Video review: 2020 Toyota Supraby Drew Johnson
A legend returns.
Sometime you don't know what you've got until it's gone. Or at least that was the case with Toyota's Supra sports car.
Despite launching way back in 1978, the Toyota Supra didn't get much love until 2001 when it starred in the hit movie, The Fast and the Furious. Suddenly, people couldn't get enough Supra. And that was great for Toyota, except for one tiny detail -- it killed off the Supra three years earlier due to sluggish sales.
And so that throng of Supra fans created by the original Fast and Furious movie has now been waiting 20 long years for Toyota to fulfill a dream created in 2001, and finally Toyota has. The new Supra is here.
What is it?
Like the four-generations of Supra that came before it, the 2020 model is a two-door sports car that uses a straight-six engine and rear wheel drive. But unlike every Supra to come before it, the new 2020 model isn't based on a Toyota platform.
Instead, it's based on a platform sourced from BMW -- the same one that underpins the Z4 Roadster. The 2020 Supra also has a BMW engine, and much of its switchgear is plucked from the BMW parts bin.
Suspension hardware is also shared between the two vehicles, but each company uses different tuning for their active dampers. Toyota is wholly responsible for the Supra's exterior styling.
The Supra's BMW heart is a 3.0L inline-six that uses a twin-scroll turbocharger. It makes 335 horsepower and 362 lb-ft of torque at a low 1,600rpm. For comparison, the same 3.0L engine makes 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque under the hood of the Z4.
Power is shifted to the Supra's rear wheels via ZF's sensational eight-speed automatic transmission. But as good as that eight-speed is, we still miss having a manual, which is no longer offered in the Supra.
Both Supra trims, 3.0 and 3.0 Premium, use an electronic rear differential and have staggered 19-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Brakes, however, differ between the two models, at least at the rear. The Supra 3.0 has 13.7 inch rotors at the front that are clamped by a four-piston Brembo caliper, while a single-piston caliper -- with a 13.0-inch rotor -- is used at the back. That front setup is also used by the Premium model, but rear rotors are swapped for larger 13.6-inch discs for better stopping power. The upgraded brakes used on the Supra 3.0 Premium are identifiable by their red-painted calipers.
This generation of Supra is strictly a two-seater and there is no targa roof. That's one of the byproducts of Toyota's partnership with BMW. Since the Z4 is offered exclusively as a convertible, BMW demanded the Supra only be sold as a closed-top coupe.
The interior of the Supra has a lot of BMW parts, but not necessarily the ones from the Z4. Still, it's plainly obvious that the Supra's switchgear is all BMW, and that's a letdown in a flagship Toyota.
Toyota was nice enough to let us loose on Summit Point Motorsports Park's Shenandoah Circuit behind the wheel of the new Supra. But before we get to how it handled the track, let's simply cover getting in.
Unlike a number of cars we've been lucky enough to get track time in, the Supra has plenty of room for a six-foot adult wearing a helmet. That's thanks, of course, to the Supra's double-bubble roof and lack of a sunroof. But the Supra's roofline is so low that it's easy to bonk your head as you get in.
Once inside you'll notice a cozy cabin that borders on claustrophobic. The Supra has wide side sills for extra rigidity (this is probably a good time to mention the Supra's torsional rigidity exceeds that of the Lexus LFA), which means the two seats are positioned close together near the middle of the vehicle. And that low roofline mentioned earlier nets shorter-than-typical side windows and windshield, which, along with the massive rear pillars, limit outward visibility.
Our time on-track began with a few lead-follow laps. That parade session helped us get familiar with the track, and also the Supra.
Even at lower speeds it's obvious the Supra is built for driving fun. Steering isn't quite as sharp as what we were expecting, but the wheel provides good weight and the Supra is easy to maneuver around. Some credit for the Supra's willingness to dart wherever you point it should also be given the car's short wheelbase (which is 4-inches shorter than that of a GT86) and wide track.
Power is good throughout the rev-range. We were unable to verify for ourselves, but we fully believe Toyota's claim that the Supra can accelerate from 0-60 in 4.1 seconds. The Supra is certainly quick, but we couldn't quite shake the thought that it would be noticeably quicker with an extra 47 horsepower.
The Supra's brakes lack the kind of feedback we'd expect from a sports car, but there's no arguing with their on-track performance. Lap after lap they provided predictable braking without even a hint of fade.
The Supra's suspension is surprisingly comfortable, and yet it still managed to keep everything flat and in control, even at speeds well into the triple-digit range. A perfect 50/50 weight distribution is also key to the Supra's handling prowess.
We couldn't help smiling as we hooned around Shenandoah, admiring the rear end styling of the Supra just ahead. But then we'd peer down for a second and notice the BMW infotainment. Or climate controls. And we can't exactly explain why, but that took some of the fun out of it.
How's it as 'a' car
In addition to putting the Supra through its paces on-track, we also sampled the sports car on the roads of the real world, where it performed remarkably like a German luxury car.
The suspension in the Supra really is comfortable. It absorbs bumps well and doesn't translate jolts to the cabin. The Supra's comfort is further aided by a set of sports seats that provide good support and enough bolstering to keep you in place.
Even though it can deliver lightning-fast shifts on the track, the Supra's eight-speed auto is exceedingly smooth during normal driving. But as good as it is, we'd still like the option of a proper manual gearbox.
With the windows rolled up, the Supra's cabin is a quiet place to be; there's little tire or wind noise intrusion. The Supra's exhaust isn't as muted, and that's no accident. The U.S. actually has the most lax exhaust noise regulations in the world, and Toyota went to the trouble of tuning a louder exhaust system specifically for this market.
The engine doesn't drone on during highway driving, but the six-cylinder makes its presence known at all engine speeds. When you're really whipping it, the exhaust will crackle and pop like a bowl of Rice Krispies. A noticeable chirp from the turbo only adds to the Supra's aural experience.
Roll the windows down, however, and the Supra becomes unbearable at speeds in excess of 45mph. For whatever reason, the Supra is a buffeting nightmare with the windows down at those speeds, with the outside air relentlessly banging your eardrums. We quickly tired of the noise and switched the AC on.
Prices for the Supra start at $49,990 for the entry-level 3.0 model. Jumping to the 3.0 Premium brings the Supra's price to $53,990. The one-year-only, of which there will only be 1,500 made, Supra Launch Edition carries a base MSRP of $55,250. All prices exclude a mandatory $930 destination charge.
Standard safety equipment includes eight airbags, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning with steer assist and automatic high beams. You'll have to pay extra if you want adaptive cruiser control and blind spot monitoring.
Fuel economy figures are quite good for the Supra -- the EPA says you can expect to get 24mpg in the city and 31mpg on the highway, netting a combined average of 26mpg.
Leftlane's bottom line
The Supra is finally back, and we can report that it's mostly been worth the wait.
Your mileage may be differ, but we're quite fond of the Supra's striking exterior styling. It is a little flamboyant in places but, overall, we're fans.
And there's no denying that the Supra's nice to drive. But with all of its BMW parts, it just doesn't feel authentic. We're under the opinion that every flagship vehicle -- whether it be a sports car or truck -- should be built by its parent company. And the Supra simply isn't.
But if you can get past that mental hurdle, the Supra is one heck of a sports coupe.
Photos courtesy of Toyota.