Toyota Supra review - Engines, performance and drive
The Toyota is a great sports car that’s fast, fun and pliant on UK roads
Toyota identified BMW as a partner, partly to stay true to the Supra’s heritage as the German firm could supply the car’s traditional in-line six-cylinder engine. So, under the bonnet you’ll find a turbocharged 3.0-litre unit sending 335bhp and 500Nm of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential.
Adaptive dampers control the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension set-up, with two modes to choose from. Big brakes take care of stopping the Supra.
Performance is of the strong, but not ridiculous order, with a 0-62mph time of 4.3 seconds. But this is a car that’s defined more by how it feels to drive than by the numbers.
In fact, the Supra’s chief engineer Tetsuya Tada claims that during the process of improving body rigidity, while there were targets (1.6 times that of the GT86), testing was also conducted on how it felt to drive. If it felt good, the engineers went with it. Incidentally, the Supra ended up being 2.3 times more rigid than a GT86 – and even stiffer than the Lexus LFA supercar.
You sense this on the move, too. The chassis feels highly rigid and it means the suspension is softer than you might imagine. Ride quality in the dampers’ normal mode is genuinely impressive, as the Supra skips over bumps with little fuss or deflection. Sport tightens the body control further still. But there’s a level of compliance retained in this setting that means the tyres stay in contact with the road to maximise grip and traction.
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There’s plenty of both, to the point where the Supra feels like it could easily handle more power. This brings us to the engine.
It’s a good fit for the car, but not a great motor. Tada outlined that if Toyota had tried to go it alone and develop a new straight-six itself, the project would have been delayed by three to four years – and due to stricter noise regulations in-coming, the Supra would have been ghostly quiet.
Thankfully, it’s not. There’s a pleasant musicality to the six-pot’s note, firing and settling to a purposeful but smooth idle. There’s a brawny tone through the mid range – and it’s here where the BMW-sourced (but Toyota-calibrated) engine is at its best.
Peak torque is available from 1,600rpm and is sustained to 4,500rpm, so the Supra pulls hard out of corners. However, it’s not all that rewarding to rev out. It feels strained beyond 5,000rpm, tightening up and revealing its forced induction – along with a faint on-boost whistle from the turbo, a Supra trait. The enhanced engine note isn’t the most pleasant at higher revs, but then neither is the one from a Porsche 718 Cayman’s clattery flat-four.
The eight-speed gearbox also attracts complaints. In auto mode it shifts smoothly but take manual control using the steering wheel paddles and upshifts are a little jerky, while downshifts are not as rapid as you’d like.
The powertrain’s flexibility is its greatest boon, giving you options to explore the chassis’ lovely balance. Be neat and drive tidily and the Supra will scythe through corners effectively, as it has lovely natural balance. Even at normal speeds you feel the perfect 50:50 weight distribution and the adjustability in the chassis.Tada-san was very explicit about Toyota targeting the 718 Cayman as the Supra’s benchmark. That car offers communication, involvement and rewards you for driving well. In a different way, so does the Supra.
Despite all the work Toyota has done, the car is still not quite as communicative through its steering as we’d like. But what you get back from the chassis is a solid sense of confidence that allows you to delve into its dynamic repertoire and call upon its talent to manipulate the car into doing what you want.
It’s helped by that active differential that helps to turn the Supra sweetly into corners, coupled with steering that’s very responsive just off centre. Squeeze the throttle on the way out of a bend and you can feel the diff lock to hook the Supra past an apex, leaning on the front axle’s impressive grip. It’s certainly agile.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Unlike its BMW Z4 cousin, the Toyota Supra comes with just one engine – a BMW-sourced, Toyota-calibrated turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six with 335bhp and 500Nm of torque. This is connected to an eight-speed automatic gearbox that allows for manual shifts via steering wheel paddles. It’s the same basic configuration as you’ll find in the hot Z4 M40i.
The Supra is no slouch, with the 0-62mph sprint taking just 4.3 seconds; there’s plenty of punch down low in the rev range and overtaking is effortless. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
In this review
- 1Toyota Supra reviewThe Toyota Supra is a very capable sports car that uses shared BMW tech to its advantage
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe Toyota is a great sports car that’s fast, fun and pliant on UK roads
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsDecent economy for a six-cylinder and lower emissions than most rivals
- 4Interior, design and technologyIt shares much with the BMW Z4, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe Supra is relatively comfortable and practical, but some rivals offer more space
- 6Reliability and SafetyThe Toyota Supra is largely untested in both areas, but should do well