There are a lot of problems for the new, reborn Toyota Supra to overcome. Firstly, there is a big, German elephant in the room. Yes, this car was co-developed with BMW. So what? So some of the switches, some of the chassis and associated components and of course, the engine, comes from the BMW stable. Right, what’s the problem? This is BMW and Toyota coming together to build a car. This is not your 3-year-old nephew and your 88-year-old nan coming together to build an Ikea wardrobe. BMW and Toyota know what they’re doing, so when they join hands and skip off into the R&D department, that’s a good thing.
Sharing the project was also the only way for us to get a new Supra. A new, two-seater sports coupe would have been too much of a risk for Toyota. A new Z4 was also a risky move on BMW’s part. The masses don’t want sports cars, they want SUVs. By sharing the development, and thus the risk, both companies were able to realise their respective dream. So it’s a good thing. People who say it’s not a good thing, do so from behind a computer screen in their bedroom. They’re probably 13. Ignore them.
The other problem the Supra has is this:
Okay, not this specific movie car, but most certainly the car it represents. You see, the original Supra was a fine and fast car, especially if bought in twin-turbo, manual transmission guise. But the thing is, nobody is talking about the original car, in original specification, in 2019. No, they look at the Supra of old and are instantly drawn to mental images of fast and, erm, furious, modified cars. The Supra became the poster child for the modified generation, and now we can’t see past those modifications when trying to recollect the significance of the original factory car.
So what does that mean? Well, it means that the announcement of the new Supra brought with it a subconscious expectation of it being a million bhp and as such, faster than the Space Shuttle. In reality, the most recent twin-turbo Supra prior to this one was 330hp. The new car is 340hp, so that’s more. But it’s not just a numbers game. The 3.0 straight-six from BMW breathes deeper, is quicker to respond and has almost no lag. The power delivery is smooth and ready, it doesn’t arrive in one big dollop like the last model.
If we judge the new Supra against a standard A80, it makes for a logical, considered and well-rounded evolution. BMW or no BMW. This is every bit what a new Supra should be. Okay, so some will moan that this car is only available with an eight-speed automatic, and while it’s not the snappiest on the paddles, it’s still a damn fine transmission. It takes the power and delivers it to terra firma with aplomb and without hesitance for the best part. And let’s be realistic – a manual would be nice, but it’s not commercially viable in today’s market. That’s just how it is.
The new Supra excels in other departments, too. Just look at it. So what if the underpinnings are largely BMW? The body certainly isn’t. It’s a beguiling collection of muscular curves and brave angles that serve to make what is actually a very small car look far bigger and meaner than it is. It has the proper sports car proportions, too. That long bonnet followed by a short, squat cabin. It looks proper. The chrome/polished wheels are a bit much for our tastes, but hey, what can you do? Fundamentally, the Supra looks NOTHING like the BMW Z4 to which it is so closely related. It looks, and we’ll stand by this forever, better.
Get into the Supra and you’re in for a treat. Yes, there is BMW switchgear and BMW-derived on-screen menus and of cou… IT DOESN’T MATTER. It’s all pleasingly tactile yet solid and reassuring. The cabin feels snug and secure, the seats are comfortable, the driving position is hugely adjustable and for a small hard-top, visibility is decent. And on that note, the hard-top nature of the Supra is something we like. You feel more immersed, more connected to and more cocooned by the car. We like that.
Out on the road, make no mistake, this sucker is fast. The 50/50 weight distribution shows as you push the Supra into the bends. It turns in with a pleasing eagerness and it powers through the corners with plenty of grip. Get really brave and push it on and, in Sport mode, the traction control will let you slide out a bit. But not too much. The Supra makes you feel like a driving god, and that’s what a car like this is all about.
Speaking of the drive modes. In today’s motoring landscape, it’s not uncommon to get in a car only to find out you need a degree in computer science to set it up. That’s not the case here. You have normal, or you have Sport. Sport tightens things up a bit, makes the exhaust a bit barkier, that kind of stuff. You can customise Sport by deactivating certain elements. That’s your lot. And that’s fine. This car is for driving, it’s not for nerds who want to play with spring rates. Get in, drive it, smile.
We went into our time with the Supra with open eyes and with a keenness to dismiss the prevailing negativity that has come from this being a joint project with BMW. As we said earlier, these two coming together is no bad thing. Furthermore, each brand has its own take on how the car looks, and the Supra looks how a Supra should, at least to us. And it’s fast, it’s furious, it’s fun and… well, it’s brilliant. It is also a perfect evolution of the model. 340hp? That’s more than enough in a car so small. Don’t be spoilt. 500hp would have made it a terrifying one-way ditch ticket. 340hp is enough. More than enough in fact. And going back to the notion of this being an evolution, let us not forget that the original Supra of ‘78 was a wheezy 2.0 straight-six, free of turbos. It wasn’t always turbos and big power.
The new Supra is a riot, frankly. And if you live your life one BMW comparison at a time, you’re going to miss out. Ask any Supra owner, any real Supra owner and they’ll tell you the BMW badges don’t matter. One BMW badge or ten, a Supra’s still a Supra.