by Jared Rosenholtz
Sports cars offer an escape from the humdrum monotony life generally offers. No abysmal day at the office can't be salvaged with the help of a shouty engine crammed in a small, two-seat package. But for 22 years, Toyota left sports car fans out in the cold, waiting for the day the legendary Supra would finally return. Well, after a long wait, it's back.
The fourth-generation Supra bowed out of the US market back in 1998, long before it could ever benefit from the notoriety it garnered in the 'Fast & Furious' films or the aftermarket potential of the 2JZ engine unlocked years after its demise. Toyota probably could have sold more sports cars after the Supra became a movie star but times have changed since then.
The Japanese automaker offered just three SUVs back in 1998 - the RAV4, 4Runner, and Land Cruiser - but today it offers twice as many. Sports cars are now considered wasteful and old-fashioned while SUVs and crossovers dominate the sales charts. Toyota knew if it was going to bring back the Supra, it would be a calculated risk. That's why the company partnered with one of the best sports car companies in the business - BMW.
All-new for 2020, the Supra nameplate returns for a fifth-generation after a nearly two-decade hiatus. Dubbed the A90 GR Supra, the latest Toyota sports car forgoes the 2+2 seating configuration of previous generations, but that's the price you pay when you collaborate with another manufacturer. That's right, the 2020 GR Supra is co-developed with BMW, which means it uses BMW's CLAR platform, and even a B58 turbo six-cylinder engine from the German marque. Some Toyota diehards might consider the BMW partnership to be an outrage but we believe it was the right move at the right time.
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
|3.0 Premium Launch Edition||
3.0-liter Turbo Inline-6 Gas
While much of the platform and underpinnings utilized for the GR Supra are sourced from BMW, the exterior styling is all Toyota. Taking heavy influence from the Calty Design Research FT-1 Concept from a few years back, the GR Supra boasts a pronounced nose flanked by LED headlights incorporating LED DRLs. In side profile, strongly pronounced hips and rear air vents distract from the 19-inch alloy wheels filling the arches. Around back, a set of dual-exit exhausts sing a six-cylinder song, while an integrated ducktail spoiler and LED taillights look the part. Those who call the Supra a Z4 in drag need only cast an eye to the double-bubble roof to see the Toyota has a design all of its own. Those lucky enough to nab a Launch Edition model get bespoke matte-finish alloy wheels and gloss red wing mirrors to set them apart.
Longer and lower than a BMW Z4, the GR Supra measures 172.5 inches long and stands 50.9 inches tall, while its width of 73 inches is just narrower than the BMW. However, both share the same 97.2-inch wheelbase. The Supra is low to the ground, with just 4.5 inches of daylight between the tarmac and its bodywork. The benefits of utilizing a coupe body style include weight savings, with the Supra carrying a curb weight of just 3,397, exactly 60 lbs lighter than the Z4 sharing the same six-cylinder engine.
While you won't get a Paul Walker-pleasing shade of orange for the 2020 Supra, you do get eight standard hues to choose from including subtle choices like Tungsten and Absolute Zero or the more vivid Renaissance Red 2.0 and Nitro Yellow. While both are standout colors for Toyota's latest sports car, the stealthy Nocturnal, Turbulence Gray, or even Downshift Blue are ideal ways to fly beneath the radar while still looking good. Proof of this is Toyota's decision to select Nocturnal Black as one of the only three colors to make the cut for the Launch Edition model.
The Supra is famed for 1,000-hp builds and laying down insane drag runs at the strip, but the old Mk4's that did that were all heavily modified. In stock form, they were about as vicious as a pack of timid bunnies, and that's where the Mk5 has the upper hand. In stock form, the rear-wheel-drive sports coupe will run from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds on its way to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. That's not too shabby considering the Z4 - with an extra 47 horsepower on tap can only manage the same sprint two-tenths quicker. And in the real world, we've clocked the Supra doing the 0-60 run in just 3.8 seconds.
The real joy of the Supra is had in the twisties, however, and while many may lament the choice to borrow a platform from BMW, it's paid dividends through the bends where the Supra has levels of balance and engagement you wouldn't find in an all-wheel-drive Audi TT.
Arguably the most contentious aspect of the Toyota Supra isn't that Toyota borrowed a BMW platform, but rather that the Japanese company borrowed a BMW inline-six instead of developing their own 3JZ. But the 3.0-liter turbocharged six-cylinder - codenamed B58 - under the hood of the Supra is one of the best in the business, and outputs of 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque are nothing to look down upon, although we strongly suspect an increase in power coming the way of the Supra. What you could be forgiven for taking exception to, however, is the lack of a manual gearbox, with the only transmission choice being a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
It may not be the legendary 2JZ from the Mk4 Supra but this B58 is the modern equivalent. This is the best engine BMW has designed in years and it was built to stand the test of time. Tuners are already finding ways to squeeze over 1,000 hp from this drivetrain so 2JZ fans can tear up those complaint letters to Toyota. Even in stock form, the B58 offers plenty of power and the best exhaust note at this price point. In sport mode, the exhaust backfires as if there is a gunfight taking place behind your car.
Some might lament the lack of a manual transmission but the ZF eight-speed is the best automatic in the business. It is civil during everyday driving but staggeringly quick when you shift it yourself. European Auto Group in San Antonio, Texas offers aftermarket manual solution for $12,000 should you just not be capable of living without three pedals.
Anyone who detracts from the Supra probably hasn't driven it yet. While the last generation felt like a large grand tourer, this new car's platform is smaller and more tossable like a sports car should be. The steering has a nice weight and gives a decent amount of feedback compared to most of its rivals but Porsche 718 owners may not be as impressed. Toyota aimed the Supra squarely in the sights of the 718 Cayman and in many respects, it has hit the mark.
The ride is remarkably comfortable for a two-seater sports car even over rough pavement. This feels like the type of car you could easily drive to work every day. The Supra's lone weak point is the steering, which can't match the pure magic feel found in a Porsche. But considering that an equivalently-optioned 718 Cayman would cost nearly $100,000, we'll give Toyota a pass here.
Compared to most other vehicles in the $50,000 price range, the Supra is a sheer delight. It puts down power easily in a straight line using launch control but the car loves to get sideways on the race track. We've had several opportunities to drive the Supra on the track and the car feels like a drift missile. Even a novice driver will have no trouble sliding the Supra with a huge grin on their face.
One of the many benefits of using a BMW powertrain in the new Supra is the fact that BMW is notoriously brilliant at delivering exemplary gas mileage - both in EPA testing and out in the real world. That's easily proven by EPA estimates of 24/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined, matching the BMW Z4 and besting the Mercedes-AMG SLC43's 23 mpg combined effort. The 13.7-gallon fuel tank in the Supra may require premium unleaded to keep the six-pot fed, but it should yield an estimated range of 356 miles in mixed conditions. We drove the car in anger, downshifting at every opportunity and taking the car to redline, yet we still averaged 21 mpg during the week, so with some restraint, those EPA estimates should be well within reach.
Throughout the history of the Supra nameplate, the first four generations all had a few things in common, one of them being four seats. But in using the Z4 as a platform for the new Supra, Toyota changed things up and delivered the first-ever two-seat-only Supra. We can forgive that, but what we can't forgive is the liberal use of BMW parts throughout the cabin. While there's a Toyota badge on the steering wheel, the wheel itself is a BMW item, the infotainment screen is BMW through and through, and the leather even smells like BMW. While that means the quality is great, when you spend as much time behind the wheel as the Supra begs you to, it would've been great for Toyota to have worked a little more Japanese DNA into the interior.
There are only two seats in the Supra, which might limit its appeal to buyers who occasionally want to take their small children for a ride in the back seat. Getting into the car can be tricky for taller passengers due to the low roofline but once you are in, the Supra offers a manageable 38.3 inches of headroom - thank the double-bubble roof for that. Legroom is also rated at a decent 42.2 inches, but you may want to sit in the Supra to see how well you fit.
We hope you like black leather or are lucky enough to nab one of the Launch Edition cars with red seats, because those are the only options on the Supra. Upgrading to the 3.0 Premium trim adds heated seats but all Supra models include leather and power adjustment. The Launch Edition contains those aforementioned red seats and a matching red steering wheel. All of the materials in the cabin feel like the lower end of BMW quality, meaning the interior feels more upscale than other Toyota products but lacking uniqueness.
Yet another benefit of utilizing BMW bones is that the German outfit is notoriously brilliant at packaging solutions, often yielding more storage than rivals within the same real estate footprint. The Supra delivers on this with 10.2 cubic feet of trunk space, about as much as a subcompact sedan - meaning there's space to stick the groceries, or if you're the kind of Supra driver that frequents racetracks, plenty of space for two race suits and two helmets.
Interior storage is limited by the two-seat capacity, but you still get decently sized door pockets, two cupholders ahead of the shift lever, a storage bin under the armrest, and a glove box, although the latter is fairly cramped at only 0.24 cubic feet. There is also a wireless charger in front of the shifter with space to put items on top, but they will quickly fly off the moment you step on the throttle. We'd like to see Toyota add a closable lid here.
Long gone are the days when a center stack aimed at the driver could be considered a feature, now manufacturers have to equip their vehicles with all the mod-cons one can think of, even in a two-seat sports car like the Supra. Toyota's all too happy to oblige, equipping every Supra with automatic headlights and heated mirrors, as well as an auto-dimming driver's side wing mirror. Inside, you'll find sports seats with 14-way power adjustment, keyless entry with push-button start, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic windscreen wipers, and cruise control. Heated seats are available on the Premium and Launch Edition models, as is a full-color head-up display. Furthermore, you've got a federally mandated rearview camera, but you also get advanced driver aids like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams, all included from the base trim. Adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert are all available as part of the Driver Assist Package.
Toyota calls this infotainment system Supra Connect, which basically just means BMW iDrive. If you've ever sat in a BMW, you will be familiar with the iDrive control knob featuring shortcut buttons around a rotary control dial. Here it is housed on an 8.8-inch screen (that can also be controlled via touch) with high-resolution graphics. We just wish it was a bit larger like the one found in the Z4. It features wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility and is linked to an optional 12-speaker JBL audio system. Android Auto isn't available yet but BMW has announced this feature will be coming in the future so it may come to the Supra eventually.
Manufactured by Magna Steyr at the same plant as the BMW Z4, it's embarrassing but not unexpected that BMW has issued three recalls for the 2020 Toyota Supra, including one for headlights that may fail, one for improperly welded seat belt guide loops, and the third for the potential failure of the backup camera. Despite BMW issuing all three recalls, Toyota still provides ample warranty coverage for the Supra, with a limited warranty covering three years/36,000 miles and a powertrain warranty of five years/60,000 miles.
Neither the NHTSA nor IIHS has evaluated the Supra for its crashworthiness, and the Z4 hasn't been tested either for us to make any assumptions. However, Toyota equips a range of safety features so we're fairly certain the Supra poses no imminent safety threats.
In addition to high-performance ABS brakes, sticky tires, and advanced traction and stability control systems, the Toyota Supra is equipped with eight airbags including side curtain and dual front knee airbags. But there's also a number of driver assists, like a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, lane departure warning and mitigation, automatic high beams, and an available package with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors.
If you have around $50,000 to spend on a new sports car, the Supra is the one we recommend. It offers a brilliant combination of speed, head-turning styling, and everyday livability. If we wanted to be nitpicky, the Porsche 718 Boxster GTS is more enjoyable to drive but at more than double the price, and until such time as the GTS 4.0 arrives, half the character.
The Supra ended up being everything we wanted it to be: relatively affordable, shockingly quick, premium, and a halo model for Toyota. Some critics might say that this Supra can never be a true halo car because it has too much BMW DNA. We'd argue that what Toyota has contributed to the formula - namely the styling and suspension tuning - proves that the company still knows how to engineer a brilliant sports car.
So you're halfway sold on buying a Supra, but you need to know how much it'll set you back. Well, the cheapest way of getting behind the wheel of the 2020 Supra is the base 3.0, which carries an MSRP of $49,990 before options, tax, license, registration, and Toyota's $955 delivery and handling fee. A step up to the 3.0 Premium sees the MSRP rise to $53,990, but if you want to celebrate the return of the Supra nameplate with the Launch Edition, you'll need to set aside $55,250. For the sake of comparison, the six-cylinder BMW Z4 sDrive M40i starts at $63,700.
The Toyota Supra lineup is made up of three models: 3.0, 3.0 Premium, and Launch Edition. All are powered by the same 335-hp turbocharged inline-six, and all make use of the same eight-speed automatic gearbox and rear-wheel drive.
The 3.0 is hardly base-spec, equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, keyless entry, push-button start, 14-way leather/Alcantara upholstered sports seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cruise control, and a long list of driver assists including collision avoidance systems and lane departure warning. Infotainment is taken care of by a standard 6.5-inch infotainment display and a ten-speaker sound system while boasting AM/FM/SiriusXM radio and Bluetooth wireless connectivity.
Upgrading to the 3.0 Premium equips heated leather-trimmed seats, sport pedals, a larger 8.8-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay integration, wireless charging, a 12-speaker JBL sound system, and a head-up display.
The Launch Edition is based on the Premium specification but is limited to just 1,500 special edition units. These models have a limited three-color paint palette, red wing mirrors, and model-specific 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside, you'll find an individually numbered plaque and specific upholstery based on your exterior paint choice.
There aren't a large number of packages available for the 2020 Supra, in fact, there are only two. Available to all three trims is the Driver Assist Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors for $1,195. The Navigation + JBL Package is exclusive to the base model and upgrades the infotainment with the 8.8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and a 12-speaker JBL sound system for $2,460 - features that are standard on the upper trims. The remainder of the options list is limited to accessories like carbon fiber mirror caps ($925) and various paint protection films among others.
There are only three trim levels available for the Supra and with only 1,500 examples of the Launch Edition coming to the US, it may already be too late to get one. This leaves just the 3.0 and 3.0 Premium trims. If you plan to add the Driver Assist Package and the JBL audio with navigation to the 3.0 trim, it makes sense to just spend a bit more to get the heated seats, wireless charger, and larger brakes found on the 3.0 Premium. Otherwise, just get the standard car for just under $50,000. If you are able to nab a Launch Edition, do it, because we prefer the wheel design and the added rarity should help when it comes time to sell it.
The comparisons were bound to be drawn between these two, after all, the Supra utilizes the Z4's chassis and B58 six-pot engine, even if the Z4 generates 47 hp and 3 lb-ft more torque, enabling it to run from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds - 0.2 quicker than the Toyota. But while they share bones, the Supra was developed by Toyota from an early stage in its developmental lifespan, so the suspension geometry and tuning on the ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox are unique to it. That, and the fact that it's more rigid as a result of the coupe body style, is why it's a suppler ride than the Z4, while also being more incisive and more connected with the driver. The fact that the Supra starts at $14,000 less than a six-cylinder Z4 is an added cherry, although if you desperately desire an open-top model, the Z4 also offers a 254-hp four-cylinder for around the same money. If it were our name on the check, though, it'd have to be the Supra - Toyota just seems to have done more with what they've got than BMW did.
Many have said that with 'only' 335 horsepower on tap, the Supra would've been better suited as a replacement for the aging Toyota 86 that first graced our shores as a Scion FR-S. But while the Supra might only have two seats and occupy less space than the 86, in every other way it's the big brother of the Toyota/Subaru sports car duo. The 86 only musters up 205 hp and 156 lb-ft from its Subaru-sourced naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but it also makes use of a six-speed manual gearbox, something you won't find in the new Supra at all. That's the biggest hint at the separation between these two models, as the 86 is geared towards driver involvement and usable power, rivaling the MX-5 Miata in the process, while the Supra is a more serious sports car that looks to tackle racetracks and mountain roads alike. The purist in us would love to say the 86, with a manual gearbox, is the better buy, but the 86 is ill-equipped, and the singing straight-six of the Supra is too good to overlook.