Toyota wasn't coy when it said the Supra's main rival is the Porsche Cayman.
1998. That's the last year you could buy a Toyota Supra in the United States. After a more than 20-year absence, the Supra has finally returned for its fifth generation to less fanfare than you would have expected. Why? Some sports car enthusiasts were outraged because this latest Supra shares major components with the 2019 BMW Z4, a brilliant sports car in its own right. The two cars were initially co-developed with the same platform before the BMW and Toyota teams parted ways to develop their own unique vehicles.
Expecting Toyota to develop a 500-horsepower 3JZ engine from scratch and lose money on every one it sells was never realistic. But with the 2020 Gazoo Racing Supra we have a car that, in almost every metric we care about, delivers with flying colors. Accept the car for what it is, and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the result.
A lot has changed since the Supra roamed the streets back in 1998. Its competition, cars like the Mazda RX-7, Mitsubishi 3000GT, and Nissan 300ZX, have all become long-forgotten relics of the past. Sports cars died off in favor of crossovers and SUVs, so this new Supra is entering a very different market than it left back in the '90s. When asked which car was used as the benchmark for the new 2020 GR Supra, the answer was clear - the Porsche 718 Cayman.
Toyota told us its partnership with BMW had a clear goal - to defeat the Porsche 718 Boxster with the Z4 and conquer the Porsche 718 Cayman with the Supra. So go ahead and waste time drawing all of the comparisons you'd like to the Corvette, Mustang, 370Z, or whatever sports car competes in relatively the same price category because the Supra is purely out for Cayman blood.
Toyota revealed a concept car called the FT1 back in 2014, and from that moment we knew it would eventually become the new Supra. Although the production car is much smaller than the concept (as most production cars tend to be), many of the styling elements have carried over, such as the headlights and taillights, double bubble roof, F1-inspired front end, and aggressive front and rear diffusers.
We wouldn't so much call it a pretty car but the Supra looks striking when you see it in person. Its shape feels unique and will undoubtedly turn heads on the road, especially when painted in a bright hue like Nitro Yellow (pictured below). There are also seven other colors available including Zero White, Nocturnal Black, Renaissance Red 2.0, Tungsten Silver, Turbulent Gray, Downshift Blue, and Phantom Matte Gray, which is the first matte paint Toyota has ever offered.
Toyota knew it wanted the Supra to have an inline-six engine, so it turned to the best inline-six makers around - BMW. In the US market, the Supra is sold with one engine option, a 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline-six that produces 335 hp at 5,000-6,000 rpm and 365 lb-ft of torque and 1,600-4,500 rpm. All of this German power is sent rearward through a ZF eight-speed automatic, which is unanimously touted as the best automatic transmission in the world. With launch control, the Supra hits 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds and goes on to a limited top speed of 155 mph. Fuel economy was a complete afterthought for Toyota but the Supra achieves 24/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined.
The biggest question on everyone's minds at the Supra launch event was why the BMW Z4, which uses the same inline-six engine, produces 382 hp instead of 335. Speaking with the Supra's chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, we were told the Supra was tested with more power but didn't return faster lap times. So if you just can't get over having "only" 335 hp, we're sure the aftermarket will solve your mental dilemma.
At no point did we find ourselves wishing for more power in the Supra. With a scant 3,397-pound curb weight and a 50-50 weight distribution, the Supra feels like the definition of a driver's car. But when comparing the Supra to the Porsche Cayman, Tada-San often made reference to the Cayman GTS trim level, which often comes later in the product cycle and improves performance over the Cayman S. The Supra was built with the intent to upgrade, as evidenced by the many vents and scoops, which can be opened via the aftermarket for use in racing. Tada San also included mounting points for engine strut bars, a larger air intake, differential cooler, and even a larger wing, knowing full well Supra owners love to modify their cars.
Toyota hinted at a future "hardcore model," which would include all of these upgrades from the factory, but nothing has been confirmed yet. As it sits, the borrowed BMW power feels like the perfect amount for street use. Once you hear the Supra in action, there will be little doubt Toyota made the right decision about which engine to borrow.
When you step inside the Supra, its connection with the BMW Z4 is apparent. Unlike the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, the Supra and Z4 are not carbon copies of each other with different trim colors. Items like the steering wheel, central display, and climate controls all come from the BMW parts bin but are arranged differently than they are in the Z4. Certain elements of the interior, like the gauge cluster and air vents, feel distinctly like a Toyota. The seats also look completely different from the Z4 and do an excellent job holding occupants in place during hard cornering.
BMW's iDrive system has been renamed 'Supra Command,' and still functions well even for non-tech savvy drivers. Since this is a BMW system and not a Toyota unit, it includes wireless Apple CarPlay which Toyota says will be free for the first four years of ownership. The Supra's cabin feels uniquely different from the Z4 while retaining a faint familiarity and upholding the material quality of a luxury sports car with rich leather, soft-touch materials, and real carbon fiber trim.
For a small, two-seater sports car, the Supra is a relatively effective cargo hauler. There are ample locations to store stuff in the interior including door pockets, a wireless charging pad, and a small, open storage bin behind the two cupholders. Like a Corvette, the Supra's trunk opens like a hatchback and is accessible from the main cabin. It offers 10.1 cubic feet of cargo space and only feels hampered by its shallow height and old-school placement of the subwoofer box.
So, how does the Supra compare to the Z4? We've driven the new Z4, but only in its four-cylinder sDrive30i trim. Although the two cars are not directly comparable due to their differing engines, we adored the Z4 and found ourselves equally smitten with the Supra.
The steering feels direct and throttle response is immediate. There is very little turbo lag from the 3.0-liter inline-six as it runs through the rev range. BMW's B58 inline-six is a marvel of an engine and Toyota's unique tuning highlights its attributes even more. The B58 is so smooth, it almost feels normally aspirated but the low-down torque reminds the driver of its turbocharged nature. In sport mode, the exhaust spits out noise like a machine gun turret but the engine shuts up and fades into the background when you just want a leisurely drive.
Even though the Supra has more torsional rigidity than the Lexus LFA, it doesn't feel punishing out on the road. We sampled the Supra on the race track and on the road and the adaptive dampers are effective in both situations. None of the cars we drove overheated at the Summit Point Motorsports Park Race Track in Virginia because Toyota made sure the Supra could stay cool even when driven hard. If we had one complaint with the car on the track, it's this: We could feel some slight wear in the four-piston Brembo brakes after repeated laps, which could likely be improved with upgraded aftermarket pads and rotors. We assume anyone who wants to track their Supra frequently will upgrade the brakes anyway.
Aside from this one minor fault, we couldn't find much to dislike about the Supra. There will be plenty of people who chalk off the Supra as "no manual, no care" but that will be their loss. We're sure the Supra would be fun with a manual transmission but out on the track and on the road, the ZF eight-speed is a delight.
Pricing a 2020 Supra is fairly easy because there are only three trim levels and two option packages to choose from. The base 3.0 trim starts at $49,990 and includes a smart key with push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlights, 14-way sport bucket seats with leather and Alcantara, eight airbags, forward collision alert, emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, and more. The $1,195 Driver Assist Package adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and parking sensors while $2,450 adds a larger 8.8-inch display with built-in navigation and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.
Stepping up to the 3.0 Premium trim for $53,990 adds the JBL audio and navigation as well as a full leather interior and larger rear brakes. There will also be 1,500 Launch Edition models in the US for $55,250, which include red mirror caps, unique black wheels, and red leather accents.
Assuming you can't get your hands on one of the 1,500 Launch Edition models, we recommend opting for the 3.0 Premium trim for $53,990. By the time you factor in the added value of the JBL and navigation package, the 3.0 Premium trim is only $1,550 more than the base 3.0 trim level. We'd also add in the Driver Assistance Package, which is a bargain at just $1,195. This brings the Supra to an as-tested price of $56,115.
This may sound like a lot in the world of Corvettes and Mustangs but compared to the base 718 Cayman, it is a bargain. The base Cayman starts at $56,900 and only packs 300 hp from a 2.0-liter flat-four. A Cayman S is more powerful with 350 hp on tap but starts at a whopping $69,300. Even the BMW Z4 only comes with a four-cylinder engine for the same price as the Supra, while the 382-hp six-cylinder M40i model starts at $64,695. Add any options to the Cayman or Z4 and the price will easily soar past $70,000. If anything, the Supra can almost be thought of as a BMW for around three-quarters of the price.
The 2020 Supra is a welcome addition to a segment that is quickly dying off in favor of crossovers and SUVs. Angry sections of the internet will forever bemoan its lack of a Toyota engine and manual transmission, but the new Supra is the epitome of what a sports car should be in 2019. It's light, agile, perfectly balanced, and has an exhaust note that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
After what felt like an eternity, the Supra is back with a serious bang. And with a starting price of less than $50,000, we'd be happy to recommend it to any eager sports car shoppers.