One of the best sports cars available today, in any price range.
Yes, we know, and we’ve heard it a thousand times over – Toyota and BMW have joined forces to produce the fifth-generation Supra alongside the Z4 roadster. This is by no means a bad thing, and I’ll challenge anyone who says otherwise. These are two of the strongest and most respected automakers in the world, that have, over the years, separately graced us with some of the most engaging and iconic driver’s cars ever built. The recipe behind the legendary Supra is a simple one – a two-door, rear-drive sports car with an inline six-cylinder engine, boosted with a turbocharger on 1987 models and onward. This was combined with timeless styling with each generation, and excellent chassis tuning to make for a genuine sports car.
And that’s exactly what the most anticipated car of the year is – the 2020 Toyota GR Supra marks return of an icon. Sure, there are many remnants of BMW throughout the interior and in the engine bay, but who cares? After spending roughly 11 days behind the wheel of today’s hottest new sports car, it lives up to our high expectations and dare I say, exceeds them. The looks may be subjective, but the new Supra stands out in a sea of silver and grey crossovers that litter our streets. The swooping lines look great and the bubble design in the roof is a lovely addition. The non-functional faux-vents in the front fenders are a bit of a put-off, but that’s about it. A cool heritage touch is that the “Supra” badge on the rear end uses the same font as the fourth-generation (1993-2002) model.
While I subjectively consider the previous-generation Supra (Mark 4) to be a thing of beauty, this opinion isn’t unanimous amongst our office. Our managing editor Jerry Vo has a gorgeous 1986 example that was his lifelong dream car, and it looks magnificent. It may be the styling of the 2020 model, or it might just be the popularity among enthusiasts of the hottest new car this year, but we couldn’t go fifty feet in this Supra without getting attention. Everybody loves it, from purists to kindergartners. Everywhere this car was parked during our test week, I could be sure that it would attract a crowd upon my return. This car is the result of talent from Toyota’s Gazoo Racing team, which is signified by the “GR” in the car’s official name.
The Supra is known for its inline six-cylinder engine to provide power with unmatched smoothness. Though this is a BMW engine, the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder known as the “B58” is unquestionably the best straight-six on the market today. It’s buttery smooth, fuel efficient, and provides torque right through the power band. Toyota claims 335 horsepower at a screaming 6,500RPM and 365 lb-ft. of torque, but there’s no doubt that these numbers are extremely conservative. These power numbers are down from the Z4 M40i (reviewed here), but the Supra’s peak torque comes in at 1,600RPM.
Lag from the turbocharger is at a minimum, and Toyota claims a 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.3 seconds, faster than the Z4. Pushing the “Sport” button on the center console will calibrate the engine, transmission, steering heft and suspension damping into the most aggressive settings. The stability control system can be fully defeated should you wish to engage in tomfoolery whilst at the track. Power delivery is immediate, and the Supra does exactly what’s asked of it, with nary a complaint. This is what a sports car should feel like, and the latest Supra does it right.
Transmission mogul ZF’s eight-speed automatic is the only available transmission right now, and quite frankly, it’s the best auto-box on the market. Yes, it’s sacrilege that there’s no manual, but let’s be realistic – what would the take rate even be in this growing age of laziness? The ZF 8HP does a wonderful job changing gears predictably, and the paddle shifters are responsive. Downshifts in Sport mode are met with a bark and backfire pops from the exhaust – these sound a little bit more natural and wilder than the synthetic noise in certain other vehicles today.
Toyota has used a fully steel structure as part of the GR Supra’s structure, and the car itself is three inches wider than the 86 (reviewed here). It’s also about a half foot longer, roughly the same length as my own Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The proportions are still extremely compact, and the new Supra, codenamed “A90”, is almost an entire foot shorter than the fourth-generation model that left us in 2002. I’d even go as far as to say the Supra is the perfect size, fitting into small spots and nimble enough to dart around with ease. Operating on the required 91-octane premium fuel, we averaged 10.9L/100km in the car with a healthy mix of city driving.
As with tradition, the GR Supra is a rear-drive configuration with an electronic limited-slip differential and front strut and rear multi-link suspension. The dampers are adaptive and do a spectacular job at keeping things as firm as you need them to be for your driving environment. The steering is on the lighter side, but responsive overall and Sport mode increases the weight at the wheel. The dimensions and overall proportions, along with the short 97-inch wheelbase (four inches shorter than the Toyota 86) mean the Supra is an eager handler with the crispness we expect from BMW executed with the precision of Toyota. It’s the right amount of twitchy while remaining very easily controllable.
The cabin of the new Supra will be a familiar sight for those who have spent any time in a late-model Bavarian machine. The infotainment is a re-skinned version of iDrive, which is one of the benchmark infotainment systems in the business. Apple CarPlay can be managed wirelessly, and while this is the previous generation of iDrive, it does everything drivers would need it to simplistically. Ergonomics are fairly good, though the infotainment touchscreen is placed at an odd angle, away from the driver and on an upward tilt – reflections in sunlight make it awkward to see. The digital gauge cluster is all Toyota, crystal clear, and displays all information clearly.
One challenging aspect of the Supra is storage space within the cabin. Those planning to daily drive their toy (I would, if I owned one of these) will find it difficult to place daily carry items around your person. The door pockets are tiny, and with the leather pouch containing the owner’s manual in the glove compartment, nothing more than a folded piece of paper will fit in there. There’s no parcel shelf behind the seats, either, as this space is occupied by the speakers. Anything more than your phone (there’s a cubby for this) and your sunglasses will need to get tossed into the trunk.
The seats themselves are superb, and most will find it easy to set up the perfect driving position. All major controls are within reach, and there’s ample space. Drivers with long torsos will find it difficult to fit into the car with a helmet on, so track aficionados will want to test fit. Visibility is challenging, with giant blind spots created by the huge B-pillars, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the wind buffeting. This has been significantly documented online by both owners and reviewers alike, but the Supra is absolutely undriveable with the windows down. The wind buffeting with both windows completely down is enough to knock you unconscious. We really hope that Toyota is developing some sort of accessory or recall to remedy this quickly.
Toyota Canada has a one-size-fits-all pricing strategy for the GR Supra. It stickers at $64,990, and includes everything. Everything is standard equipment including the performance goodies, 12-speaker JBL audio system, Apple CarPlay, Brembo brakes, heated leather seats, navigation, and intelligent key. Comparing to its sister car, our Z4 M40i test vehicle which was virtually identical plus the convertible top (less desirable in a performance setting), came in at nearly $85,000. This is the time when your friendly neighbourhood auto magazine calls a $65,000 sports car a “value proposition”, because it’s really important to understand where the Supra fits into the market.
Aside from the Z4, serious performance rivals against the 2020 Supra include the BMW M2 Competition (reviewed here) and the Porsche 718 Cayman S. The last M2 Competition we tested was significantly more money, and configuring a 718 Cayman S with comparable performance goodies will be well north of $85,000 as well. The wildcard is the upcoming C8 Corvette, with its exotic mid-engine layout and V8. At the end of the day, we don’t think anyone is really cross-shopping the GR Supra with the Corvette, because these are largely emotional purchases. The Supra can fully be used as a daily driver year-round (winter tires are a must), with ground clearance in deep snow being the only limitation.
The 2020 Toyota GR Supra is by far one of the best sports cars available today, in any price range. It brings to question the life philosophy that rather than compete with one another, we should all strive to work together. This car is a driveable example of the fact that combining our strengths rather than criticizing weaknesses will bring some of the best product the world has ever seen. I’m excited to see what the future brings for this nameplate, because it’s one that has struck a chord with my inner car enthusiast for the past three decades.