BY STEVE SILER
A legendary nameplate from Toyota’s past fastest, most furious, most worldly sports car ever.
Toyota is known primarily for building ordinary cars extraordinarily well, but the eminently respectable Japanese car maker also has a strong performance heritage that has resulted in Camrys circling NASCAR tracks and Toyota hybrids providing cut-throat competition to Porsche at the highest levels of LeMans racing. Toyota and its upmarket subdivision, Lexus, have created some ambitious sports cars for the road, too, including the elegant 1960s-era 2000GT, an insanely fast, V-10-powered 2010 Lexus LFA, and today’s beautiful Lexus LC500 coupe and new-for-2020 LC500 convertible.
But no Toyota sports car is as renowned around the world as the mighty Supra, the two-door sports coupe that started out as a gussied-up Celica in 1978 and over the next two decades became a highly respected sports car and the poster child of The Fast and the Furious set. Two more decades have passed since Toyota stopped selling Supras in this country, but now the Supra is back, and it’s stronger, sleeker and more luxurious than any of the four Supra models that came before it.
It is also less Japanese. The Supra’s swoopy design originated at Toyota’s CALTY design studio in southern California, and since the business model for sports cars in the $50K range is more dubious than ever in today’s SUV-crazed automotive market, the engineering and development efforts were collaborative between Toyota and BMW, the latter company facing the same existential challenge as it designed and built its next-generation, 2020 Z4 roadster (which also is for sale now). And both the Supra and the Z4 are bolted together in Graz. Austria, by a company called Magna Steyr. The result is a sports car with Japanese roots, California style, a German heart and an Austrian passport.
While folks might have a hard time accurately guessing the Supra’s genealogy, it wears its go-fast credentials on its proverbial sleeve. The “double-bubble” roof is a design found on many European sports cars throughout history (though no Supra until now) that benefits aerodynamics while making headroom for a driver and passenger—with helmets. The long hood makes room for the BMW-sourced engine, which features six cylinders arranged in a line, not in a more conventional “V.” Other notable styling bits include the Supra‘s protuberant, Formula-1-car-like nose, its sculpted ducktail-style, massive rear bumper diffuser and a wraparound windshield look that nods to the aforementioned 2000GT. If you squint, you can see some 1990s Supra influence in the horizontal headlamp arrangement, rounded rear side windows and plump haunches, but otherwise there’s precious little that visually ties previous Supras to this one. But then, after 20 years since the last new Supra was sold here, the importance of design continuity is debatable.
Slip inside and you’ll find yourself in a Toyota unlike any other Toyota, as the BMW within starts to emerge in the form of the steering wheel controls, turn signals, pedals, shifter and screen-based interface that will feel awfully familiar to someone with a recent BMW in their household. Interestingly, the horizontal rectilinear dashboard design looks more German than the Z4’s more organic, driver-oriented arrangement, but both interiors seem equally well rendered and suitably upscale, with the even the base $50,995 Supra lined with lovely leather-and-Alcantara (simulated suede) upholstery. The interior is decidedly tight and rather dark—not Miata tight, but pretty snug for a $50K car, and, unlike the last Supra, it is strictly a two-seater. Unfortunately, there is no double-bubble sunroof option to lighten things up, and as for a convertible, well, there’s the Z4….
Speaking of options, indecisive types should take some solace in the relatively low number of decisions one is tasked with making when ordering a Supra: just seven exterior colors—white, black, two grays, blue, yellow, or red—all paired with a black treatment that’s all business, no flourish. My tester came with a $4K Premium trim level upgrade that brought surround sound speakers, a larger center screen (8.8-inch vs. 6.5-inch, navigation, wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay, as well as full-leather seats, and had it been one of the white or black “Launch Edition” models, it would have had a contrasting red leather interior and red mirror caps; red “Launch Edition” models feature black interiors and carbon fiber accents.
Regardless of trim level, all Supras pounce from a stoplight with the same vigor, powered as they are by BMW’s silky 335-hp turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine. In partnership with an alert 8-speed automatic, said engine catapults the car to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, making the Supra the quickest Toyota ever. Two driving modes can match this powertrain’s responsiveness and sound quality to your mood, whether you’re feeling eco-conscious or are in full tarmac attack. Meanwhile, the ride is surprisingly supple, and the steering, however hefty, directs the car with laser-like accuracy. Those of us sensitive to such things may note the BMW-like character of the Supra in all the ways it works, but that’s no bad thing—it’s just a little weird.
Twenty years without a legendary car like the Supra is plenty of time to make a car person nostalgic, but having tested one of the last Supras early in my career, I can say without reservation that this new two-seater is sharper, more focused and infinitely more solid than that one. It’s smaller but bolder, lighter but faster, more intense yet more luxurious than ever. In most respects, it’s the super-est Supra yet, even if it speaks with a German accent.
2019 Audi Q8 Specs:
Base price (includes delivery charge): $50,945
Body style: 2-door, 2-passenger coupe
Power: Turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-6: 335 hp, 365 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive wheels: Rear
Fuel economy, city/highway (mpg): 24/31