Old name, new groove - we get to grips with the Toyota Supra

By Pritesh Ruthun Time of article published Jul 25, 2019

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Johannesburg - If you love your cars built tough, and with exquisite attention to detail, you go to Magna Steyr, or at least that’s what the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers do when they’re looking to create something special. The Mercedes-Benz G-Class, the Jaguar I-PACE, and now the BMW Z4 and the Toyota GR Supra - they’re all being churned out from the same manufacturing facilities run by the Austrian firm.

There’s been lots of hype around the latest Toyota GR Supra, particularly around how it’s “too much BMW under the skin” but, I wonder, when did BMW become known for making shoddy sports cars? Sure the Z4 and Supra do share common parts, but so do things like the Touareg and the Urus. Heck, we’re living in an age where Apple prefer Samsung screens.

So, cast out all doubts you have around the Supra being too much BMW and start to think of it as a car that would not exist if it were not for the collaborative effort of the two companies in question.

A bit of background

The Toyota Supra disappeared from Toyota’s model line up in the early 2000s and, while the GT86 has risen to occasion in recent years to satisfy driving enthusiasts, there’s always been a missing halo sports product in Toyota’s line-up. And, ever since the late Paul Walker and crew made the car famous in The Fast and the Furious (2002), the gen-four Supra has proven itself as a highly-tunable car that can easily perform time attacks as well as it can perform drag runs.

When BMW and Toyota decided to build a new sports car together, about five years ago, they initially wanted to use the old S55 in-line six made famous in the 1M coupe but, after a bit of testing and input from Toyota, it was confirmed that the B58 from BMW’s engine catalogue would work better. You’ll find this “Supra” unit in the M140i, the M240i, etc. And, before you ask, you cannot take your Supra to BMW for a service

What it's like to look at?

The new Toyota GR Supra is one achingly beautiful thing to look at and, in fact, the best way to look at the car is to see it from the rear-view mirrors of another car. 

The front end is arresting, low, wide and with the stretched out LED daytime running lamps - it looks so futuristic, yet right up to date. 

The high end model gets adaptive LED headlamps while the Track will receive Halogen, as it could not be confirmed if Xenons were at least standard on the Track version. The back of the car is magic too, with numerous contoured surfaces all aimed at enhancing downforce. Tuners can rub their hands in glee as the car’s primed and ready for additional spoilers and bodykits.

What it's like inside?

It’s difficult not to see the BMW in the Supra, particularly on the inside. The buttons on the centre console, the window switches, the multimedia system - it’s all BMW with a bit of Toyota sprinkled on top.

One area that it is rather different from a BMW, particularly the Z4, is the instrument cluster, which is fully digital but with a massive rev-counter in the middle. There’s this Lexus feel to the cluster, actually.

From the comfortable and cosseting driver’s seat, the view out the front windscreen is similar to the view out of a postbox slit, think super wide-screen and 4K HD. Thanks to the hardtop, dark rooflining and red-centric driver’s zone, the car feels snug around you - taut and ready to race.

The high spec cars come with all the technology you could want in a high end car, including several driving assistance functions, such as lane keep assist and active cruise control. Luxury and comfort specifications are not why you buy the Supra, though. Let’s move on.

What it's like to drive?

Jumping into the car you have to be careful not to bump your head on the A-pillar or roof, as it’s a low-slung, hunkered down piece of metal that can only be described as tighter than a Cayman but roomier than an Evora.

I mention those two cars specifically because the Porsche 718 Cayman S and the Lotus Evora S are the two cars that seem to meld together in the Supra.

There’s a confidence-inspiring feeling when pushing in the German and the Brit that you also get in the Supra that overwhelms the senses in a really, really nice way.

Fire it up through the push-button starter switch and it rumbles to life in a very familiar (clears throat) German way, particularly when it’s a cold start and there’s some walls around for the exhaust note to bounce off. Snick it into drive, in normal mode, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re in a German GT car too - stiff body, with direct steering, but with soft-ish dampers and a compliant enough ride so as to not rattle your tooth fillings loose. Dial in Sport mode, though, and the Supra gets a little more racy.

Sport mode sharpens up the throttle, it adds a bit more weight to the steering and firms up the dampers by sending an electric charge through the shocks to activate the magnets in its fluid.

It won’t go all drifty just yet, as you’ll need to press the stability control button once to turn on Traction Mode.

In Sport with Traction Mode, you can then turn in, lift to get the car to rotate and then jump back on the power to produce wonderful slides for a few seconds until the nanny systems reel you back in.

The car’s traction control brain is not as intrusive as it is in other vehicles with sporting credentials, and it proved quite enjoyable driving fast on Aldo Scribante with the systems on, just in case too much throttle was applied.

Steering, as mentioned earlier, is direct, with the smallest of inputs resulting in a change of direction.

Toyota say they’ve engineered this car to offer a lower centre of gravity than the GT86, and you can definitely feel this low-grav, high tensile structure when you change lanes at speed or try to get the rear end loose.

Is it worth a million bucks?

Yes, it is.

Ok, so it’s tough to quantify the feeling a car gives you in money terms, so forget about drawing comparisons to used cars or to other cars that you can have for the “same” money. The Supra feels fast (and it is fast), accelerating from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. It’ll top out at 250km/h too. In fact, this is the fastest Toyota they’ve ever made, and that’s truly something noteworthy. Not only is it fast, it handles with ease, it’s stable at high speeds and has enough tech and presence to keep most people satisfied for many, many years to come.

We had a slight issue on our car, though, with a rear-right tyre blowout at speed on the highway, incidentally only a few days after another journalist had experienced a similar blowout in a BMW Z4 that was running the same make and size tyres. Toyota say it’s an isolated incident, and Michelin say the tyres should be sent to them for testing. We’ll leave that to the OEMs handle and we’ll report back on it once we know more.

Nevertheless, if you have about R1.2 million to spare and you want something exciting, with presence and street-cred of note, you won’t go wrong with a Toyota GR Supra.

The vehicle comes with a four-services/80 000km Service Plan and three-year/100 000km warranty.


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