We take the new Supra for a spin in Spain! ROAD TRIP

THERE ARE FEW BET­TER WAYS OF START­ING THE DAY THAN BY GET­TING BE­HIND OF THE WHEEL OF A TOY­OTA SUPRA

Toyota Connect/Lexus Life - - CONTENTS -

It was still dark out­side as I stepped through the front door of the Barcelo Imag­ine Ho­tel in Madrid, Spain. The tem­per­a­tures had been some­what hot, yet there was still a slight chill in the air. The sun was just about to rise over the hori­zon and the night was slowly fad­ing away, bring­ing with it a day set to be filled with much ex­cite­ment and the crackle of a straight-six en­gine.

I’d hardly crossed the thresh­old when I was greeted by a stac­cato line of cars. I could make out the Toy­ota GT86S, but ev­ery sec­ond one was dressed in retina-per­plex­ing red, black and white cam­ou­flage. That wasn’t fool­ing me, though: I could clearly make out the lines of the all-new, fifth-gen­er­a­tion Toy­ota Supra.

My in­ner five-year old squealed with glee. His 37-year-old host tried to hide the ex­cite­ment.

It had been 25 years since there was a “new” Supra and the last one of its kind rolled off the Mo­tomachi assem­bly line in Aichi, Ja­pan, over 16 years ago. Since then, there’d been much spec­u­la­tion and ru­mour about what would suc­ceed it, but the day had fi­nally ar­rived and I was get­ting a chance to drive the re­birth of a leg­endary name­plate.

THE SUPRA LIN­EAGE

This name­plate traces its root to the Toy­ota Cel­ica of 1978, where the Supra badge de­noted a larger, more spa­cious ver­sion of the Cel­ica, pow­ered by an in­line six-cylin­der en­gine. It shared the light with the Cel­ica un­til its third in­car­na­tion, where Toy­ota split the two mod­els, leav­ing the Cel­ica to re­main a com­pact, four-cylin­der of­fer­ing while the Supra re­tained the larger, six­cylin­der ar­range­ment.

Both the Cel­ica and the Supra of that era went on to en­joy suc­cess in var­i­ous mo­tor­sport dis­ci­plines, but ask some­one born in the ’90s about the Toy­ota Supra and they’ll tell you about the hero car in the first Fast and the Fu­ri­ous film of 2001, just a year be­fore Toy­ota pulled the plug on the Supra project. Speak to an en­thu­si­ast and they’ll re­count tales about the leg­endary en­gine that pow­ered the fourth and fi­nal ver­sion of the Supra, the ven­er­a­ble 2JZ-GTE 3,0-litre, twin-tur­bocharged, in-line six-cylin­der.

The en­gine was soon found to be ro­bust enough to han­dle se­ri­ous power with­out re­quir­ing too much in the way of sup­port­ing mod­i­fi­ca­tions. These en­gines are still revered as among the best ever pro­duced by the firm.

THE NEW SUPRA IS YOUR FAVOURITE BAND, RE­TURN­ING FROM A HIA­TUS. THEIR SOUND MAY HAVE CHANGED A LIT­TLE BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY CAN’T STILL BLOW YOUR SOCKS OFF.

THE RU­MOUR MILL

Af­ter the demise of the last-gen­er­a­tion Supra, the In­ter­net would gen­er­ate a fresh ru­mour about a re­vival ev­ery so of­ten. This con­tin­ued for nearly 10 years, un­til some­one un­earthed a patent which had been filed for the Supra nam­ing rights by Toy­ota it­self. Could this be? Were they fi­nally go­ing to do it? Word was then re­leased that since 2012, Toy­ota had been work­ing hand in hand with BMW to cre­ate a pair of sports cars with a rather in­ter­est­ing con­nec­tion.

A JOINT VEN­TURE

The night be­fore my early-morn­ing test-drive, I sat down with

Masayuki Kai, the As­sis­tant Chief En­gi­neer of the Supra project, to find out more about the tie-in with BMW. “Dis­cus­sions started in 2012 when we ap­proached BMW for as­sis­tance in de­vel­op­ing an en­gine for the new Supra,” he ex­plained. “Tet­suya Tada-san was de­ter­mined to keep the Supra true to its roots, in that it had to have a straight­six en­gine in front and be a rear-wheel drive. BMW’S the only com­pany that still pro­duces high-per­for­mance straight-six en­gines,” he said.

Tet­suya Tada was the man re­spon­si­ble for the re-imag­in­ing of the 86 – a car that would later be la­belled the GT86 – and the chief en­gi­neer of the new Toy­ota Supra. Draw­ing on his ex­pe­ri­ence in the de­vel­op­ment of the GT86, he and the team at Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing set about achiev­ing true sports car char­ac­ter­is­tics in the Supra. With the as­sis­tance of

BMW, they se­cured the CLAR mo­du­lar plat­form that BMW’S us­ing for the new Z4, along with the B56B30 en­gine: an in­line, six-cylin­der, 3,0-litre tur­bocharged power plant, ru­moured to pro­duce 250kw (335HP).

While purists might scoff at the idea of a BMW en­gine and largely Bmw-de­rived chas­sis in the new Supra, Toy­ota was left to its own de­vices when it came to fi­nal­is­ing the con­cept. Imag­ine the joint ven­ture as two kids who’ve been given the same Lego set, but nei­ther of them has the in­struc­tions or a pic­ture to work from. What they come up with uses the same com­po­nents, but the two ve­hi­cles are de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent.

As a re­sult, Toy­ota’s crafted a sports car which is marginally shorter than the 86, a touch wider and a smidgen taller, but pro­duces nearly twice the power out­put. The short wheel­base gives the Supra a golden ra­tio of less than 1,6:1

– the Supra’s less than 1,6 times longer than it’s wide – a key point in true sports car han­dling.

“The chas­sis de­vel­op­ment, which in­cludes spot weld­ing, seam join­ing and chem­i­cal bond­ing, has given us a chas­sis rigid­ity that’s stiffer than the Lexus LFA su­per­car. That’s quite im­pres­sive,

as the LFA has a chas­sis com­prised al­most en­tirely of car­bon fi­bre,” Kai-san ex­plained re­gard­ing the back­bone of the car.

MADE TO WAIT

So that was how I came to be star­ing at the new Supra as it idled on the street. I couldn’t, how­ever, hop on board yet. I’d be shar­ing the car and would fol­low the Supra along the high­ways and by­ways of Madrid in peak-hour traf­fic as we set off into the coun­try­side, with me be­hind the wheel of the GT86.

As we ex­ited the high­ways, the road wound back and forth, climb­ing the foothills of the moun­tain range. Roads dou­bled back on them­selves and a sheer drop awaited overly en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ers run­ning shy on tal­ent. At the top of the hill I switched out, hand­ing over the keys to the GT86 and mak­ing a bee­line for the driver’s seat in the Supra.

COUN­TRY ROAD, TAKE ME HOME…

The route to the iconic Jarama cir­cuit out­side Madrid saw me bar­relling down the moun­tain passes, through ravines and canyons. It was here that I could test the re­sponse of the chas­sis and the di­rect­ness of the steer­ing. The cabin’s as cam­ou­flaged as the ex­te­rior and while there are some tell-tale BMW parts in the switchgear, the er­gonomics are ex­actly what you’d ex­pect from a Ja­panese sports car.

This cos­seted driv­ing po­si­tion al­lowed me to feel ev­ery nu­ance of the sus­pen­sion, which – while sup­ple and mal­leable – was firm enough to pro­vide am­ple feed­back re­gard­ing what the chas­sis was get­ting up to. The steer­ing may feel too light in the fin­gers for some, but it was re­spon­sive enough for me to tell where the front wheels were point­ing. Com­bine this with a rather quick steer­ing rack and it’s gen­uinely steered with your fin­gers, even as your con­fi­dence grows. I soon found my­self lean­ing on the sus­pen­sion, load­ing it up as I changed di­rec­tion on the moun­tain passes.

When I asked Kai-san who the Supra’s tar­get­ing he replied with­out he­si­ta­tion: “The BMW M2 and the Porsche Cay­man R.” The team know who their ri­vals are and, as such, we can ex­pect both the pric­ing and the per­for­mance fig­ures of the car to be in that range.

The fifth-gen­er­a­tion Toy­ota Supra cap­tures the essence of the ev­er­green MKIV with its tra­di­tional en­gine/ driv­e­train ar­range­ment, but in­jects a con­tem­po­rary dig­i­tal thread that’s dif­fi­cult to ig­nore. Hard-core en­thu­si­asts may sneer at the plat­form and en­gine share, but will have a hard time deny­ing that the new Supra still man­ages to feel ana­logue in an age when com­put­ers do so much of the work.

The new Supra is your favourite band, re­turn­ing af­ter a hia­tus. Their sound may have changed a lit­tle, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still blow your socks off.

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