NEARLY A YEAR AWAY, WE DRIVE A ‘90-95% FINISHED’ SUPRA
INTAKE This month’s hot metal
WE SAY Words from our editors
One of the Supra’s assistant chief engineers wondered aloud if any of the gathered journalists had driven its blood-brother BMW Z4. I alone raised my hand. “What is it like?” Masayuki Kai asked. “Different,” I said. “Different, how?” he wanted to know.
Nobody in the Supra squad has driven the Z4, nor has BMW driven the future Supra. The forthcoming coupe-only Supra and convertible-only Z4 share the same hard points, wheelbase, track width, engine, transmission, differential, and tires, among other things, but they were tuned and calibrated separately. They really are automotive twins separated at birth.
Toyota would not share with us any specifications of the camo-clad prototypes—not engine output, fuel consumption, dimensions, or pricing. They wanted our driving impressions alone.
As all Supras have had, the newest version gets an inlinesix. In this case, it’s BMW’S powerful B58 twin-scroll single-turbo 3.0-liter. In the Z4 M40i, it’s rated at 382 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque in U.S. spec, but Toyota was mum about output other than “at least 300 horsepower.” The Supra didn’t feel as powerful as the Z4 I drove—partly because our Euro-spec Supras had particulate exhaust filters that choke a significant amount of horsepower.
There will not be a manual transmission with this engine (wait, what?), but the ubiquitous ZF eight-speed automatic leads to an electronically controlled two-way clutchpack differential that has steplessly variable locking in either direction between 0 and 100 percent. A launch-control system will produce what Toyota says will be 0–60 mph in “less than five seconds.”
Toyota is proud to claim that the Supra will weigh “under 1,500 kilograms” (3,307 pounds) with a 50/50 weight distribution, and a center of gravity lower than that of the nimble GT86. The Supra’s front strut, rear multilink suspension’s spring rates, adjustable multimode adaptive shocks, anti-roll bars, bump stops, and single-ratio electric-assist power steering were all tailored by Toyota for the Supra and are still open for final calibration before the mid-2019 on-sale date. Hence the desire for our driving impressions.
On the racetrack, we found the car linear, smooth, and
quiet as it accelerated in Sport mode. We’re told the U.s.spec car will sound a bit more gnarly. There isn’t an iota of turbo lag, and this is accentuated by the buttery up- and downshifts.
Comparing the Toyota and Z4 M40i, the Bimmer feels quicker, sharper, and sportier in these respects and would likely outperform the Supra in its current state. But in a polished way, the Supra feels more fluid in general.
At the end of a half-mile straight, with a hairpin approaching, we went to the brakes and found a long pedal and not much feel or bite. It’s not the hardware: four-pot Brembo calipers with large-diameter vented steel discs with stock pads and DOT 4 fluid. I’ll venture it’s the booster tuning, where we’d prefer less travel and more bite sooner in the pedal stroke—like the Z4.
There’s plenty of grip available from the Michelin Pilot Super Sports, and about midway around corners we found mild understeer. How the Supra exits the corners, however, is perfect. But it’s on public roads, where most development occurred, where the car shined. Track-based complaints evaporated in the hills, where the car’s fluidity became an asset. It’s utterly quiet on the highway with nearly zero wind noise and barely registered tire noise. This is an excellent road car.
With a ballpark price of about $60,000, the Supra will be an aspirational sports car. As such, it had better defend that territory with legitimate performance. At this stage in development, there’s still time to tune out the track shortcomings. As it sits now, there is huge potential in this car.
SPECS Base Price $60,000 (est) Vehicle Layout Front-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door hatchback Engine3.0l/335-hp/369-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6 Transmission 8-speed automatic Curb Weight 3,300 lb (mfr est) Wheelbase 97.2 in L x W x H 175.0 x 7.40 x 50.0 in (est) 0-60 MPH 4.5 sec (MT est) EPA City/hwy/comb Fuel Econ 21/31/25 mpg (est) On Sale in U.S. Mid-2019
DIFFERENT HOW? Toyota Supra engineer Masayuki Kai is eager to compare his car to BMW’S Z4.
For an expanded version of this review, check out Motortrend.com/newsupra.