2021 Toyota Supra Four-Cylinder Vs. Inline-Six: Which Is Best?

Opinion / Comments

There's a clear winner.

The 2021 Toyota GR Supra has two significant upgrades compared to last year's model. First is a new entry-level four-cylinder model called the Supra 2.0, which offers less power and fewer features at a lower price point. Second is a power increase on the Supra 3.0 model, which now produces the name 382 horsepower figure found in its sister car, the BMW Z4 M40i.

Pricing for these two new Supra models is currently under embargo but Toyota gave CarBuzz an early chance to drive both cars in lieu of a first drive event. There are points to love about each Supra but after driving them both back-to-back, we have a clear favorite. Here's why.

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Benefits Of The Four-Cylinder

Without checking under the hood, the best way to spot a Supra 2.0 is via its smaller 18-inch wheels (the 3.0 models all wear 19s). These smaller wheels are still wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber and measure 255 in the front and 275 in the rear, which is the same width as you'll get with the 3.0's 19s. With two fewer cylinders and smaller wheels, the Supra 2.0 is obviously lighter than its six-cylinder counterpart. The Supra 2.0 weighs 3,181 pounds, which is 219 pounds less than the 3.0. Less weight over the front results in a slightly more responsive nose, which goes where you point it without fuss.

The Supra 2.0's diet also includes stripping it of the adaptive suspension, active differential, electric seats, and 10-speaker stereo while the brakes are also downsized from a four-piston Brembo to a one-piston floating caliper. This has resulted in a spry handling experience that is docile and manageable at the limit but lacks the excitement of the six-cylinder. We can't comment on pricing just yet but the four-cylinder model also comes at a sizable discount compared to the six-cylinder and will achieve better fuel economy.

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Drawbacks Of The Four-Cylinder

While the Supra 2.0 will come at a significant discount compared to the Supra 3.0, there are some concessions you will need to make with it. We thought we would enjoy driving a small sports car with lighter manual seats but in practice, we found it harder to adjust to our perfect seating position in the non-electric chairs.

Our tester included the optional 12-speaker JBL audio system, so we did not get to test the base four-speaker system. But after living with the excellent JBL system, we couldn't imagine stepping down to so few speakers. That JLB audio system will come in handy too because the Supra 2.0's exhaust is nowhere near as enjoyable to listen to like the loud bark from the inline-six. It produces a nice growl, for a turbo-four, as well as some small pops on the overrun, but for a more exciting exhaust note, you need the Supra 3.0.

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Benefits Of The Six-Cylinder

For the 2021 model year, Toyota has upped the Supra 3.0's horsepower from 335 to 383 hp with a slight bump in torque to 368 lb-ft. The power increase has officially dropped the estimated 0-60 mph time from 4.1 to 3.9 seconds but we think Toyota is being conservative with that time . This turbocharged six-cylinder engine is much quicker than the four-cylinder, which required 5.0 seconds to hit 60 mph. It will be a bit thirstier and weighs considerably more but on the road, the weight gain isn't noticeable.

Toyota has also attached lightweight aluminum braces to the strut towers, improving the car's rigidity. The dampers, power steering, differential, and stability control have also been re-tuned to work with the uprated engine, so the Supra doesn't become a tail-happy mess. In our estimation, the power increase is a bonified success. As with last year's model, the cracks and pops from the BMW-sourced inline-six stack up well even when measured against V8 engines.

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Which One We Would Buy

Unless you just can't afford the price difference (which will be revealed soon), we just can't envision any downsides of buying the six-cylinder Supra. Ever since the Supra debut back in 1978, it has always used an inline-six. Buyers of the four-cylinder car will likely face the same stigma seen by V6 Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger owners. Toyota chose not to bring back the Celica name with the four-cylinder Supra, even though we think it would have fit perfectly and added some heritage to this new model. But unless price and fuel economy rank atop your needs in your next sports car purchase, we recommend saving up for the Supra 3.0.

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