The return of the icon, and what we know about the new one.
By the time the fourth generation Toyota Supra ended production in 2002, it had outgrown any aspiration initially envisioned for the marque when it first debuted back in 1978. In Part 1 of our 40 Years of Supra special, we saw how Toyota’s Z-car rival was born and started out as a disappointment before blossoming into a competent sporty GT car. Part 2 detailed how, from the third generation onwards, the Supra evolved into a genuine sports car and ultimately a giant-slayer of the automotive world, a true cult classic. But after the Mk IV departed, fans of the marque were given little hope of its return. Toyota had set its sights elsewhere.
In 2007, Toyota debuted a new high-performance concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The FT-HS (Future Toyota-Hybrid Sport) concept fueled rumors that the Supra nameplate was on the verge of a revival, and that it may feature for the first time a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a hybrid system to enable outputs in excess of 400 horsepower. But the trail went cold, until 2009 when the FT-86 concept was unveiled.
The collaboration between Toyota and Subaru spawned something sporty with big potential, but Supra fans were gutted that the FT-HS’s V6 had been replaced by a Subaru flat-4. It quickly became apparent that the FT-86 was not a Supra revival, something confirmed by Toyota after going on record that it was a spiritual successor to the AE86 Corolla.
The 86 went on to reach production in 2012, and while it wasn’t a Supra, rumors were strong that there was a Mk V Supra in the pipeline still. The rumors were fueled more by desire than fact, although the 2010 registration of the Supra name at US trademark offices added fuel to the flaming desires of the fans. Toyota didn’t shut down the idea altogether, just those rumors that the Supra would arrive soon, claiming that if a Supra-successor were developed, it would not be rushed, and depend on the success of the GT86 and Scion FR-S.
2014 marked an important milestone for the rumored revival though, as Toyota unveiled the striking FT-1 concept to the world that January. The concept was shrouded in secrecy, with little information given about potential powertrains other than the fact that it was front engined and rear-wheel drive. The design was said to be influenced by historic sports cars like the 2000GT, Supra, MR-2, and the FT-HS concept from seven years earlier. The designers also cited the lengthy hood was able to house an inline-6, the traditional engine of the Supra.
The FT-1 sparked desire and fueled the flames of rumor once again, and when in February of 2014 Toyota applied for the Supra trademark again, fans of the brand could hardly believe their eyes and ears. Could it be true; could a Supra revival finally be on the cards after 12 years of dormancy? The signs looked promising, and Toyota didn’t deny it this time, instead teasing that a Supra revival could happen if demand was high enough.
Before the FT-1 had debuted, back in 2012 Toyota and BMW struck up a partnership that was said to involve sharing of technology. At the time, it was initially believed that BMW would utilize Toyota for its advanced knowledge of hybrid systems, as BMW was planning to launch the ‘i’ brand of electric vehicles.
But subsequent to the FT-1 and potential for a new Supra, the partnership took on a new role. BMW needed a new Z4, and Toyota needed a new Supra – the partnership seemed a match made in heaven, and BMW’s advanced knowledge and dedication to inline-6 cylinder engines seemed almost too coincidental. By 2015, the internet was awash with stories detailing the new Supra, and when news broke of the 2016 registration of the Supra trademark in Europe, we could barely control ourselves.
With Toyota seemingly back on track when it came to performance, and the Gazoo Racing sub-brand seemingly in full swing, it seemed that the new sports car could potentially wear a Gazoo or GR badge rather than a Toyota one – many believed that a sports car of this status would be at odds with Toyota’s product line-up and target audience at the time.
But the Supra was all but confirmed. Insiders at Toyota and Toyota’s global chief engineer Tetsuya Tada even confirmed that if there was a new sports car, it would likely bear the Supra nameplate due to the historical significance of the car for the brand.
Then came the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. Toyota fans, and in particular Supra-philes, were in for a treat after confirmation arrived that a Supra would be on display and that the nameplate was officially being revived.
The concept displayed – the GR Supra Racing Concept – also highlighted Toyota’s commitment to race the new Supra under its Gazoo Racing sub-brand. Fortunately, the concept on display wasn’t just some farfetched model unlikely to make it to production. Strip away the monstrous wing and the racing livery, and beneath it all, there was the shell of a genuine production Supra – one that looked remarkably like the FT-1 concept that first got us all excited.
Along with the concept, Toyota also confirmed that the new Supra going into production would continue the model codes of old Supras in being the A90 Supra. After 16 long years of hiatus, the legendary marque had officially returned, with production slated to begin for 2019.
So with the new A90 Supra quite literally around the corner, this is what we know so far:
It’s already been confirmed that the Supra will share underpinnings with the BMW Z4, the same Z4 that debuted at Pebble Beach last week. While we already knew this would mean a front-engined and rear-wheel drive Supra, it also gives us an indication as to what we can expect under the hood.
The Supra has already been confirmed to utilize an inline-6 cylinder engine, and it’s almost guaranteed that this will be the 3.0-liter turbocharged B58 engine from BMW, currently used in the brand’s ‘40i’ designated vehicles. With the Supra though, we expect outputs to rest around the 375hp mark. It’s by no means a 2JZ, but then again, few engines are comparable to the legendary 2JZ.
But there’s going to be a 4-cylinder too. Toyota is intent on making the Supra an accessible sports car, and with that, the brand will also make use of BMW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder B48 engine developing up to 260 hp. Toyota may want to broaden the appeal of the Supra, but it needs to remember that it was the six-cylinder engine that transformed a mere Celica into a Supra in the first place. Is it really fitting to call a 4-cylinder a Supra?
With shared engines, it should come as no surprise that the A90 Supra will also utilize the same 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox as BMW, which is in no way a bad thing. A manual gearbox might well be an option, and insiders are trying to make it happen, but at this stage, rumors suggest Toyota may ditch the manual shifter altogether.
The Supra and Z4 are going to share a lot more than just drivetrains though, as the two are believed to share much of each other’s interiors, along with upholstery options. However, it is believed that the Supra in its base incarnation will undercut the Z4 substantially, and even offer cloth upholstery in order to make that plausible.
Here’s the thing though, even with a 4-cylinder engine, the Supra’s gonna be quick. Damn quick. That’s because it’s going to be compact, with leaked documents suggesting it’s only 5.5-inches longer than the Toyota 86. It’s also going to make use of composite and aluminum body panels to reduce weight, with a target of around 2600 lbs. That means immense power to weight, and a high likelihood of the Supra once again being the pinnacle of automotive handling.
Of course, with the production reveal yet to take place, we’re left waiting eagerly to see whether the 40th anniversary year of the Supra is going to be the year the Supra marks its return in the same way the A70 and A80 Supras did – by redefining an era of JDM performance, and sports cars as a whole, in a way few others could.