DRIVEN: Is the new Supra more than just a BMW Z4 with a Toyota badge?


Hachiroku (AE86- think InitialD), 4AGE in the 20V RSi Corolla, BEAMS, and the 2JZ engine in the Supras of yesteryear... These things will resonate with any Toyota fan.

The engines of the above-mentioned cars have been used for decades to modify vehicles in South Africa, turning everyday cars into track beasts, along with spinning the car-mod culture on its head. Specifically the 2JZ engine of the previous Supra.

So, when Toyota revealed that its legendary Supra was being revived as the MK5 version, the excitement was overwhelming. Then came a rather interesting announcement. BMW was collaborating with Toyota on this vehicle - the first bespoke Toyota Gazoo Racing project - and the heart would be that of the recently launched Z4 engine.

For many, the bubble had burst. It was almost a cardinal sin to the ears of Toyota purists.

What are your thoughts on the new Toyota Supra? 
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toyota supra heritage

Many folk will remember getting blisters on their thumbs while playing the original Gran Turismo, steering an earlier version Supra - these are the same aficionados Toyota is targeting the MK5 at.

Although said young-folk would now be married with children and the latter might be a problem. The Supra is no longer a 2+2 seater, so there's no room for toddlers at the rear. 

As a Corolla 20V RSI owner, I was two-minded about the launch. I was absolutely heartbroken when the then new 86 had arrived in SA. It was beautiful, but I was utterly disappointed by the mere 147kW. The original Hachiroku has played a fundamental role in my passion for cars.

My excitement to drive the new Supra was hindered by a dark cloud which had taken hostage of my heart; the BMW Z4 engine had already clouded my judgement. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing horrible with said engine at all, but more on that later.

Was Toyota about to break my heart yet again?

Yes, and no.

The new GR Supra is absolutely striking, and it scores top marks on looks - although some will disagree. My only gripe would be where the number plate is positioned on South African models, and this was most probably an oversight - it takes away attention from an otherwise distinctive front end.

Toyota GR Supra

Some of its beautiful lines are reminiscent of the godfather, the 2000GT, such as the horizontal, elongated bonnet, and horizontal belt line, rearward slanting silhouette and the integrated spoiler. Its design in the rear specifically plays homage to the Mk4 predecessor, with its integrated spoiler of sorts.

There's a reason for its shape too, as it also makes for more straight-line stability, thanks to great aerodynamics. It's shorter, wider and lower than the GT86, so driving dynamics are sportier. That long bonnet and short cabin make for incredibly fun driving and it begs to be thrown around on corners. 

I love its bulbous rear and curvaceous thighs which are the thick wheel arches, hugging the standard, large-diameter two-tone 19" wheels, wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber. 

It screams JDM (Japanese Domestic Market), without the proverbial massive rear-spoiler. Hopefully that will be saved for when the GRMN version hits our shores one day, but there's no confirmation as yet. It took some time to warm up to its looks but, like a Cadbury Flake, once sampled all resistance crumbled.

Is it a Toyota or a is it a BMW?

But then you open the door, slide behind the steering wheel, and find yourself inside a BMW. I'm not even joking.

The dash is very German, including the gear lever, along with other equipment, such as the heads-up display, trip info buttons, the steering wheel and indicator stalks. Most of the cabin's fittings - albeit for a slightly different instrument cluster, the carbon trim elements - and the Toyota badge on the steering wheel - are reminiscent of kit found fitted to BMWs.

toyota supra interior

Toyota SA says the Z4/Supra collaboration has been a long time coming and, with that, come many shared components. The automaker says, if it had to make the interior lean more towards the Japanese brand, it would have contributed to "pushing the price significantly higher". 

Shared components are not a bad thing, and to an extent I understand that, but some of my motoring peers would agree with me that this should never have been compromised.

A Supra owner will only spend mere seconds looking at the outside of his or her car, and the majority of the time is spent behind the wheel. It took most of the first half during the two-day launch for me to come to terms with the interior. It bothered me to no end.

There's a padded cushion for the driver on the centre console, so your knee won't hurt when performing spirited driving. Another downer for me is that there is no longer a physical handbrake, but an electronic one instead. And that too, is all right. Purists, like me, will miss its exclusion.

Naturally, the Supra also comes with a host of safety features, such as lane change assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure warning, pre-crash system with pedestrian detection, and also a tyre inflation warning. 

toyota supra start

#PushStartToSupra redemption

All that aside, and once accepting that the interior is never going to change, all misgivings dissolves when you hit the start button. And I do mean everything, to the point that the German interior is no longer a big deal and you eventually learn to love it, like your payslip.

The GR Supra model line-up is available with two models: the GR Supra Track and GR Supra. The Track version is aimed at enthusiasts, while the "normal" GR Supra is a more comfortable and convenient model to drive.


Under the bonnet is a front-mounted 3.0-litre straight-six engine, fitted with a single twin-scroll turbocharger, that produces 250kW and 500Nm, and is mated to an eight-speed ZF auto transmission with paddle shifts. Rear-wheel drive makes for extra thrills and powerful acceleration, and there's also an electronic active differential. The gear ratios are so close together, you can't stop grinning while you are driving. 

And boy, oh boy, did we drive these cars through the Makana district of the Eastern Cape. The Supra just floats on the long stretches of tar, wanting more and more as I kept my right foot stuck in the corner. 

Its steering is much lighter than its German sibling, and that's actually enjoyable, but I wouldn't mind if it was stiffened just a teeny tad more.

You can leave the car in normal mode for a smooth drive or swap to Sport or Manual modes with purposeful shifts. When you're using launch control, the car has rapid shifts from first to second gear while you might think its just wheel spin.

It's made for sliding, and turning into corners with ease. During track activities at the launch, the Supra was in its element and its real performance and driving dynamics were showcased extensively.

The Supra has an adaptive variable suspension (AVS) to control the damping force of the shock absorbers. Toyota says the suspension has been designed with an optimised construction to extract the best handling, stability and ride comfort possible. A MacPherson Strut makes up the front suspension while there's a multi-link in the rear. The Sport-mode integration enables a customisable suspension and steering settings.

It pretty much sounds like a BMW, but the Supra does sound better and more sonurous, but I don't know if that's just because I was willing it to, or because of Toyota's improved tuning.

And because the Z4 is a convertible and the Supra is a hardtop coupe, naturally its body structure is more rigid and this also adds to its supreme enjoyment to drive. It has the same level of body rigidity as the Lexus LFA.

If it could handle SA motorsport and Dakar rally champion Giniel de Villiers throwing it around Aldo Scribante in pure hardcore fashion, the new Supra is worth its salt.

The Supra is a helluva car to drive. It's absolute fantastic and a real driver's car, and the purists will eventually approve.

So what if it looks like a BMW inside? It's freaking marvellous, and a hell of a lot more fun than the Z4. It's tuning and setup is completely different, and even though Toyota claims the power outputs are exactly the same as its German collab-partner, it sure as heck feels a lot more feisty.

janine van der post

                                                         Image: Calvin Fisher

Would I buy one?

Hell yeah, I would, although my biggest reservation is there's no room for my daughter, nor her car seat in the rear.

It's similarly priced to the Mustang, although this is not its direct rival. Instead, its biggest competition would be the Nissan 370Z, BMW M2 Competition, or a Porsche Cayman.

I was also expecting pricing to fall just under one bar for the top of the range money, because if you save up some more, you're stepping into Lexus RC F territory. It launches here in SA at the end of this month, by the way. Overall, it's a true driver's car and something even Smokey Nagata would be proud of.

Toyota says they will have 200 units available for this year, and probably the same number, or even less, for 2020. There isn't really a huge waiting period, unless you want the most expensive model in the new Matte Storm Grey body colour. Then you'll be added to a waiting list until May next year, as the automaker only receives one of those cars in that colour per month.

Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the Toyota GR Supra, said of the car: "Being asked to make a sports car that offers the ultimate, pure driving pleasure felt like a mandate from heaven, telling me to "make a Supra!"

"I needed to deliver a car that offers a seemingly limitless sense of control, a car that will meet expectations and delight even hardcore fans.

"The new Supra is not simply a revival, though; only those core engine and rear-wheel drive elements have been carried over. As the name Supra suggests, I was determined to deliver a 'supreme fun-to-drive' car that could only be made in the modern era."

Tada has most certainly done so, and that alone makes the new GR Supra worth every cent. It's one of the best and one of my top three cars I have driven this year. I want one, in white... or red, or silver.

toyota supra track_calvin fisher

                                                          All images: Calvin Fisher

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