Some say that it is still very much a BMW Z4. Well they are not wrong. But in this day and age, where budgets are certainly tighter, and with brand accountants hovering over product planning, developing a car that seats only two, and which is performance-oriented is becoming increasingly difficult.
The last Toyota Supra existed back in the 90s. A golden age, where most Japanese manufacturers had something good for track use in their stables.
Mazda which was always left-of-field, had their wild-revving rotary-powered and twin-charged RX7, Mitsubishi their 3000GT, loaded with active-aero gizmos; Subaru had their oddball SVX, with a 3.3 litre flat-six and AWD; Honda stood out with their mid-engined NSX, which F1 legend Ayrton Senna owned two; while Nissan on the other hand, fired a double-salvo with the legendary Skyline GT-R (that caused some serious embarrassment to some V8 cars in Bathurst) and 300ZX. The pre-recession Japanese car scene was truly alive!
Fast forward to today, the Supra has finally made a comeback, and reflects Toyota’s determination to still build us cars that can excite… and yes, their determination too, to keep their Supra nameplate alive.
While the new Supra may utilise the same architecture and has loads of componentry in common with the BMW Z4; styling-wise, there is little in the way to tell that their new coupe and the BMW are remotely related.
The bodywork features sweeping wind-cheating curves. The front end and bonnet is fitted with faux air vents, to which Toyota says can be replaced by real ones for air to pass through. A pronounced double-bubble roof which pays homage to the 2000GT introduced in 1967, which paved the way internationally for Toyota’s future sports cars; is also intended for optimum airflow, ensuring that little bit of added stability at speed.
There is no escaping the BMW switchgear count within the cabin. In fact, this isn’t a bad thing for two reasons; one being that quality is very good, and the second being that Toyota spends a little less in specially designed componentry just for one car. Where the Japanese see it as necessary, they have done a considerable amount of restyling to make the car their very own.
Carryovers like the BMW iDrive system and the windscreen-projected HUD, are pleasant and useful inclusions, although I must say that the infotainment screen is tilted a little too far back for my liking. Entertainment is provided by-way of a JBL system. Sound quality is decently good, with bassy notes coming from the low-frequency speakers behind the seats.
Those who are in tune with BMW’s button placement on their gearshift levers, will also find the one in the Supra rather familiar. The digitised instrument cluster, with its red themed display seems Japanese video game-inspired, and fittingly ties in with the (serious) playfulness the Supra is intended for.
Bucket-style sports seats lined with Alcantara are built to grip your behind, and hold you in-place while you pitch the Supra into bends.
A 290 litre boot ensures that this is a decently practical car. I still am unable to get around why did the product planners not fit in an external boot release button (this seems to be a Japanese thing). The boot lid however shuts with a ‘thunk’ you can only expect out of a German-built car. Strangely, they have left an opening between the passenger cabin and the boot, so that you are actually able to pack your hefty golf bag with you with your clubs facing the dash, and then go on to take your car for a few laps around Sepang and then head off for a game of golf, or vice-versa (depending on which is the more important driver to you)… Promising… a car that tries to kill you… must be heaps of fun!
Also carried over into the Supra is BMW’s B58 family straight-six twin scroll turbocharged engine (the 2.0 gets the B48 four-cylinder). With 335Bhp and 500Nm available, the latter is available from 1,600 to 4,500rpm. Mated to a ZF8HP 8-speed automatic, gear ratios are well-spaced apart.
The Supra clocks in at 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. The six-cylinder unit, revs effortlessly once the the turbocharger spools up. There is a sweet spot from between 5,000 to 6,000rpm, which is where the Supra’s maximum potential is available.
The exhaust delivers satisfying snaps and bangs whenever you lift off, or when you drop a gear; albeit a little more muted compared to the Z4’s due to the enclosed cabin.
With spot-on front-rear weight distribution, the Supra can easily be tucked into corners, and with the help of its electronically-controlled active differential, which sends the right amount of shove to the left and right rear wheels. Coax the throttle down mid-corner and you can feel the rear predictably stepping out just a little, before BMW’s Toyota’s safety nets kick in.
Good cabin insulation means that the Supra can be used as an everyday driver. Even in normal drive mode, the weighted steering feels in-sync with its beefy performance. If I choose to be fussy, I would say that I’d prefer a slightly thicker steering wheel.
While the BMW Z4 is built to be a supposedly slightly milder, more relaxed drop-top, the Toyota Supra on the other hand is intended to be a serious sports car.
I know that there are two schools of thought. Toyota purists shouting ‘Blasphemy!’ simply because the car is more BMW than a true Toyota. And then there are those who can see the good in the engineering, and can appreciate how the Japanese have developed the car to be their own.
And then... there is the third school of thought, and take it from me. That straight-six up-front is one of the best engines current-day, if you are looking for a dedicated 2-seater sports car, the Supra is quite an attractive buy!
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