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

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Toyota identified BMW as a partner for the Mk5 Supra project 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 either an eight-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual. Now, of course, there's also a 254bhp 2.0-litre option, another BMW engine paired with the automatic gearbox. 

An electronically-controlled limited-slip differential is standard and adaptive dampers control the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension set-up, with two modes to choose from. 

The Supra’s chief engineer Tetsuya Tada claimed 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 - because that's what felt right.

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 Supra's own four-cylinder option doesn't feel underpowered by comparison. The 2.0-litre engine noise lacks the same quality, and the electronically synthesised sounds pumped through the speakers seem a little over-the-top as a result, but the car starts with a rasping exhaust note that's can be heard clearly from outside. The 2.0-litre also brings a 100kg weight reduction over the 3.0-litre auto (70-80kg on the 3.0-litre manual), to 1,395kg. This helps the less-powerful Supra model excel in terms of its steering feel, the drop in weight really promoting the car’s agility. 

The eight-speed gearbox does attract 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 manual Supra is definitely the sweet spot in the range if the driving experience is your priority. The gearbox is based on a transmission from ZF with some bespoke components from Toyota and it works beautifully - precise with a short throw action that's a pleasure to use. 

The flexibility of both powertrains is a major boon, giving you options to explore the chassis’ lovely balance. Be neat and drive tidily and the Supra will scythe through corners effectively. 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.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

For peak performance you'll want to look at the Supra 3.0-litre straight-six automatic 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. Go for the 3.0litre manual and the slower shifts mean 0-62mph takes 4.6s. 

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 brothers.

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