Here it is. The new Toyota Supra. Finally.
The previous Toyota Supra (mk4 A80) was born at a time when Japan ruled the automotive world and the Supra was right in the thick of it. Incredible engine, styling, and performance that is just as impressive today as it was back then. Now, it’s back but the world’s moved on. What does it mean to be a Japanese performance car today?
Honda have the incredibly tech-laden (and expensive) NSX, Nissan have their aged but much lauded GT-R which also comes in at quite a price although far from the NSX, and that’s about it really. Sure there are other cars like the Civic Type R and the WRX is still floating about but there’s not much in between. The GT-R still punches above its weight but at a price that is out of reach for most.
If going by reported pricing of £52,000, it puts the Supra a fraction above three direct competitors, the BMW M2 Competition, 718 Cayman, and Alpine A110.
What this does is throw in the luxury and brand angle into the mix. Do you want to drive around in a Toyota, or a bespoke sports car with flair like the Alpine A110? Where the challenge comes in for buyers (and Toyota), is shifting long standing perceptions of driving a Toyota vs a sports car from a luxury brand built upon decades of heritage and sporting success.
In the early 90s, Porsche and BMW didn’t have cheaper, entry level sports models the M3 and 911 carrying the flag at a price point of around $150-200k in Australia. This gave the likes of the Nissan R32 GTR ‘Godzilla’ the opportunity to undercut at $110k along with the Mazda RX7 at $90k. The mk4 (A80) Supra wasn’t available as a new car in Australia at the time but would’ve been close in price to those two had it been.
That’s what made Japanese cars so brilliant. Giant beating performance for less money, doing away with all that heritage nonsense and just getting on with the driving and enjoyment of ownership and if you threw a few mods into the mix you could virtually be untouchable in a street fight.
These days performance gains are marginal with just about every car capable of delivering world beating performance with the right modifications thanks to electronics and turbocharging.
So that leaves the new Supra with one goal. Deliver unrivalled driving enjoyment in all situations whether cruising down a highway in comfort, attacking some backroads or mountain passes, or ringing its neck at a track day. Judging it by its little brother the GT86, Toyota have every chance of pulling that off.
Much has been said about the amount of BMW engineered into the Supra, particularly in the cabin. I just don’t see how that’s a bad thing given the way German manufacturers screw together their vehicles and the materials they use. The only drawback is Toyota would’ve had their hands tied with interior design, unable to draw upon the last Supra’s sweeping cockpit.
Speaking of other design features lost, one of the most striking and iconic rear ends of the 90s the mk4 Supra featured eight round lights encased in a lozenge surround. It’s a shame those lights didn’t carry through in some way, Toyota instead preferring to work with their current design language of squinty Lexus-style lights which don’t look bad, but they don’t say ‘Supra’ either.
Where the FT-1 concept car lines were flowing and shapely, the new Supra looks as though a compactor has squished it either side. There’s a lot more side-wall mass over the front and rear wheel arch but it’s the rear three quarter which has had the biggest impact in production form. Gone is the dramatic tapering, large air channel, and round and smooth rear haunch, instead in its place a token air channel and what looks like unfinished moulding.
The concept looks like it’s hunkered down and sitting on its wheels. The production car looks much tamer, while accommodating real world concerns such as suspension travel. We must also remember this is a car that shares a platform and underlying engineering with another manufacturer. Perhaps if the concept wasn’t so stunning, maybe we wouldn’t be complaining quite so much.
You can also blame production costs, pedestrian laws, safety laws and whatever other law you can think of. Perhaps the drive itself will change all of this and we can be more forgiving. Perhaps in real life it ain’t so bad and with a few tweaks will look the part.
Is a manual version coming? Possibly. It would certainly help differentiate it from the auto only Alpine A110 and give enthusiasts something less to moan about.
In a world that’s quickly going electric this may be the last Supra ever, and we should thank our lucky stars. At least Toyota have spiced up the market. Now we await the first proper reviews and comparisons…