Motoring

2019 Toyota Supra Review – It’s Epic.

It’s back! The iconic Toyota Supra has been revealed here in Madrid, Spain. The Supra nameplate has been around since 1978, born as an offshoot of the Celica. It was sadly buried in 2002 but now a fifth-generation has finally been reborn. Chris Bowen is on the ground in Spain to let you know what we can expect when it arrives in the third quarter of 2019.

 

The Fifth Supra.

The A90 Supra could well be the most anticipated Toyota ever. It has all the magic that goes into making an ideal sports-car. A powerful turbo-charged engine, rear-wheel-drive and in your face sleek looks. The build-up to this launch has certainty been drawn out, even the media drive featured body wrapped camouflaged cars.

News of the impending Supra first surfaced with the FT-1 Concept way back at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. The two-seat coupe will be built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. By who I hear you say? Magna Steyr is a contract manufacturer, building cars such as Jaguar’s iPace and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4-MATIC. Obviously, the BMW Z4 is made there as well and even the X3. Over 100 years they’ve produced 3.3 million vehicles across 24 different models.

Based on BMW’s Z4, the Supra features a rather short wheelbase, shorter than the Toyota 86 in fact. There’s perfect 50-50 weight distribution, the body is rigid, the centre of gravity very low, need we say more? Toyota of course has been involved in motorsports for decades from F1 to World Endurance Championship (WEC) and even the Nürburgring 24 Hours endurance race. In 2015 it combined the various racing brands under one umbrella, GAZOO Racing (GR). The Supra will become the first Toyota vehicle sold in this country with the GR branding.

The Drive.

First things first, the Supra drives like no other Supra before it. You can clearly feel a stack of BMW DNA from behind the wheel. Although funnily enough Toyota claims that once the basic layout was finalised communications ceased with BMW.

It’s agile and fun to drive, like a Toyota 86 on steroids. The drive program took us on a 100-kilometre trip on some glorious roads giving the Supra a real opportunity to shine. I can faithfully report this car will put a smile on your dial every time you jump in it. Long stretches of twisty Spanish roads and changes in elevation proved no problem. The car is perfectly set up for spirited driving, without the bone jarring ride that too often goes hand in hand with this category.

The eight-speed auto is slick, the steering very precise and overall balance is spot on. Dynamically it simply sits in a very sweet spot. Plus, there’s some serious power on offer, so much so the Supra will step out off the mark, in the dry with traction control on. Never are you left wanting for more performance, but you may care for a little more noise. The exhaust note is a tad disappointing, it’s very muted although capable of the occasional snap, crackle and pop.

Toyota went to great lengths to nail the 50:50 weight distribution, so much so that the rear tailgate is made of plastic. The rear cargo space sits at 250-litres, enough for a couple of overnight bags. But oddly there is no cargo wall, you can see straight through to the boot.

Toyota did its best to keep the interior under wraps, literally. It will be interesting to see what compromises have been made to keep costs down, this won’t be a BMW interior and yes, I had a sneaky look. The Supra needs to be substantially cheaper than the Z4, pricing details are yet to be announced.

The infotainment system is straight from BMW. This is a good thing of course, even more so when you consider there is Apple CarPlay capability. But Toyota Australia is unable to confirm if the technology will make it down under. Let’s hope those in head office see the value of that functionality, unlike the new Corolla where US versions are kited out with it, but we miss out.

Ins and Outs

The Supra is powered by BMW’s turbocharged in-line six-cylinder 3.0-litre engine. A twin-scroll turbocharger helps the six-pot generate around 220kW / 450Nm although official outputs are yet to be confirmed. That’s enough power to catapult it to 100km/h in under five seconds. There’s an eight-speed automatic transmission but sadly no manual at this stage. This particular engine has the software for a manual and we can only pray that happens.

The super short wheelbase is joined by a wide track, making for an aggressive stance superior to many two-seat sports cars. This really gives the car some serious presence, even through the kaleidoscope of colours you can tell this is one sharp looking machine. There are various cosmetic vents, such as a twin pair on the clamshell shaped bonnet. We’re told they will be made open for racing variants at some stage.

Toyota makes some big claims about the platform, claiming rigidity is almost on par with the carbon-fibre based Lexus LFA supercar. It certainly has an inherent sense of excellent build quality. The frame itself is a combination of aluminium and steel that really adds to the performance capability of the car.

The suspension system includes adaptive dampers with and a Sports mode, helping to liven up the whole package. You can flick through the eight cogs via paddle shifters, but I personally found the box perfectly capable itself.

On the Track.

I had the opportunity to really let loose on the Jarama racing circuit, once home to the Spanish Grand Prix. This is a particularly challenging track and I can see why it was deemed unsafe for F1 in 1981. There are many tight corners, changes in elevation and even line of sight issues as you fly over hills.

The short straight allowed for speeds just a tad over 200km/h. The Brembo four-pot callipers and large discs certainly performed well when it came to not hitting a wall at the end of said straight. I didn’t sense any brake fade but admittedly we only did four laps at a time.

A trick electronically controlled active differential can send up to 100 per cent of torque to either rear wheel, which came in real handy on the track. This is a proper sports car and the track experience certainly proved that. It’s not a raging bull but more of a ninja when pushed to the edge.

The EFTM Scoreboard.

Although the cars we drove were preproduction models, very few changes will be made to the final product. So, we certainly got a pretty good indication of what will arrive next year. I have to say things are looking good if you’re a Supra fan. The sceptics will of course point towards the BMW roots, but is that really a problem? This is a serious car that can be driven like it’s on fire. I rarely fall in love with a car, but I’d leave my wife for it. It’s a 9 out of 10 from me. If you’re reading this Gillian, you’re a 10.

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2019 Toyota Supra Review – It’s Epic.
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