Toyota Made The Supra Fuel Efficient Without Even Trying

Interview

Build the best sports car possible was the main goal.

In today’s world, fuel efficiency is what drives automakers. Literally. Global governments are imposing stricter standards than ever and the race towards all-out electrification has never been fiercer. Toyota helped inaugurate this new era when it launched the original Prius hybrid 22 years ago. But the Japanese automaker took a somewhat different approach when developing its reborn Supra sports car.

We sat down with its chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, better known as Tada-san, at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show and the subject of the coupe’s fuel efficiency came up. While we’re still waiting for official EPA figures to be announced, some reports suggest it will have 21/30 mpg city/highway, while we can also get a rough idea based on the EPA rating of its platform mate, the roadster-only BMW Z4 that returns 25/32 mpg. To compare, the Porsche 718 Cayman S returns 19/25 mpg while a base trim has 21/28 mpg. Meanwhile, the aging Nissan 370Z is rated at 19/26 mpg.

But Tada-san made it quite clear to us he had other things on his mind throughout the coupe’s development. "We really focused on coming up with a pure sports cars which means very good handling,” he said. "So in that sense we were quite decisive in determining what we focus on and what we don’t. We did not have any fuel efficiency objective.”

Tada-san paused for a moment and then said: "I didn’t even think about it (fuel efficiency), actually. I’m not sure but I’m not really concerned about the answer.” And yet the Supra has pretty darn good fuel efficiency. Nice how that works out.

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"When it comes to car or sports car development, there are various elements we need to satisfy that might seem quite contradicting,” he added. "We need to have good handling and good acceleration. Good fuel efficiency, too. However, this time we didn’t really think about all of these various elements. There was no fuel efficiency goal during development.”

Under advice from CEO Akio Toyoda, himself an accomplished racing driver, Tada-san told us his boss had one consistent message from the project’s beginning: "Don’t think about anything else. Just focus on coming up with a purist sports car.” He also clarified there are "no plans for a hybrid” variant. Given the Supra’s predicted fuel economy figures, a hybrid would simply be a waste of time.

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