2019 Toyota GR Supra Review

It’s been 17 long years since the Supra featured in the Toyota range, when production of the fourth generation A80 Supra ceased in 2002.  The Supra, especially the A80 model, built an impressive reputation as one of the finest performing sports-cars for the road and an all-conquering machine on the racetrack.  The next Supra has finally arrived and is the fifth generation A90 model of this car and the first to be sold under the Toyota GAZOO Racing branding.

To give a brief history of how this car came about, in 2012 chief engineer of the Toyota 86 Tetsuya Tada was asked by Toyota’s president to make a successor to the Supra.  A one off Toyota GR Supra Racing Concept was unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show in 2018 and a camouflaged production version made its debut at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed.  Toyota’s final product was unveiled at the 2019 Detroit motor show.  Positive reaction to the car meant that the fifth generation of the Toyota Supra was put into production.  The GR Supra is a joint venture between Toyota and BMW, with the Supra sharing a joint platform with the new BMW Z4 convertible.

There has been some controversy with the development of the new Supra, with purists bemoaning the fact that the car shares its engine, interior and eight speed ZF gearbox with the BMW Z4, with Toyota only working on the styling, suspension and steering tunes.  There are two models in the Australian line-up including the GT and GTS.  The car on test is the cheaper GT model finished in Suzuka Silver, costing $84,900 plus on road costs, while the GTS costs $10,000 more.

Interior

A look inside the GR Supra reveals a number of BMW items including the 8.8-inch iDrive infotainment system and operating controls.  The leather sports seats can be heated and offer a great range of electric adjustment, while the side bolsters can be adjusted to suit.  Ahead of the driver sits a large tachometer, with a digital speedometer to the left.  Curiously, there are horizontal bars located each side of the instrument cluster for fuel level and engine temperature.  Wireless phone charging is available and there are also two cup holders in the centre console.  The steering wheel is equipped with paddle shifters, but doesn’t really live up to the performance credentials of the car and not only looks a bit dull but is too narrow.  There’s only 290 litres of cargo space in the rear with a fairly tight boot opening.  The battery is located under the boot floor and there’s a tyre repair kit hidden in the right side of the boot.  There’s no partition to separate the boot from the passenger cell.  I didn’t carry any loose items, but they worryingly could potentially end up making their way in with the occupants.  The ‘Toyota Supra’ branded scuff plates and carbon fibre trim piece surrounding the gear lever and iDrive controller are nice touches, but overall, my opinion is that the interior of the Supra isn’t as special as the one found in the Toyota 86.  Bear in mind that the 86 is roughly half the cost of the Supra.

Exterior

The GR Supra is a muscular looking sports car.  My favourite styling touches are the flared rear quarter panels and aggressive front and rear diffusers.  Strong but lightweight composite materials are used for the front and rear bumpers, front and rear diffusers, side skirts and rear wing.  It’s a car that looks better in the flesh, particularly when finished in Suzuka Silver, however doesn’t have the flowing lines of the previous A80 Supra.  Some nice touches on the car are the dual exhausts and Supra badging found on the rear bumper, similar to what was found on the previous model.  There are unfortunately multiple fake vents and they are found in the front bumper, front quarter panels and doors.  Looking at the Supra from the side, there are some similarities between it and the E86 BMW M Coupe, particularly the roofline, rear quarter panels and the long bonnet.  This GT model sits on silver 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber; 275/40/18 at the rear and 255/40/18 at the front.  Brembo supplies the brakes and the discs are ventilated, measuring 348mm in diameter on the front axle with four-piston calipers and 330mm diameter on the rear axle with a single piston caliper.

Standard equipment

 Standard features of the GR Supra GTS include adaptive LED headlights, heated and folding mirrors, automatic wipers, leather seats with eight-way power adjustment, seven airbags, an 8.8-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, adaptive cruise control, Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, 10-speaker stereo with DAB+ digital radio and satellite navigation.  There’s also high-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistant, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.  The reversing camera and sensors certainly give you a good idea of your surroundings and are very useful when reversing and parking.  The Supra is covered by Toyota’s five year warranty and this also covers non-competitive track driving.

 Drive modes

In the GR Supra, the driver can adjust between normal and sport for the damping, steering, engine and transmission.  The sport setting is accessed by pressing the large ‘Sport’ button behind the gear lever.  Beneath the Sport button is a small button that can deactivate the stability and traction control systems.  The iDrive system is intuitive and easy to use and the driver can access sport displays through the infotainment system, with a screen that shows engine power up to 320kW and torque up to 560Nm.  In Vehicle Status, there’s a tyre monitor that displays the tyre pressure and tyre temperature.

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Driving impressions and performance

The new GR Supra certainly has a lot to live up to in regards to how it performs on the road.  Like its predecessor, the Supra is rear wheel drive and uses a 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six cylinder engine.  In this car, however, the legendary twin-turbocharged 2JZ engine has been replaced with a single twin-scroll turbocharged engine from BMW, known as the B58.  The engine has been around since 2015 and has been used in other performance BMW models including the M140i and M240i.  This version produces 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque, enabling the Supra to sprint from 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds, with launch control activated.

The engine’s fired up by pushing a starter button to the left of the steering wheel.  When started in normal mode, the car is quiet but in sport mode the car has a much more pronounced engine sound, with some loud pops from the twin exhausts when revved.  The Supra accelerates quickly and has short gear ratios; with redline in second gear hit at about 80km/h.  There’s no doubt that this is a fast car, with the faint whistle from the turbo and the exhaust note in sport mode adding to the occasion.  Turbo-lag is non-existent and the engine feels as responsive as a naturally aspirated unit.  Flicking the gear shifter across to the left enables the driver to access the eight speed ZF gearbox’s manual mode.  The driver can go up and down the gears by either using the paddles located behind the steering wheel, or using the shifter.  Manual mode works well when hurrying the car along and in auto mode the ZF gearbox shifts gears quietly and smoothly.  The gearbox is excellent and really works with the driver, with gears being held in manual mode.  A six-speed manual gearbox would be a real treat in this car, but isn’t available.

The Supra was driven in both wet and dry conditions over a mixture of different road surfaces.  Just outside of Healesville, the car was driven in the wet, travelling downhill on Myers Creek Road.  It’s a tricky, windy narrow road and therefore needs to be treated with respect in any vehicle.  With the car in its normal mode for damping, it felt too stiff, with the Supra feeling a little unsettled over large bumps and undulations.  Conversely, the car was driven in the dry on the Gembrook-Launching Place Road.  There are some sections of road here that are very well surfaced and don’t have as many undulations, and I found that the Supra felt more at home on this road.  With damping, steering, engine and transmission set to sport, the 1495kg Supra was fantastic.  The Supra is also composed when disabling the traction and stability control systems, and it’s good that when you turn these off, they don’t interfere at all.  The turbocharged engine and eight speed gearbox are perfectly matched, and combined with the occasional pops and bangs from the exhaust, it really is an exhilarating car to drive at speed.  It would be great to drive the GR Supra at a smooth circuit like Phillip Island, for example.

It puts the power down well through the 275mm wide rear tyres, with the limited slip differential offering plenty of traction.  The electric steering is perhaps a little bit too heavily weighted in sport mode, but this is a minor criticism.  Another small issue was the brake pedal feel; at times the pedal can feel spongy, reminding me of brake fade.  They’re not as reassuring as the Brembo brake package that’s offered on the Toyota 86.  Toyota’s official fuel consumption claim is 7.7L/100km and the Supra can run on 91 RON fuel, however the fuel tank size is only 52 litres.

Final thoughts

The GR Supra’s main competitors are the car that it shares a lot of components with, the BMW Z4 M40i, costing around $125,000, the more powerful but cheaper Ford Mustang GT V8 (around $85,000) and Chevrolet Camaro 2SS (around $89,000), and Porsche 718 Cayman (around $118,0000).

Overall, the Supra has some good points, but it also isn’t perfect.  It’s a well styled and proportioned car and on the right piece of road and in sport mode, the turbocharged engine and eight speed gearbox work perfectly together to give maximum enjoyment to the driver.  However, the interior should be a bit more special for a car costing close to $100,000.  The damping of the car is also a bit too stiff, with the car a little unsettling over large bumps and undulations.

As stated previously, the new GR Supra has been met with criticism, with Supra purists claiming that the car is a rebadged BMW.  My opinion is that we wouldn’t have this car without the input from BMW, and these sorts of cars need to be celebrated more.  The increase in popularity in electric vehicles could mean that sports cars like these that really make driving enjoyable may not be around for much longer.

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