The Toyota Supra is a very capable sports car that uses shared BMW tech to its advantage
The Toyota Supra blends balance, agility, grip and poise with a punchy six-cylinder motor that delivers a hit of performance and (mostly) the stirring engine note we were after. Whether or not Toyota’s collaboration with BMW affects the Supra’s authenticity, we’ll leave up to you. But there’s no doubting that this is a coupe with real talent and welcome character at a time when those traits should be applauded. That it’s pretty much as usable as a family hatchback is an added bonus.
The BMW M2 Competition is a rawer, more raucous rival and the Porsche 718 Cayman offers sweeter handling, but the Supra is a great car in its own right that works very well on British roads.
6 Jun, 2019 4
The Toyota Supra shares much of its mechanical underpinnings with the BMW Z4 and this shows in the Supra’s wide, short-wheelbase proportions. Outside, Toyota’s design pays tribute to the 1990s sports car of the same name – a long bonnet, large headlights and a squat rear end help give the new Supra a similar presence on the road and a high level of visual drama that’s undeniably important in this class.
While the Supra’s interior design is different to that of the Z4, with which it shares some of its DNA, in many areas, much of the componentry inside is BMW-sourced. That’s a good thing in some ways, as Toyota’s infotainment technology isn’t up to snuff, even in its most recent cars like the Corolla. Material and build quality fits the price tag though, as does the list of kit.
You get some great heated and ventilated sports seats that hold you nicely and compliment the sound driving position. Climate control is also standard, as is a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, sat-nav with connected services, adaptive LED lights and 19-inch alloys. You get lots of safety tech as part of Toyota’s Supra Safety+ pack, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, automatic high beam, blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
As far as the infotainment system goes, Supra buyers get a re-skinned BMW iDrive arrangement, with an 8.8-inch screen. Much of the other switchgear is from the Munich parts catalogue, too. The infotainment works slickly, while the adoption of BMW software means you get Apple CarPlay connectivity for the first time in a Toyota, but Android Auto is not offered.
On our Pro specification test car, the rearmost speakers caused a rattled over bumps – but this issue may have been specific to our early example.
Toyota identified BMW as a partner, partly to stay true to the Supra’s heritage as the German firm could supply the car’s traditional in-line six-cylinder engine. So, under the bonnet you’ll find a turbocharged 3.0-litre unit sending 335bhp and 500Nm of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential.
Adaptive dampers control the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension set-up, with two modes to choose from. Big brakes take care of stopping the Supra.
Performance is of the strong, but not ridiculous order, with a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds. But this is a car that’s defined more by how it feels to drive than by the numbers.
In fact, the Supra’s chief engineer Tetsuya Tada claims that during the process of improving body rigidity, while there were targets (1.6 times that of the GT86), testing was also conducted on how it felt to drive. If it felt good, the engineers went with it. Incidentally, the Supra ended up being 2.3 times more rigid than a GT86 – and even stiffer than the Lexus LFA supercar.
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You sense this on the move, too. The chassis feels highly rigid and it means the suspension is softer than you might imagine. Ride quality in the dampers’ normal mode is genuinely impressive, as the Supra skips over bumps with little fuss or deflection. Sport tightens the body control further still. But there’s a level of compliance retained in this setting that means the tyres stay in contact with the road to maximise grip and traction.
There’s plenty of both, to the point where the Supra feels like it could easily handle more power. This brings us to the engine.
It’s a good fit for the car, but not a great motor. Tada outlined that if Toyota had tried to go it alone and develop a new straight-six itself, the project would have been delayed by three to four years – and due to stricter noise regulations in-coming, the Supra would have been ghostly quiet.
Thankfully, it’s not. There’s a pleasant musicality to the six-pot’s note, firing and settling to a purposeful but smooth idle. There’s a brawny tone through the mid range – and it’s here where the BMW-sourced (but Toyota-calibrated) engine is at its best.
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Peak torque is available from 1,600rpm and is sustained to 4,500rpm, so the Supra pulls hard out of corners. However, it’s not all that rewarding to rev out. It feels strained beyond 5,000rpm, tightening up and revealing its forced induction – along with a faint on-boost whistle from the turbo, a Supra trait. The enhanced engine note isn’t the most pleasant at higher revs, but then neither is the one from a Porsche 718 Cayman’s clattery flat-four.
The eight-speed gearbox also attracts complaints. In auto mode it shifts smoothly but take manual control using the steering wheel paddles and upshifts are a little jerky, while downshifts are not as rapid as you’d like.
The powertrain’s flexibility is its greatest boon, giving you options to explore the chassis’ lovely balance. Be neat and drive tidily and the Supra will scythe through corners effectively, as it has lovely natural balance. Even at normal speeds you feel the perfect 50:50 weight distribution and the adjustability in the chassis.
Tada-san was very explicit about Toyota targeting the 718 Cayman as the Supra’s benchmark. That car offers communication, involvement and rewards you for driving well. In a different way, so does the Supra.
Despite all the work Toyota has done, the car is still not quite as communicative through its steering as we’d like. But what you get back from the chassis is a solid sense of confidence that allows you to delve into its dynamic repertoire and call upon its talent to manipulate the car into doing what you want.
It’s helped by that active differential that helps to turn the Supra sweetly into corners, coupled with steering that’s very responsive just off centre. Squeeze the throttle on the way out of a bend and you can feel the diff lock to hook the Supra past an apex, leaning on the front axle’s impressive grip. It’s certainly agile.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Unlike its BMW Z4 cousin, the Toyota Supra comes with just one engine – a BMW-sourced, Toyota-calibrated turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six with 335bhp and 500Nm of torque. This is connected to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that allows for manual shifts via steering wheel paddles. It’s the same basic configuration as you’ll find in the hot Z4 M40i.
The Supra is no slouch, with the 0-62mph sprint taking just 4.3 seconds; there’s plenty of punch down low in the rev range and overtaking is effortless. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
All Supra models come with a full suite of active safety and driver assistance systems. Forming part of the Toyota Supra Saftey+ pack are a pre-collision system (automatic emergency braking), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic headlights and road sign recognition. Supra Pro models add a head up display that helps the driver keep their eyes on the road.
Euro NCAP is yet to test the Supra for crash safety, nor its BMW Z4 cousin. Given both companies’ good reputations for building safe cars, however, we’d wager that an equivalent of 4 or 5 stars is likely should such tests be carried out.
The Supra is also too new – and available in too few numbers – to have featured in our Driver Power 2019 owner satisfaction survey. However, Toyota itself was ranked an impressive 10th out of 30 manufacturers, with running costs and reliability rated highly by owners.
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There’s more than a little BMW under the Supra’s skin, though. The brand finished 25th in the same survey, but was rated well for build quality and infotainment – both of which bode well given that the Supra is built in a BMW facility and utilises the German firm’s in-car tech.
Toyota’s impressive five-year/100,000-mile warranty applies here and therefore beats the standard three-year items offerd on most of the Supra’s rivals. An extended warranty can be bought at extra cost as part of a package that includes free MoTs and roadside assistance among other perks.
Servicing should be relatively pain-free compared to more prestigious rivals; finding a local dealer to do the work should be easy thanks to a large network. Costs are likely to run high, however – large tyres, performance-orientated brakes and a powerful engine will all keep prices relatively high. We’d expect Toyota to undercut its premium-badged rivals in this regard, though.
Inside, the Toyota Supra feels snug – there’s not a lot of room, which is fitting given that its designers claim to have been influenced by single-seater racing cars. Thankfully, all the important sports car attributes are present: a low driving position, supportive seats, a great steering wheel and good ergonomics. Visibility is good for a car of this type, offering a dramatic view forwards over that long bonnet.
There are just two seats, with a space behind them that can be used to extend the boot if you need to carry longer items, or store a couple of bags. It’s worth remembering that a pair of speakers take up a little space here on some models.
The Supra measures in at 4,379mm long, 1,854mm wide and 1,292mm high, with a relatively short wheelbase of 2,470mm. There’s a decent overhang at the front of the car, but low speed maneuvers are simple enough thanks to a standard rear-view camera and parking sensors. The Supra is longer than its Z4 cousin by a few millimetres, but the Z4 is marginally wider.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Toyota Supra’s seats are great, thanks in part to some more BMW DNA. They’re set low, are heated and ventilated as standard, and there’s lots of headroom, but the overall feeling in the Supra’s cabin is of being cocooned – a deliberate choice on the part of the designers.
You’ll be far more comfortable over a long distance in the Supra than in the more hardcore Alpine A110, but most of its other rivals are good match when it comes to interior space and day-to-day usability.
The Supra’s 290-litre boot is big enough for weekend luggage, while a removable panel allows for longer items like golf clubs to be accommodated too. The aperture left by the opened rear hatch isn’t the most practical and the load lip is high, however. The BMW M2 Competition, by contrast, has about 100 more litres in its boot, which is accessible via a saloon-style bootlid with a much more manageable aperture and lip.
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Elsewhere, storage in the Supra is good, if not particularly remarkable. One small niggle is that the cupholders sit behind the occupants’ elbows in the centre armrest – not the most elegant solution.
The Toyota Supra wasn’t created with low running costs in mind, but as a sports car that could easily be used every day, it has been developed to be fairly efficient. Official fuel economy is quoted at 34.5mpg – marginally better than the 31mpg offered by the four-cylinder Porsche 718 Cayman S and the 28.5mpg from the BMW M2 Competition.
The Supra emits a claimed 170g/km of CO2, versus the 193-210g/km of the 718 Cayman S and the M2’s 227g/km. The Toyota just edges into the 151-170g/km band and so is eligible for a first-year charge of £530, while the Porsche and BMW command charges of £1,280 and £1,815 respectively. These first-year charges are usually included in the on-the-road price – a flat yearly charge of £145 applies after the first year, with an additional £320 per year added in years two to six of ownership, thanks to the Supra’s £40,000-plus list price. Total yearly tax payments for the Supra and its rivals will total £465 in years two to six as a result.
The Supra, much like its rivals, sits in the highest-possible 37% charge bracket for Benefit in Kind. Company car users will face a similar situation with the rest of the cars in this class, however.
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There is no representative group rating available for the Supra yet, but the closely related BMW Z4 sits in group 37 – it’s safe to assume the Supra will sit somewhere in this region. For comparison, the BMW M2 Competition sits in group 47 and the Audi TT RS in group 40.
Predicted residual values for the Toyota Supra should be strong. Lower production numbers and big demand for the UK’s first allocation of cars mean values should stay high come trade-in time.