Why The Four-Cylinder Supra Hits The Sweet Spot

Opinion / Comments

There's a strong case for the entry level four-cylinder Supra being the smartest choice.

The keyboard warriors aren't going to like this, but after spending some time with the 2.0-liter Toyota Supra, we've found a strong case for it being the more intelligent choice for many driving enthusiasts. For anyone looking for a premium sports car and has been considering the Supra, we've got a great case here for saving yourself at least $8,000 and getting a beauty of a back road bomber and a svelte daily driver. The key is not to be fooled by thinking a four-cylinder engine is a weakness or that complex means something will be drastically better. Above all, the 2.0 Supra is simpler, lighter, and just as engaging as its six-cylinder brethren. It's not to be dismissed out of hand for the sake of more power, and this is why.

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Handling: Less Power But Less Weight

The 2.0-liter Supra is 219 pounds lighter than its six-cylinder counterpart. Those with sports car experience will know that's a big deal, but it's not just about how much weight is shed. It's also about where the weight comes off. The weight lost under the hood comes from using a smaller engine and makes a noticeable difference in the Supra's eagerness to change direction. On tight backroads, the difference is exacerbated, and without the active differential you'll find on the 3.0-liter version, we found the 2.0-liter Supra also to be more predictable when exiting a corner and coming back on the throttle.

Also dropped from the 3.0-liter version is the active suspension and its hefty hardware. Without the adaptive suspension, the Supra soaks up rough pavement and bumps with little fuss but still keeps the chassis flat when pushing through corners. Toyota has reworked that chassis and suspension system for the smaller-engined version, and the electric power steering system is just as direct and precise as the more powerful model. Also, as part of the price and weight shedding exercise, the interior has been de-contented, and the 2.0-liter Supra rides on smaller wheels.

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Engine: Typical BMW Smooth

We haven't mentioned the BMW partnership, and nowhere does it show more than in the engine. The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is designated as B48 by BMW and used through its range of models, including the Supra's twin, the Z4. We already know the B48 for its well-balanced character and smooth delivery of power. We've not considered it a performance engine before. Still, in the Supra, it's up to the task and complimented by Toyota's exhaust system that delivers rumbles and pops on the overrun to liven up the soundtrack. Its 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque aren't going to blow your socks off, however, it'll still hit zero to 60 mph in 5.0 seconds and it means you have to learn to carry speed rather than relying on outright power. We also suspect Toyota may be sandbagging a little on that number on behalf of BMW.

Most importantly, though, the amount of power on offer from the B48 engine suits the chassis well. The torque comes to a boil at 1,550 rpm and doesn't start to tail off until 4,400 rpm, which gives the Supra real poke off the line and out of the corners.

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Despite having poke out of corners to enjoy, it's not enough to make the 2.0-liter Supra as tail-waggingly happy as its brawnier counterpart. It will also ensure slower track times against an equivalently talented driver, but are either of those important? The majority of Supra drivers are not going to be hitting the track with regularity. Those who do are going to be there to enjoy themselves rather than shave off hundredths of a second over their previous lap time.

Where we prefer the 2.0-liter car is on the backroads where seconds don't count, but enjoyment does. The Supra 2.0 delivers that in spades with its willingness to hold on in a corner and ability to transition into the next. And it does all that with the confidence you typically expect from a Porsche and not a Toyota. Don't sweat the smaller brake rotors and fewer pistons on the caliper either - we weren't found wanting for more stopping power, and brake fade was nonexistent during our enthusiastic testing.

Jim Donnelly Photo / CarBuzz
Jim Donnelly Photo / CarBuzz
Jim Donnelly Photo / CarBuzz
Jim Donnelly Photo / CarBuzz

Let's Talk About Money

At $43,090 and $8,000 less than the first 3.0 Supra model in the trim ladder, the 2.0 Supra is certainly more attainable in its initial cost. When it comes to running costs, the four-cylinder model is fuel-efficient for a sports car, posting EPA numbers of 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined. The 3.0 isn't exactly a gas hog at 22/30/25 mpg, but the difference is enough to lighten the load on a bank account over time. The smaller wheels also mean smaller tires, which will be less expensive to replace or upgrade when the factory-supplied ones are worn out. Consider the cost of insurance as well, and the 2.0-liter Supra starts looking like a bargain for $40,000. Sure, it doesn't pack the luxury features found further up the trim levels. Still, it's a sports car and already comes standard with leather and Alcantara upholstery, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, cruise control, and Bluetooth compatibility.

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To Sum Up...

Once upon a time, a four-cylinder Supra was called a Celica, but there would be no justification to make it a different model here. The 2.0 Supra is a wickedly stylish, engaging, and fun sports car, but, most importantly, it's not underpowered. There's enough power there to get the overconfident driver in trouble, but not so much that an experienced driver would find themselves relying on that power to hustle a back road. Match that balance to the excellent chassis and, make no mistake, terrific mechanical suspension. On balance, you have a lithe sports car of genuine worth and a smooth daily driver for a commute or road trip - and one that is more attainable than its muscular and complex direct siblings.

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