On the Road Review: Toyota Supra GR Premium

It’s hard to discuss Toyota’s reincarnated Supra sports car without mention of the “Fast and Furious” movie series, which liberally uses supercharged versions of older Supras as a hallmark of this action franchise. While the latest Supra has yet to earn the same levels of fame as the previous edition, this two-seater is destined for glory.

A joint development with BMW — Toyota did its own exterior design and chassis, while BMW supplied the excellent turbocharged powertrains and the interior — the Supra remains a coupe only and the BMW Z4 is the drop-top version.

Toyota knew it had an enthusiast gap in its lineup, as the FRS/86 coupe was just not exciting buyers. And BMW had seen Z4 sales crater as the segment fragmented in both Europe and the coveted U.S. market. This joint project satisfies two needs, restoring luster to both Toyota and BMW.

While the Supra’s styling produces various degrees of lust or indifference, the racy-looking coupe is much better in person than in pictures. The double-bubble roof, like original Daytona Cobra coupes, the menacing front fascia, the swoops and angles around the wheel openings plus the pinched rear fascia all combine to create a machine in motion — very fast motion — even while still. During our travels, it was quite common to encounter cell-phone recordings as we passed other traffic, so there is very much some consumer interest.

Driving the rear-drive Supra clearly defines the car’s sporty mission; this is a quick, agile, athletic machine that will reward those deft of hand and foot controls and scare the sense back into those drivers reaching beyond their capabilities, something this car can easily exploit.

Squeeze the go pedal firmly and the turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine spools to life with a guttural snarl, unleashing 382 hp (it definitely feels like much more) through the slick-shifting eight-speed automatic (a manual gearbox may become available late next year). The march to 60 mph is faster than cars that cost tens of thousands more, the blast to triple digits just as swift. The rush of the forward progress, so rapid in just one or two gears, the transmission so cleverly and perfectly matched to the high-rev engine, simply embarrasses the output of my V-8-powered Mustang GT.

Yet drivers need more today. The pace of traffic, the congestion, the realities of daily driving dictate more prudent use of the Supra’s abilities unless you are fortunate enough to live near a racetrack that will allow complete exercise of this purebred. The responsiveness of the brakes, the quickness of the steering ratio, the general crispness with which the Supra responds to your inputs will cement the impressions that the racy body suggest.

Think of this Supra as not only a thoroughly modern iteration of its predecessors, but maybe even a poor-man’s, or a fiscally responsible man’s, Porsche.

On the flip side, the Supra requires that you also be part athlete to enter and exit, climbing down or up over a wide threshold from the low-slung body. The visibility is poor to several areas, while the road roar from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires at sustained highway speeds can become quite wearing if you are trying to listen to a traveling partner’s conversation, or the XM satellite radio, if in fact you actually get a steady signal.

The cabin is snug, cozy and intimate perhaps, yet the cargo hold swallowed (choked down?) two sets of golf clubs and pull carts inside, albeit the drivers had to ride up front. The removable shade got removed, and some gentle persuasion was necessary, but several pieces of soft luggage would easily make a long journey more than feasible.

Otherwise, the 14-way power seats are supportive, the controls user-friendly as necessary and the standard gear sufficient to keep you safe and comfortable. But the thrust of the engine is the cake here, and you will sample it often.

Supra pricing starts at just over $44,000 for the base model with the 255-hp turbo-four, while our Premium edition GR with the 3.0-liter turbo lists for $55,585. A new A91-CF model, with Carbon Fiber trim, special wheels, more aerodynamic aids, unique colors and a red/black interior is available to the first 600 customers.

Supra sales have not yet ignited, but last year (which isn’t exactly a good bellwether) showed the Supra doubling up FRS/86 coupe sales, also doubling up Z4 sales, plus handily outdoing Boxster/Cayman sales in the U.S. It is conceivable that Supra will catch the Miata this year, but Chevy’s Corvette remains far and away America’s favorite two-seater.

Heart-quickening fun to drive, with a racy, come-hither stance, the Supra embodies fast and furious.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.
Tim Plouff

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