Inside the Toyota GR Supra
Oh Wow! This is a Toyota that just doesn’t feel like a Toyota most of the time.
Yes, it has all the trade marks, well built, safe and secure with a nice ride comfort, but it has a howl and a bark we haven’t seen from a Toyota in years, if ever, on the road. It is a purposeful design that gently guides the air around the car, the straight six turbo pops and crackles on the overrun in sport mode, and it grips like nothing else I have driven in the past two years.
It is also the first car in two years that my daughter has asked if we could buy. I live in hope of a long-term loan car, because at $84,900 while a bargain, it is a little out of my passion car price range. I offered to get one, but I had to trade in a kid if I was only going to have a two-seater, she was happy for her brother to go. He wasn’t.
Up to now, the Supra had always been a GT model, a great 2-door car for a quick Sunday drive. But this car is no GT, it is pure sports and that’s what makes it so special. It goes like it looks, and that is a good thing.
At first glance, I thought the front of the car was a little try hard with its attempt to mimic the look of a Formula One car. But it really does work. The body work flows in an evocative way, you can run your hands over the surface of the car and imagine how easily the air gets to where it needs to without too much work. There’s adaptive LED headlights up front to light the way and a few little slots here and there to make you think racing car—unfortunately there are all decorative but clearly could do something one day.
It has a great stance on the road, it is wide and flat with a unique double bubble roof that is not as obvious in the black of our test car as it is a lighter colour, like the yellow that really stands out. The rear tucks in stunningly and the integrated spoiler lip on the hatch signals purpose.
Under the skin, the chassis is a shared development with BMW who will use the basics for the next Z4 BMW. It is a partnership that works, each company admits neither a new Z4 or Supra would have happened without the other, yet each was able to remain true to its own brand DNA. This is the second Toyota in recent years developed like this, and I think they should keep looking at building cars this way because it is working.
The car comes in two trim levels, the GT at $84,900 and the GTS at $94,900 and mechanically there is little difference between the two, it is just a about the things like a head-up display, bigger wheels, red brake callipers and a louder stereo. The basics remain unchanged.
The suspension is perfectly tuned for Australia on the 18 inch wheels of the GT model we drove. It soaks up bumps and irregularities whether it is in Sport or Normal mode. A drive in the hills outside Melbourne is enough to challenge most cars claiming sports heritage, if you are going fast the constant changes in direction can become tiresome if a car understeers, you miss an apex here and then you have to wash speed off there.
This car turns in with great neutrality, it does what you ask. It handles direction changes under heavy braking and it just keeps asking for more. The 8-speed gearbox is up to the task too, in automatic mode it has a split personality in the two driving modes and Sport is intuitive and reads the play well, but you want manual mode where you control the gears and you get quick and snappy changes. But you have to stay alert because the straight six turbo engine revs easily to the red line.
You can feel at times the active limited slip differential pulling the tail around without allowing wheelspin, and the lane tracking will occasionally give a tug on the wheel when you get near the centre line or the edge of the road (but only when it is marked). You feel it, but it is not alarming.
I don’t remember any time in this car where I thought I had gone too far.
The 0-100km/h time is less than 5 seconds which is the benchmark for quick, but it is the way it accelerates while you are moving that is impressive. Top speed is well into hand your licence over territory, so find a friendly car club to join and hit the track every so often.
All the safety gear you can think of is there, so there is no need to list it. If you want it, you’ve got it.
I loved Sport mode. On the freeway, you turn it on and the car instantly drops a gear and the engine takes on a distinct growl and pops and crackles on the overrun. It does get a little stiffer on the ride, but it never gets uncomfortable. All I wanted to do was speed-up and slow down so I could hear the noise…
Toyota talks figures and ratios all the time in its media release on this car. Nothing happened by chance. The ratio between wheelbase and front and rear track (the distance between the mid-point of each tyre on an axle line) was set to what Toyota calls the ‘golden ratio’ at around 0.65—the wheelbase is 2,470mm and the track is 1,594mm and the front and 1,589mm at the rear. Overall we get a car that is 4,379mm long, 1854mm wide and 1,292mm tall. It is smaller than previous Supras, and in all reality not that much bigger than a Mazda MX5 (464mm longer, 119mm wider and 57mm taller).
Most of extra is length is required for the straight six engine. Heritage says it was always going to be this engine rather than a V6, but performance wise despite what some advertising may have you believe, there is no performance loss in this format. In fact, companies like BMW—this is actually a BMW engine—can evidence the other way, they make amazing straight six engines that have aural pleasure as well as the performance. This is one of those engines. 3.0-litres and turbo-charged for 250kW, which doesn’t sound big, but it delivers.
The power delivery is direct with little turbo-lag and it has the autostop function for traffic lights that helps on fuel consumption. Going hard it drinks, but cruising around the city it is pretty efficient. And best of all, it is designed to run on our crappy 91RON fuel, which means you don’t feel it at the bowser when you can use the cheap nozzle at 20 or more cents a litre less. The only hassle is the fuel tank is only 52 litres, so it is pretty easy to drink a tank on a Sunday drive.
The interior is a pretty good too. Sitting under the twin-bubble roof there is plenty of headroom, and the seats sit low and grip your body nicely. They have plenty of adjustment too. I wouldn’t have minded and the easy entry mode that some cars have, but the steering wheel was manually adjustable only so that wasn’t possible.
The driving position for me was perfect, everything fell to hand and the dash was visible and clear. Some of the info system was a bit too nanny-state for me. I don’t like having to accept certain conditions every time I start the car, I know that there is a safety risk if I use the system when I am driving. Really, I do.
The stereo was OK, but not what I expected. Having seen the last model Supra making its name in The Fast and The Furious, I expected a kick-arse stereo that could wake the dead with its bass—it didn’t do that. It did a good job of replaying the engine noise though.
Ownership is easy too, and it is not just about the five-year warranty because there is also fixed price servicing for that period, $380 a year which is a pretty good deal and won’t make you sweat when you roll up to your local Toyota dealer.
With this, the first of a new age of sports cars from Toyota, ‘Oh What A Feeling’ has meaning. This car lives up to the hype, it takes an image and re-invents it without us realising they had made a quantum shift. Previous Supras were big GT cars, and in all honestly the previous model just wasn’t that good, but this takes the legend, gives it a twist and makes it real.
It is a great sports car, not a GT. It has one of the best sorted chassis I can remember in a long time and is enjoyable to drive all the time. It handles the city and car parks with speed humps as well as it takes the switch-backs of mountain roads. It soaks up bumps without teeth shattering jarring, yet still grips as well as anything in the market. Not many sports car can say that.
Let’s hope Toyota keeps the purity of concept, and don’t fatten it up for the market. What I’d really love is for Toyota GAZOO Racing (yes, that really is the name of the factory backed Toyota squad and there is a story in that for another day) to build a gun GT3 version and get all those little blanked off slots open and doing some work. That would be something special.
- Toyota GR Supra GT—$84,900 (plus on roads)
- Toyota GR Supra GTS—$94,900 (plus on roads)
- BMW Z4—same chassis and engine, convertible and less dramatic but not on sale yet
- Audi TT—quite a bit cheaper and way less sporty
- Lexus RC—less sport and very expensive to compete speedwise
- Nissan 370Z—cheaper but nicely balanced GT
- Alfa Romeo 4C—quicker but less practical
- Mercedes-AMG CLA45—just a very fast coupe
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