out of steam at track-day long before the Supra needs a break. It’s a machine designed for this sort of driving — a good thing as that’s exactly how many owners will use theirs.
And while the highest return on investment will come to owners regularly participating in motorsports, Supra is more than happy to dawdle along public roads with ease.
The slippery aerodynamics help reduce fuel consumption and cabin noise levels. Even at 200 km/h or so (on the racetrack), you’d hardly need to raise your voice for a conversation. At 105 km/h on the highway, it’s peaceful place to be, in regards to noise levels.
Further, the adaptive shocks are a slick bit of engineering witchcraft. At the direction of a computer control system (and an array of sensors), said shocks can self-adjust, with millisecond precision, to tweak the way the Supra rides and handles. With sport mode engaged on the circuit, things stiffen up — helping your inputs go more directly to the tires.
With sport mode off, on in-town roads (and even badly beaten ones), Supra rides with a refined density uncommon of such a sporting model. Bumps that make me wince in the average crossover are handled with minimal drama. Supra never seems to crash into bumps, and rarely feels like the suspension is taking a beating.
Put simply, here’s a machine that could get away with a much louder, and much rougher, ride.
All Canadian spec models come just one way: fully-equipped, with an asking price of some $65,000. This includes a premium JBL audio system, leather memory seats, automatic climate control, a back-up camera, navigation, and little short of every outward-looking safety system on offer from Toyota right now. Collision warning, lane assist, and all the rest.
Thus, the ordering process is simple: just pick your colour, and ready a bank draft.
Those interested should do this as soon as possible, as lengthy waiting times are likely. Only 300 units are coming to Canada this year, and some reports indicate that most of these are sold. Toyota has no official comment on waiting times or availability, though several reliable sources peg waiting times at months, if not longer.
Power comes from a BMW-sources three-litre inline six-cylinder engine, turbocharged for 335 horsepower. That’s 335, because by the seat of your writer’s pants (and some reports from various enthusiasts with access to a dynamometer), these are some suspiciously-athletic ponies indeed.
The ponies are backed by 365 lb.-ft. of torque available from low revs. This enhances the immediacy of the throttle response, and ensures that all throttle inputs are met with a sudden surge of forward thrust that stays on strong until redline. The sound is sensational: a thick and reedy howl, semi-exotic in tone, simply soaks the cabin at full throttle. It’s loud, and it sounds glorious.
The 8-speed paddle-shift automatic shifts up in scarcely longer than it takes to blink. Rev matching in both directions, even during severe use, is flawless and comically quick. There’s no manual transmission available. This upsets many an enthusiast (your writer included), though truth be told, it would only slow the Supra down.
Supra is rear-wheel drive, and Toyota, perhaps modestly, claims a 0-100 km/h figure of 4.3 seconds.
A final note. Supra is a sports car that you wear, more than one you sit inside of. Most occupants will require a good duck, and a good climb down into their seat. From there, the cabin is just spacious enough in each dimension so as to not feel cramped, but that’s about it. For your average-sized writer, it fit like a glove.
It’s smaller than you think, too — in fact, Toyota’s other sports car, the 86, has a long wheelbase. It has a back seat, however. Supra does not.
After all, this is a sports car that was designed as a sports-car from the get-go. No compromises were made to accommodate a range of engines, a rear seat or a spacious trunk. This keeps Supra light, lean, and true to its purpose.
You’ll feel this as you drive. Simply, it responds and moves in a way that a souped-up commuter model just can’t.
Some drivers will wish for more from the cabin, however.
Other than a Supra-specific instrument cluster and seating surfaces, it’s pure BMW inside—right down to the turn signal lever, door lock switch, and BMW’s iDrive central command interface.
The Supra is a joint venture between Toyota and BMW, after all. The German automaker builds their Z4 Roadster using many of the same parts, in the same factory. If there was an opportunity to give Supra more of its own unique identity via cabin design, it was missed, here.
All said, where driving feel takes a higher position on the shopper’s wish-list than cabin design, the 2020 Toyota Supra amounts to one of the most compelling and every-day friendly performance machines I’ve ever visited on this side of a six-digit price-tag.