First impressions: we drive the all-new Toyota GR Supra on home soil
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If you're here, then you probably know all the subtext.
The new Toyota GR Supra may have only just arrived in New Zealand, but it's already divided a car enthusiast market straight down the middle. Under the bonnet is a BMW-sourced inline six, under the bodywork is a BMW-sourced platform, and dotted throughout the cabin and plumbing are all manner of other bits that are straight off the BMW shelf.
None of that has been a secret. Nobody's going to pat you on the back for pointing it out. And whether it irks you or not, the car is here now in the flesh — no take backs, no do-overs. This is your Supra.
Today's national launch didn't exactly go to plan thanks to plenty of wet-weather disapproval from Mother Nature. Hopes of taking the GR Supra anywhere near its limit were subsequently dashed, but that wasn't to say that there wasn't anything new to be learned.
As reported earlier today, the Supra hits New Zealand with one square starting price; $99,990 (including on-road costs). That's for a rather high-spec model, complete with 19-inch wheels, staggered Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber, 12-speaker JBL audio, an 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, front collision warning, active lane departure, and more.
These features support a drivetrain that we've recited thousands of times before — a twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six based on BMW's B58 engine, making a claimed 250kW of power at 5000–6000rpm and 500Nm of torque at 1600–4500rpm. A wide and early torque window, and a power number that is reasonably ample for the 1495kg kerb weight, if a little flat on paper.
Connected to that engine is an 8-speed ZF automatic. The lack of a manual transmission is a sign of the times, although one would certainly have been appreciated given that this is a car that's supposed to be more about 'feel' than hard numbers.
Only, we know that this number isn't quite to be trusted. Some independent dyno tests have found these Supras to make over 280kW at the wheel (Toyota's claimed number will have been measured from the crank, if you can believe it), with other videos showing that they're quick enough to easily beat their supposedly identical BMW Z4 twin in a straight line.
You could write off Toyota's claims that they've done plenty of development on this BMW engine themselves as marketing spin, but to do so would be to ignore some pretty damning evidence.
Today's launch encompassed a presentation in Toyota Gazoo Racing New Zealand's shiny motorsport facility at Hampton Downs, where they prep all the cars for the Toyota Racing Series and Toyota 86 Series. That would then be followed by a (somewhat muted, thanks to the weather) track session.
In attendance was Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer of the Supra. “Driver's feeling is the most important for me,” he said — mimicking an electric car's wind whistle with his mouth before describing them as “very boring”.
A man after my own heart, in other words.
Also present was Toyota New Zealand CEO Neeraj Lala. He confirmed that of the first allocation of 40 that are coming to New Zealand, 19 of them are still for sale. He expects them to sell reasonably quickly, particularly following today's pricing reveal.
Lala also confirmed that while the new Supra will be subject to Toyota's traditional 'drive happy' sales package (including a three year/100,000km warranty) and while anyone will be able to buy one from any dealership, only select technicians will be enlisted to work on the country's Supras. As you'd expect, they're a little different under the skin from your typical Corolla or Camry.
Up close and in person, the Supra is a nicer and more proportional-looking car than in press images. Funnily enough, it's a trait also noticeable with its BMW Z4 blood brother — perhaps because both cars share a smaller than usual 2470mm wheelbase (100mm smaller than the 86).
Most apprehensions over the looks were wiped, although I'd still stop short of saying it's a definitive looker.
The nose, full of different elements and vents, looks definitively Toyota. Half of the vents are 'fake' (including the ones atop the bonnet, the tear-drops under either headlight, and half of the spaces in the primary grille), but Toyota says they can all be made functional by those who plan to chop up their Supra and fit extra cooling.
The side profile is perhaps the angle that gains most from being seen in person. The Supra looks like a product of intent, even with its reasonably long overhangs front and rear. This is largely down to the aggressive splitter, diffuser, and side-skirts.
If there's a perspective that does it no favours, it's the one at the head of this article. The double-bubble roof and duck-tail rear spoiler are both meant to hark back to the Supra's storied past, but in the flesh they're the elements that give the Supra a bulbous profile from certain perspectives.
A tight schedule meant that each of the attending media would only get a brisk, soaking wet, two-lap throw-down on the Hampton Downs National Circuit. No follow-the-leader stuff, just a driver trainer, the pedals, and steering wheel.
There weren't to be any heroics, although the Supra was clearly ready to try its best to play a supporting role. In our brief time behind the wheel, we found it to be a very balanced and predictable car.
Steering felt positive although in the conditions it was admittedly not getting pushed terribly far. The short wheelbase and equal weight distribution was noticeable in the Supra's eagerness to rotate quickly, with morsels of brief oversteer the reward on corner exit for anyone having a proper go.
These are elements that, hopefully, we'll be able to offer further comment on soon with a full road test.
Suspension tuning is one of the Supra's leading attributes over its supposed competition. A race-track is hardly the place to comment on things like comfort and usability, but it wasn't hard to tell that the Supra is tuned to a much softer, more accessible degree than something like a Porsche Cayman or BMW M2.
Perhaps the biggest point we're comfortable planting a full stop on is that engine.
Make no mistake, the Supra is a plenty quick car. For under six figures, it's hard to imagine much in the new-car world that would pip it in either on a lap of a place like Hampton. There are legions of very quick, very practical hot hatches that would put their hand up to take on the task of course, but ... they're not two-door sports cars, are they?
That inline six, for the most part, is a star. If sticking with an inline six formula is the primary reason that Toyota decided to single out BMW as partners on the Supra, then it's 'mission accomplished'. Mostly.
On the downside, the noise the engine makes from the cabin sounds synthetic — almost like a video game is being beamed out through the speakers. The 8-speed ZF automatic is quick, but not as pin-sharp going up or coming down as the dual-clutch fitted to some rivals.
On the upside, the Supra sounds excellent from the outside. Admittedly, if your eyes were closed you'd probably say 'that's a BMW', but regardless the I6 sings nicely and confidently towards redline — a pop with each positive up-shift prodding you in the small of the back.
A claimed 0–100km/h time of 4.3 seconds might not drop too many jaws, although I wouldn't be surprised if that number could be eclipsed with a day of private testing. But that's not necessarily the point. Neither, potentially, is leaning too far into the notion of 'feel'.
Perhaps the biggest point of all is the Supra's aftermarket potential worldwide. It's that industry that gave the Supra name value and followers. And there's no reason why the new Supra's B58 can't stir exactly the same modified magic.
Out of the box, the Supra feels like an commendable, accessible, usable sports car. I can't wait to see what people do to them after that.
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