In-depth reviews

Toyota Supra review - Engines, performance and drive

The Toyota Supra 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 of the top-of-the-range car 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. 

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.

The 3.0-litre unit is a good fit for the car, but it's 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 incoming stricter noise regulations, 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 3.0-litre 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. 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 upshifts are a little jerky when using the manual-mode steering wheel paddles, 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 having less power, the 2.0-litre engine does bring advantages, the first one being a weight saving. The 2.0 Pro is 100kg lighter, with overall kerb weight at 1,395kg – so it’s lighter than a Porsche 718 Cayman.

The engine still fires up with a gruff exhaust note, although exhaust noise is enhanced for the occupants via the speakers in the cabin - not a feature we're particularly fond of. Where the less-powerful Supra model does excel is with its steering feel, which is helped by the drop in weight that really promotes the car’s agility. 

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

For peak performance you'll want to look at the Supra 3.0-litre straight-six version, producing 335bhp and 500Nm of torque. It’s the same basic configuration as you’ll find in the hot Z4 M40i.

The 0-62mph sprint takes just 4.3 seconds, while there’s plenty of punch low in the rev range which means overtaking manoeuvres just feel effortless. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

Although down on power to the tune of 81bhp (and 100Nm of torque), the 2.0-litre Supra model is no slouch, able to reach 62mph from a standstill in 5.2 seconds and with the same limited maximum speed as its big brother.

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