The all-new Toyota GR Supra is the fifth generation of Toyota’s legendary sports car and the first global GR model from Toyota Gazoo Racing, reports Iain Robertson on the new European-built Toyota that almost never was and is already sold out for 2019.
Produced specifically for the North American market in 1978, the first Supra was based largely on the Celica coupe of that period, although it was around five inches longer. Never the most dynamically gifted of motorcars, nonetheless it drew a lot of attention and built up a strong following, powered as it was by a lethargic, 111bhp, in-line six-cylinder petrol-injection engine that displaced 2.5-litres. Toyota’s primary intention was to compete head-on with the Datsun/Nissan 240Z; in truth, it was not good enough, despite a high standard specification.
I can well recall the launch of the second generation Supra, from which was developed the Lotus-enhanced version in 1984. The UK product launch was held on the roads of Cyprus. Now powered by a 2.8-litre, 178bhp engine, its performance was zesty, although poor rear axle location meant that it was easy to induce tail-wagging, especially on wet surfaces. Cypriot motoring was immense fun!
There was no Celica connection for the third generation, which had grown significantly in size, with its engine capacity increased to 3.0-litres, developing around 200bhp. Technological standards had also grown significantly for the new model and a 280bhp turbocharged version soon bolstered its performance pedigree. Almost a quarter of a million examples found homes worldwide over its seven years production run.
The fourth generation, which survived for almost nine years in Toyota’s model range, was markedly more advanced, with a 330bhp twin-sequential turbocharged in-line six providing near-supercar performance figures (0-60mph in just under 5.0s, with a top speed of around 177mph). In many ways, this car could have survived for longer had the important US coupe market not slumped as severely as it did. A strong Yen also forced up prices to untenable levels.
Toyota’s revisited Supra, its fifth generation, has been conceived as a sports car in its purest form, without compromises that might reduce the hands-on driving experience. The company has adhered to the classic form of a front-mounted, straight-six engine driving the rear wheels, building on the heritage of Toyota’s previous Supra generations and the original 2000GT sports car (which was only ever sold domestically and in North America and, today, as a classic car, can command a million-Dollar price tag).
Driving enthusiasts will adore the exhilarating blend of power, agility and precise handling, delivered by the car’s combination of a short wheelbase and wide track, but it is also light weight, with a low centre of gravity and exceptional body rigidity. Toyota has learned so much since first introducing the Supra. Its 3.0-litre engine is fitted with a single twin-scroll turbocharger and produces 335bhp and 369lbs ft of torque. The unit is powerful, well-balanced, smooth and free revving. Coupled to an eight-speed automatic gearbox, with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, it is characterised by smooth, punchy acceleration (0-60mph in 4.0s, 155mph limited top speed), with a great slug of torque available across all engine speeds.
Toyota Gazoo Racing honed the new car’s performance on the Nürburgring, to achieve the most agile, stable and rewarding handling possible, which also means it is unforgiving on British roads. In fact, Toyota had zero plans to make a new Supra, but pressure applied by Gazoo Racing has led to its arrival and also goes some way towards explaining why it is assembled at the Steyr Plant, Graz, Austria. A key factor is the car’s two-seater packaging, even though not providing four seats would reduce the number of cars being sold. With Gazoo Racing given the nod by Toyota, in its own little way, Supra might be the antithesis of society’s current car-related trends.
With a wheelbase shorter than the Subaru-originated GT86 coupe, the Supra sits on fatter tyres and presents a visually wider stance, with tight cabin proportions, which contribute to an intended high degree of handling finesse, even though the short wheelbase might promote speedier rotation. It rides as standard on lightweight but highly rigid 19.0-inch diameter, forged alloy wheels that feature alternating black and polished slim spokes.
Inside, the Supra’s seats have a race-influenced design that ensures comfort at all times and excellent support, particularly if the car is being used on-track. As tends to be the case these days, the sportiest of cars will have a secondary life at ‘track days’, even though such excitement will more than likely invalidate the car’s warranty! Sadly, much like the faster Nissan GTR, cabin space for those of larger proportions is at a premium, which is very unfortunate. Body-holding side bolsters are featured on the cushions and backs and there are integrated head restraints but legroom is limited by that short wheelbase, in much the same way that it is in a Nissan 370Z. The upholstery options include full leather and a combination of leather bolsters with a perforated Alcantara covering for the seat back and cushion that provides a degree of air ventilation and additional body-hugging performance.
Interestingly, even before the car was launched, with scant information available, it was being criticised for being ‘too close to the GT86 in size’, which appears to be the case in productionised form. The new Toyota GR Supra will be delivered to UK customers from September 2019 and an order bank is already set-up for 2020, as all of 2019’s pre-ordered stock is already allocated. The GR Supra 3.0L is list-priced at £52,695, with the 3.0L Pro alternative at £54,000. All examples are being made in Graz, Austria.
Toyota’s supercar is actually a Gazoo Racing development, not a product of Toyota in Japan, but you can be certain that Toyota will claim all sales plaudits for a worthy model that will be fairly rare on our roads. It is sure to attract potential buyers from the user-chooser business car market.