Ever since the unveil of this 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Premium at the 2019 North American International Auto Show, the internet has surrounded it with ‘should not’ narratives. We have heard that ‘it should not have been a collaboration with BMW’, that ‘it should not have been automatic only’, and ‘the Supra should not have taken so long to develop since teasing the world with the stunning Toyota FT-1 concept’.
The fact is, now that we had a full year to digest the news and evaluate the car, we are thankful that Toyota has brought back a legend, and we would not change a thing about it (well, we still want a manual transmission option). We liked the 2020 model so much that it snatched two of our annual awards, including the coveted DoubleClutch.ca Car of the Year trophy.
For 2021, Toyota has supplied the GR Supra with a secondary 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant; and the 3.0-litre inline-six offered at launch received a significant power boost as well as new chassis tuning to make it even more capable. These are unusual moves for a vehicle only entering its second model year, and show how committed Toyota is in convincing naysayers about their performance icon. We had the opportunity to sample a 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 to see just how much it has improved in just one short year.
The 2021 GR Supra here is donning the iconic red paint scheme, which in our opinion, is the best colour available for the new Supra. Those who prefer a more futuristic look should consider the $1,615 Phantom paint job, which is a matte-grey colour that looks similar to the famous first 2020 Toyota GR Supra sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction for a hefty $2.1 million USD.
The distinctive styling of the Supra looks sleek in pictures, but gets even better when you observe it in person. The athletic look is created by the bulging body panels and low-slung roofline. The long hood is a classic sports car cue, and it allows room for the engine to sit closer to the centre behind the front axle for a balanced weight distribution. We appreciate the effort that the Toyota designers have put in to create a modern sports car that shares resemblance to the previous Supra without looking retro at all.
The biggest change to the 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 lies in the power output from the inline-six engine. The horsepower has been bumped from 335 to 382 from 5,800 to 6,500RPM, and torque has gone up slightly by 3 lb-ft. to 368 from 1,800 to 5,000 RPM. Last year’s GR Supra was no slouch, but we observed noticeable improvement in acceleration in our 2021 tester. Toyota estimates that the Supra 3.0 will accelerate from a standstill to 96 km/h in a mere 3.9 seconds, a 0.2-second improvement, and the butt-dyno suggests that even that figure might be conservative.
While we would have liked to see a manual transmission option for the GR Supra 3.0, the standard ZF eight-speed automatic is far from being a consolation prize. This engine and transmission combo, borrowed directly from BMW, is absolutely one of the best six-cylinder powertrains in the industry today. The sheer quickness in the way it accelerates and bangs in gears is mind-boggling, and the silky-smooth mannerism masks the Supra’s traveling speed making it imperceptible under most speed limits.
Handling of the Supra is equally brilliant. The electric steering rack does show a bit of dullness at slow speed, but is far from feeling dead. However, turning in aggressively, the Supra’s steering comes alive and becomes precise and accurate; there is actual weighting and feel is excellent. The Supra is a real joy to row through winding roads as well as on longer bends, and the balanced chassis is truly second to none in its price range. It’s worth noting that the effects of the revised chassis tuning in the 2021 GR Supra were not immediately evident, as the previous model was a solid performer and the only way to pinpoint this is to drive them back to back.
Stepping inside the Supra requires a bit of practice and contortion due to the low roof. Once you are inside though, you will enjoy the extra headroom created by the bubble shaped roof, which also helps to accommodate helmets for motorsport uses. The 14-way power adjustable seats are comfortable and offer plenty of lateral support, and are heated to keep drivers comfortable deep into fall.
Interior layout of the Supra is more similar to its German donor than the design typically found in a Toyota product. Again, armchair critics and purists will say they should not have taken parts from a shared parts bin when building the cabin, to which agree for originality sake. But the fact remains that the BMW interior design and infotainment system are a class above most and is reflected in the Supra.
The iDrive-derived infotainment is very easy to use, and commands are easily made using the touchpad rotary dial or by touching the 8.8-inch touchscreen atop the centre console. There is a good amount of customizable shortcut keys to quickly access commonly used features, with standard wireless Apple CarPlay support for smartphone integration. Music lovers will enjoy the standard 12-speaker JBL premium sound system over the four-speaker system found in the GR Supra 2.0.
Toyota has placed emphasis on driver and pedestrian safety, therefore the 2021 GR Supra all comes with a full suite of advanced safety systems, including Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Land Departure Warning with Steering Assist, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, and Automatic High Beam systems.
The 2021 Toyota GR Supra 2.0 starts at $56,390, and the GR Supra 3.0 starts at $67,690, which was also our as-tested price since Toyota loads their GR Supra models up with features leaving few options available. The GR Supra 3.0 finds itself priced below its performance target and the benchmark of its class, the Porsche 718 Cayman S, which starts at $79,300; as well as its mechanical twin, the BMW Z4 M40i (reviewed here) at $76,350.
The 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Premium might not have the prestige that the 718 Cayman S or the Z4 M40i carry, but in terms of its pure driving dynamics, it certainly can more than hold its own against them. Yes, there are many things Toyota should not have done with the Supra, but at the end of another fun-filled week with the Toyota Supra, we are glad Toyota managed to tune out the critics and offered us what is surely going to be another future classic.