Car reviews - Toyota - Supra - range
Love-it-or-hate-it looks, tried and true inline six-cylinder engine, dependable automatic transmission, softer suspension, lighter steering, darty handling, high-speed stability, five-year warranty
Room for improvement
Love-it-or-hate-it looks, difficult ingress and egress, cabin is a mismatch of old and new BMW technology and switchgear, costs more to service than Z4, the next iteration is not that far away…
Toyota resurrects Supra sportscar with help from BMW and it’s unsurprisingly epic fun
6 Sep 2019
IT’S one of life’s inevitabilities: You receive something new but can’t help question what’s coming next. It’s the human condition. We are seemingly never satisfied.
That was the reality facing Toyota Motor Corporation’s legendary Tetsuya Tada, who had just brought the 86 sportscar to life in 2012.
As exciting as that was, everyone – customers, dealers and media – was asking what would come next, hoping that the answer would be a new Supra.
Well, seven long years later, it’s finally here. After nearly two decades on the cutting room floor, the A90 Supra has materialised, albeit with help from BMW Group.
The big question, then, is whether or not the A90 is a worthy recipient of the famous Supra nameplate. Spoiler alert: It was well worth the wait.
First drive impressions
Let’s be honest, it costs a hell of a lot of money to produce a new automotive platform in the 21st century. And these costs are harder to justify when they’re for a low-volume model like a sportscar.
Despite how keen many within TMC were to make a new Supra a reality, it was likely never going to happen without some external help.
Well, it just so happened that at the same time the 86 was released, TMC met with BMW Group to discuss the potential for core development.
The A90 Supra was certainly not the intended project, but Mr Tada was keen to make it so, eventually convincing BMW Group after more than two years of negotiations.
The rest is history. The A90 Supra coupe and G29 Z4 convertible went on to become twins under the skin, with TMC leveraging BMW Group’s expertise with inline six-cylinder engines – a signature of the nameplate that rose to superstardom in the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious.
The latter’s B58 3.0-litre turbo-petrol unit is already one of our favourite engines on the market today and it’s no different in the 1495kg A90 Supra.
With 250kW of peak power from 5000-6000rpm and 500Nm of maximum torque from 1600-4500rpm, it sure can hustle off the line, hitting 100km/h in scant 4.3 seconds. Top speed? 250km/h. But it’s probably faster if its electronic limiter is removed.
TMC says it has tuned the B58 itself, but it’s really hard to tell the difference without driving it back to back with the G29 Z4 in flagship M40i form.
But that’s not a bad thing, as this straight six is smooth in its delivery, even in its hard-charging mid-range that makes accelerating out of corners a cinch.
A lot the credit for this level of performance has to go to ZF’s ubiquitous eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission that makes its presence felt yet again.
Gear changes are both quick and smooth, while throttle and brake inputs are met with timely responses, making for a dependable transmission.
Curiously, though, this application doesn’t allow drivers to shift across to Sport independently, requiring that the not-to-be-confused Sport drive mode is instead selected for a more aggressive calibration. That said, the steering wheel’s paddle-shifters are always an option.
Yes, it’s disappointing that a manual transmission isn’t available from launch, but Mr Tada rightly notes that the two-pedal set-up’s performance is superior alongside its volume potential. Still, the purist in us is keen to see it happen.
While BMW Group can be accused of losing its form when it comes exhaust notes, it recently started to right these wrongs, but we suspect it wouldn’t have mattered with the A90 Supra as TMC would’ve done whatever it could to give it a stirring soundtrack.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what it has, adding even more character to an already alluring package. In particular, the pops and crackles heard on downshifts are grin-inducing.
Where TMC’s tuning is more obvious, though, is the A90 Supra’s suspension and steering. For its performance, BMW Group tends to go for firm and heavy tunes respectively. So, polar opposites to what’s happening here, then.
Simply put, the A90 Supra is surprisingly comfortable to drive. Yes, road imperfections are felt by its suspension, but they’re dulled down. Switch the adaptive dampers to Sport and everything is a little more alive. But overall, it’s quite good.
Adding to this experience, the A90 Supra’s steering is light in hand, making low-speed manoeuvres a dream. Naturally, the Sport drive mode adds weight, but not too much. Either way, there’s plenty of feel on offer.
We just wish TMC followed BMW Group’s lead and went for a thicker rim for the wheel. It’s unusually thin. Seriously, it’s strange.
It won’t surprise you to hear that the A90 Supra’s combination of a short wheelbase (2470mm) and wide tracks (1594mm front, 1589mm rear) – plus perfect weight distribution – has resulted in excellent handling, be it on road or track.
For example, the A90 Supra’s sharp turn-in makes for pleasingly darty behaviour that is made more enjoyable by its excellent body control and the surprising amount of grip provided by its Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres.
What’s most surprising, though, is how composed the A90 Supra is at high speed. Nudging 220km/h on the straight at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit was not nearly as intimidating as it is in other performance vehicles.
Autobahn-bred? You bet. And when you need them, the A90 Supra’s Brembo brakes wash away speed with ease.
There is, of course, one area in which the A90 Supra is considerably different to the G29 Z4, with its design inside and out a far cry from that of its German cousin.
Remember the striking FT-1 concept from the 2014 Detroit motor show? Hard not to, right? Well, that was our first taste of what was to come, with the production model thankfully not too dissimilar in looks.
Yes, styling is subjective, but in our view, its exterior design is jaw-dropping. This is TMC’s hero sportscar, after all, so it has to be a head-turner.
Unfortunately, the BMW Group influences are strong inside. Yes, the A90 Supra borrows its electronics, so it’s hardly a surprise, but TMC could’ve at least tried to use different switchgear.
The combination of new and old BMW Group technology and switchgear leaves a lot to be desired. For one, the infotainment system is a tweaked version of iDrive6, which is now a generation old. Still good, but not the latest.
Mr Tada says the intention was to make the A90 Supra and G29 Z4’s cabins as different as possible, and they certainly are, but that doesn’t change the fact that the former immediately identifies itself as a BMW Group product, which is at odds with its exterior.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, as material quality is high, with soft-touch plastics used for the door shoulders, lower dashboard and glovebox, while faux leather with stitching covers the upper dashboard and lower and central armrests.
Cheaper hard plastics are found, however, on the door bins which are too small to be useful. Thankfully, a couple of decently sized cupholders are located at the rear of the centre console. For reference, cargo capacity is a somewhat useful 290L.
Our biggest gripe with the A90 Supra is its super-low roof line that makes for challengingly small door apertures. Needless to say, ingress and egress are more difficult than they should be. We hit out heads several times when we forgot to duck.
Given its BMW Group ties, you’d expect that the A90 Supra would be dearer than it is. In Australia, we only get the straight six, which kicks off at $84,900 plus on-road costs. Access to the same engine in the G29 Z4 M40i costs an extra $40,000. Forty large.
So, the A90 Supra’s relative affordability is strong and it’s backed up by Toyota Australia’s regular five-year warranty, which is two more years than what BMW Group Australia offers with the G29 Z4. That’s a big bonus.
The Germans do have the wood over the Japanese when it comes to servicing, though, with their capped-price program $335 cheaper for the first five intervals combined, at $1565. We suspect this is because Toyota Australia has to recoup the cost of the bespoke training and equipment needed.
Either way, TMC couldn’t have picked a better partner than BMW Group for the A90 Supra. It’s probably better than any in-house project would’ve been. And once fans drive it, they’ll soon forget its foreign origins.
But, of course, we’re keen to see where the A90 Supra goes next, with Mr Tada promising that its next iteration will appear in 12 months. We’ll gladly see you again then.
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Model release date: 1 September 2019
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