First Drive 2020 Toyota Supra Review
Paul Horrell’s first drive 2020 Toyota Supra Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Infotainment, Safety, Verdict and Score.
IN A NUTSHELL New Supra might have a lot of BMW in it, but it feels very like the old Supra. And looks authentic on the outside, if not inside the cabin
2020 Toyota GR Supra (European spec)
Price from $84,900+ORCs Warranty 5 years, unlimited km Engine 3.0L petrol turbo Power 250kW at 5000-6500rpm Torque 500Nm at 1600-4500rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive rear-wheel drive Body 4379mm (l); 1854mm (w exc mirrors); NAmm (w inc mirrors); 1292mm (h) Turning circle 10.4m Towing weight NAkg (braked), NAkg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1495kg Seats 2 Fuel tank 52 litres Spare No Thirst 8.2 l/100km combined cycle WLTP
This is the replacement for one of the great cult cars, the Toyota Supra A80. It even gets the codename A90. But it’s officially called the Toyota GR Supra because it has been developed by engineers hand-in-Nomex-glove with Toyota’s works Gazoo Racing (GR) operation.
But there’s another partner on the scene: BMW. The Supra is a co-op project with BMW, and shares pretty well everything under the skin with the BMW Z4 M40i. That’s OK though: a Supra has to have a turbo straight-six, rear-drive and a two-seat layout.
What is the Toyota Supra? A Supra must also be a coupe not a roadster, and this one is. It also has a hatchback. Lift-out targa panels aren’t an option. Upshot is the body is immensely stiff, for the benefit of handling precision.
When we say the Supra’s mechanicals are shared, we really mean ‘borrowed’: the hardware of the engine, chassis, electronics, and instruments and controls are pure BMW items. The transmission is the ZF auto habitually used by BMW. And the Supra is built on the same line as the Z4 by BMW’s favourite outsourced contactor Magna-Steyr, in Graz, Austria.
But don’t panic. Toyota did have a lot of influence, insisting the two cars have a short wheelbase for agility. Toyota has also styled its own body, and if you ask me it delves deep into the Toyota gene pool as well as turning out a lot prettier than the Z4.
Toyota also did its own suspension tune and conducted testing in Australia too. In fact the Supra’s lead engineer Tetsuya Tada didn’t drive the Z4 until development of his car was done and dusted. More on the Supra’s position and background HERE.
What’s the Interior like? You drop low into a well-shaped seat. The side bolsters adjust so you are well-supported in corners. The sides of the centre console are padded so you can brace your knee against side forces, and there’s a left foot-rest too. Straight-ahead legs and arms make for a perfect driving position, with a clear view of the instruments.
The windscreen is shallow, its top rail low like a visor. The tops of the side windows are also low and slightly confining – they taper inwards, so if you lean your neck you can biff the side of your head on the roof rail.
This dark, snug cabin really does remind me of the old A80 Supra. Good genes.
Ahead is an instrument binnacle with a big round rev-counter that’s perfectly clear. But the speedo is digital-only and its digits aren’t all that big. To the right is a square that’s used only for sat-nav junction diagrams or infotainment info. When the radio’s off and you know where you’re going, it would be good if you could switch it to more performance-related graphics
Still, at least this setup is clearer than the messy driver’s binnacle in the Z4 and othert recent BMWs. The Supra uses BMW fonts for its instruments, and it’s clear why if you look anywhere else in the cabin. All the rest of the controls and displays are taken wholesale from the Germans.
The infotainment, discussed in its own section below, is almost wholly BMW. So are the stalks and switches. And the head-up display. But if Toyota could change the look of the instrument panel, couldn’t it at least have put a new visual skin on the iDrive screen? OK, it flashes a Supra script when you first switch on, but that doesn’t count.
That said, I love the impeccable operating logic and quality feel and ergonomics. The BMW climate controls too. Don’t get me wrong, I might be sorry that it keeps reminding me of the BMW joint-venture, but if the Supra had used Toyota’s existing ugly touchscreen, or Lexus’s insanely frustrating touchpad, I’d be far more upset.
Toyota has put all this BMW stuff into a good-looking high-quality cabin, with lots of soft, stitched surfaces and neat vents.
Two cupholders sit by your elbow, and there’s a phone bay that grips against it flying sideways in bends. The glovebox is tiny and there’s no armrest storage.
The boot’s good though. It measures 290 litres. It’s quite deep for a sport-car boot, and the section aft of the wheel-arches is usefully wider than the hatch itself. A golf bag will go. You could probably fit a pair of skis under the transverse brace, poking forward between the seats.
What’s the infotainment like? Toyota has used a JBL-branded system for its optional upper-tier hi-fi. It’s strong-sounding if a little metallic at high volume, and on the highway you need to turn it up to fight against the car’s noisy tyres.
The on-screen infotainment is mostly controlled by the iDrive wheel and its buttons. Not sure what Toyota calls the controller, but to us it’ll always be iDrive. Which is fair enough because it’s the best in the industry, a far better way to interact with a moving car than aiming fingers at a touchscreen. You can write letters on the top of the circular knob, by the way. Oh but in any case the screen itself is touch-sensitive too, with swiping for menus and pinch-to-zoom for the maps.
Toyota hasn’t only used BMW graphics and fonts, it also took over wholesale the menu tips in their stilted from-the-German translations. That’s definitely different from stilted from-the-Japanese translations. The only change from the BMW original is that wherever those three letters appear in app names and so on, they’ve been changed to Toyota.
Those apps impart live info: excellent traffic detail, plus weather, news and fuel prices, among other things.
This is the first Toyota to have Apple CarPlay (RAV4 is the first Toyota in Australia), so that’s gotta be something. It’s BMW’s connect-over-bluetooth system which works only spottily with my iPhone, and has the same problem in BMWs…
What’s the performance like? This is a wonderfully effective powerplant. Get away using launch control, and the claim is you’ll pass through 100km/h just 4.3 seconds later. But it’s not just the strength that’s effective, it’s the manner.
There’s torque all over the dial, from below 2000 to just a fraction shy of 7000. No lag or dullardry at low revs, no real tail-off high up. Whenever you want to scoot forward, you can. It’s an exhilaratingly brisk car for road work.
It’s a smooth straight-six too. When Porsche’s 718 is beetling about with an odd-sounding four, that matters. Of the two-seat coupe rivals, the most obvious six-powered machine is Jaguar’s F-Type.
The eight-speed transmission is smooth and prompt too, and in the manual mode shifts up smartly, though will occasionally reject a downshift. With eight fairly widely-spread gears, you’ve got loads of cruising ratios. For backroads the main work is done in second, third and fourth, and they’re nicely spread. Would Supra owners like a manual? I would.
But the evenhanded surge of acceleration from the engine/gearbox combo perhaps leaves a deficit of charisma. It takes no skill or learning to learn to get the best from it, or even much concentration. There’s no kick-point in the power delivery. Sometimes you want a sports-car engine to have more different voices, more changes in character, more light and shade. And I wouldn’t say no to the interactivity of three-pedal-and-gearlever control.
That said, I was in the European model. I’m told Oz and US variants get a louder exhaust that kicks in when you press the sport button, together with a few over-run pops. Some of the time, out in the countryside away from disapproving ears, I did wish the Euro-spec exhaust had a richer tone to it.
One interesting sideline. The A80 Supra was introduced in 1993. The turbo version’s performance was at supercar level. The new one has not a lot more more power and really no more performance. OK its 0-100 time is better but I’d speculate that’s only because of launch control, an eight-speed autobox and modern tyres.
So the Supra has changed its position, from supercar to sports-car. But that’s OK – I’ve got fed up with cars that are so fast you can’t use them. I prefer a Cayman GT4 to a 911. An M2 to an M5.
What’s it like on the road? As promised, the body feels rigid. No quake or vibration makes its way through the shell – the seat and steering wheel have a solid unflinching connection to the car.
The fundamental bouncing frequency of the spring/damper combo is quite quick. Together with the low-effort, low-inertia steering, and the keen turn-in, it gives the impression of a lightweight and agile car. That, plus the driving position and the outline of the cockpit’s windows, too, all remind me of the A80 Supra.
Turn the wheel and the front isn’t annoyingly nervous, but it certainly does change direction fast. The Supra pivots as if your spine is its centre, and you sit near the rear axle.
There isn’t really any road-feel through the steering wheel. One time I was loading it up through the first of a pair of S-bends and the front tyre went onto the road’s central paint line. It lost grip and the whole car stepped a little outward. But I got no change of weighting through the wheel. Mind you that was the only time I lost front-end grip on the road.
It’s a great-handling car if you use other clues. Open the throttle out of a bend and the electronically controlled diff locks up, propelling you away. Through the seat, you feel the beginnings of the rear end stepping very slightly outward. Not sliding, but just taking the strain. It communicates that brilliantly.
Conversely, that e-diff is unlocked as you turn into bends, keeping the thing agile. The combination of agility inward and stability outwards makes it seem like a short-wheelbase car and then a longer-wheelbase one. Which is what four-wheel-steering tries to do, yet this car doesn’t have 4WS.
The stability control seems a bit restrictive in the dry, even in its sport traction setting. For part of my drive, it rained. Turns out when the road’s wet it’ll allow you a right armful of action if you’re early on the throttle. But it’s very benignly controllable.
On bucking and heaving roads, the damping isn’t perhaps as tight as it might be – the car doesn’t control its body movements as fluently as an Alpine A110. There’s a sport setting for the adaptive dampers but it doesn’t make a night-and-day difference.
In big high-speed road stops, the brake pedal feels a little dead, downhill especially. People who I trust who’ve driven the Supra on circuits say the brakes aren’t really up to the job of repeated fast laps. One of the first things you’d upgrade if track work is your thing, then.
The Supra’s softish springs do bring a respectably comfortable ride. Road noise is the biggest issue to tire you long-distance driving. It’s very well sealed against wind noise, and the steering’s self-centring allows a good stable cruise.
What safety features does it get? Despite the small glass area, the Supra does all it can to mitigate the blind spots and give you a sense of what’s going on all around. Rear cross-traffic warning, a reversing camera, and blind-spot warning are included. Looking forward, there are adaptive LED headlights adjusting beam shape for steering angle, and a camera system reads and informs you of speed-limit signs.
The pre-collision detection suite looks out for vehicles, pedestrians, and, at least in daylight, cyclists. The lane departure alert system includes steering assist, and there’s adaptive cruise control. None of this is exceptional, certainly not in the $100k sector, but bundled together it’s better than most sports cars.