Toyota’s new GR Supra has generated howls of outrage, mostly from people who spend way too much keyboard time spouting opinions but in reality wouldn’t know a decent car from a hole in the ground. They seem to hate the idea that it’s the product of a dalliance with BMW.
What’s the problem? Last time I looked, BMW was, y’know, fairly handy at go-fast machinery.
The Supra is, for now, a two-seater coupe only; its BMW counterpart, the Z4, is a convertible.
Others bemoan the absence of a manual gearbox. I love the feel of a flick and snick shifter as much as any old petrolhead.
In a 21st-century sports car, especially now that turbo power has all but taken over, a manual — with a human operator — is a slow, clunky, error-prone alternative to the speed, precision and efficiency of a dual-clutch or automatic transmission with paddle-shifters.
Still, the fact that petrolheads are getting passionate about a Toyota is precisely the point of the Supra exercise. Toyota wanted a hero car. BMW has obliged.
We’re testing the GT, priced at $84,900 — that’s sharp money. Propulsion comes from BMW’s 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder, producing 250kW/500Nm with twin-scroll turbo, turning the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic.
It’s abetted by such hardware as adaptive suspension dampers, Brembo brakes, BMW’s electronic M rear diff lock and 18-inch alloys with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres. The GTS, at $94,900, adds bigger rear discs and 19-inch alloys — neither of which you need unless you’re planning track days — plus head-up display and upgraded audio.
Toyota engineers set up the Supra as a sharper-edged performance piece than the Z4 convertible. However, it’s also designed to do the daily drive comfortably and efficiently.
You get leather-faced, heated sports seats, Toyota’s elegant thin-rimmed, small-diameter sports steering wheel, BMW’s latest infotainment with navigation, voice control and digital radio (but no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto), wireless phone charging and dual-zone aircon.
Long journeys are a pleasure in the Supra. In Normal mode, the ride is as controlled and absorbent on rough roads at speed as a pure Gran Turismo coupe; Sport is tolerably compliant, though obviously firmer.
Tyre noise isn’t overly intrusive by sports car standards.
You’re properly supported in the luxurious driver’s seat, with adjustable cushion length, backrest side bolsters and plenty of legroom. Climbing in or out of the car with dignity requires dexterity and practice, due to its low roofline.
The dash is an amalgam of BMW interfaces and Toyota’s fashionably minimalist, butch design aesthetic.
There are simple, easy-to-read instruments with a central analog tacho and big digital speedo, plus faux carbon-fibre trim — but nowhere to store anything except your phone.
Everything on the should-be-there list is standard. The blind spot monitor and rear
cross traffic alert help to compensate for limited rear vision.
BMW’s force-fed 3.0-litre straight six, in all iterations from the 7 Series limo to manic M hotrods, is one of the all-time great engines.
Its defining characteristics are the ridiculously effortless way it gathers pace through the midrange, surreal smoothness and, in this version, even greater responsiveness at the pedal, especially in Sport mode where the top end feels more potent than 250kW worth.
Toyota claims 4.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h trip. That may be a tad optimistic but it’s close enough — and rolling acceleration, which is what really counts, is sensational. Thanks to the eight forward ratios, closely spaced in the lower half, this is one very quick car.
The Supra is also finely balanced, with a short wheelbase, wide stance and claimed 50-50 weight distribution. Sticky Michelins help the cause, especially the front tyres (255/40), which bite hard when you point the car into a bend. The M diff keeps the rear end tidy under power on the way out.
Relatively trim at 1495kg, the Supra’s body is as tight as they come, as is the control exercised by the Toyota-tuned suspension. This permits extremely quick steering — again calibrated by Toyota — with just 2.1 turns lock to lock, minus the numb, heavy characteristics that blight some BMWs.
Unerringly accurate, the wheel requires the lightest of touches to aim and stays nicely weighted as you feed in lock. Front end feedback is pretty good and you can accurately gauge rear-wheel grip via the seat of your pants, which is close to the road and immediately forward of the rear axle.
I’ve waiting for ages for the next great Japanese sports car. Thanks to the Germans, this is it.
I want the most affordable A-grade sports car on the market. Never mind the badge, this is it.
Audi TTS, from $99,900
The last hurrah for Audi’s signature coupe, the TTS runs a 2.0-litre turbo with 210kW/380Nm, six-speed dual-clutch auto and all-wheel drive. Rapid pace, impeccable grace and a beautiful, techno-wow cabin.
Porsche 718 Cayman, from $116,000
Some (me included) argue Porsche lost a bit of its unique appeal with the switch in 2016 from atmo sixes to turbo fours but there’s no arguing with the way the Cayman drives. It’s the benchmark sports car.
Don’t fall for the “it’s just a rebadged BMW” myth. A brilliant joint effort from two blue-chip automotive engineering outfits, the Supra is great value and a short-odds Car of the Year contender.
Toyota Supra GT vitals
Warranty/servicing: 5 years, $1900 for 5 years
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo, 250kW/500Nm
Safety: Not yet tested, 7 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, lane keep assist
Spare: None, repair kit
Originally published as The Toyota that thinks it’s a BMW