At a time when many automakers move away from cars to focus on utility vehicles, Toyota is sticking with them, seemingly not convinced that the SUV craze will last. Maybe gas prices will go up again or governments will impose new regulations. And you never know what the next big thing is going to be.
That said, Toyota needs to have attractive cars. The company launched a marketing campaign to promote a more dynamic image of its cars. It features various Corolla, Camry, Yaris and 86 models. And at the centre of it all, of course, is the brand-new 2020 Toyota GR Supra.
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Yep, the Supra is making a comeback after a 22-year hiatus, much to the delight of sports-car enthusiasts who were clamouring for the return of this Japanese icon. It’s now officially called “GR Supra” as a reference to Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s motorsport division that recently secured a WEC victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A Real Supra?
The Supra, in essence, is a four-passenger grand touring sports car equipped with an inline six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive. Does the new GR Supra fit that bill? Not exactly. For the first time, it stands as a two-seater and comfort is not the main priority. It’s more about performance and driving excitement. So, yeah, one could definitely argue that this modern coupe is not a classic Supra.
Heck, it’s not even entirely homemade. But let’s stop complaining because if it weren’t for Toyota’s partnership with BMW, the GR Supra would not exist. Period. Neither would the redesigned Z4, actually. Sports cars are not as popular as they once were and development costs are high—higher, in fact, than those of SUVs and crossovers, which typically share platforms and engines with several other vehicles. By joining forces, BMW and Toyota were able to create two great sports cars that will make many drivers happy.
Toyota Needs the Supra
The new 2020 GR Supra will most certainly be profitable for Toyota. The company designed this product to shore up its image. However, it can only work if performance is as good as the looks.
The chassis and wheelbase are identical to the BMW Z4’s—and ironically shorter than the 86’s. Styling is largely inspired by the FT-1 concept we saw in 2014 at the NAIAS in Detroit. The lines and proportions are the same, from the long, sloping hood to the short, raised tail. The GR Supra looks racy and fantastically timeless.
Of the seven body colours available, Phantom Grey will likely be the most sought after. It’s a rare hue that marks the first application of matte paint on a Toyota. It beautifully matches the red leather seats customers can select at no extra cost. Otherwise, the cockpit is quite dark due to the missing sunroof, narrow windows and black headliner.
Except for the instrument panel which has an analog-style digital tachometer in the middle, the interior of the GR Supra feels very much like a BMW. The controls are shared with the Z4 including the shifter, steering wheel and centre touchscreen. Wireless Apple CarPlay integration is also included.
Drivers benefit from a 14-way power adjustable seat and ideal driving position. Visibility can be a problem at times, although the rear-view camera is quite useful.
In Canada, the 2020 Toyota GR Supra comes in a single trim level only. It is fully loaded with amenities such as leather seating, navigation, a 12-speaker JBL audio system and wireless charging, not to mention Supra Connect, which is a technology similar to GM’s OnStar.
Without denying the appeal of past generations, Toyota is not playing the nostalgia card to attract buyers. During the media presentation, we were told that the last few Supras sold in 1998 were a tough sell with a price point beyond $80,000. These cars are now worth a small fortune and they will probably become even more valuable in the next few years.
The first generation, launched in 1978, generated 110 horsepower, while the last one delivered 320. For 2020, output is up to 335 horsepower (maybe more according to reports), giving the 1,541-kg GR Supra a terrific power-to-weight ratio. Making things even more interesting is the perfect 50-50 weight distribution. BMW’s turbo-six produces a captivating sound that’s amplified—electronically, alas—when you activate Sport mode.
To send power to the rear wheels, both automakers rely on a superb eight-speed automatic transmission made by ZF. It’s nicely calibrated and quite precise, making for quick, effortless shifts. Purists will cry foul at the absence of a manual gearbox, however. Toyota is not ruling out the possibility to offer one at some point, but the chances are slim. The GR Supra was just not designed with a clutch in mind—same thing for the BMW Z4.
That’s too bad. And Toyota executives acknowledge that they will lose some customers because of it. After all, if 65 percent of Toyota 86 buyers opt for a manual transmission, imagine how many would prefer a manual Supra…
From the Road to the Track
A two-hour trip on the roads of the Laurentides region north of Montreal put us on the prestigious Circuit Mont-Tremblant, where we could push the 2020 Toyota GR Supra to the limit. It’s an exceptional playground for a powerful and agile sports car like this one.
Wide tracks, a short wheelbase and a super-low centre of gravity define the new Supra, making it quite fun to drive. On the twisty, uneven roads we encountered along the way, the car impressed with its amazing body stiffness. It felt solid and inspired a lot of confidence behind the wheel.
As is often the case with BMW products, the GR Supra’s electronic steering is extremely sharp, which only makes the driving experience more exciting. Just point where you want to go and the car will obey like a true soldier. It’s a good thing when facing potholes, because you’d hate to hit them and damage the 19-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport performance tires (P235/35ZR19 front, P275/35ZR19 rear).
On the road, the Toyota GR Supra feels light, nimble, playful and refined. All the various mechanical components work in harmony to provide good times behind the wheel. Ride quality is decent, which is a bonus. Of course, activating Sport mode firms up and sharpens up everything that can make the car go faster and harder, from the suspension to the steering, transmission ratios, throttle response and exhaust note. It’s like Popeye gobbling a can of spinach. Be careful not to get too carried away or you risk some hefty fines. The GR Supra can be fun even at legal speeds, which is not something you could say about the Audi RS 5 or BMW M3, for instance.
When we finally hit the track, again with Sport mode on, the GR Supra proved easy to tame. While the suspension suddenly added a layer of flexibility, the performance tires ferociously maintained contact with the ground. After a few laps, we could handle the car’s reactions better and make the most of the available power. An active differential ensures torque vectoring between the rear wheels.
As for braking, the 13.7-inch front and 13.6-inch rear discs are clamped by a set of Brembo callipers with four pistons up front. Even after several laps on the technical Circuit Mont-Tremblant, the brakes still had grip to spare.
Remember this Number: 300
That’s how many units of the 2020 Toyota GR Supra will be allocated to Canada—a ridiculously low number given the buzz around this car. As you read these lines, most of them are already spoken for.
For sure, the people at Toyota Canada were too conservative when they made their order, but let’s not forget that the assembly plant in Graz, Austria (also home to the BMW Z4), has been tasked with supplying Supras to the entire planet. Everyone wants a piece of it, especially with an attractive base price of $64,990 in Canada.
Bottom line: the new GR Supra is a success on all fronts, even though it lacks a manual gearbox. We may also see more powerful or limited-edition models in the future, not to mention a Targa-style convertible. This is all very exciting!