REVIEW | The 2019 Toyota GR Supra gets us gushing
Get over the fact that it's a BMW in a Japanese disco skirt and you'll discover that the new GR Supra is a remarkable piece of kit, writes Brenwin Naidu
Viewing the latest Toyota Supra through clear lenses is a challenge for many it seems. The filters of nostalgia have inevitably created certain misgivings about this fifth-generation version, in addition to its shared DNA with a certain counterpart from Munich. It raises an eyebrow when these untoward sentiments come from millennial observers who are yet to reach 30 – people born in the year 1992, like me.
Because our earliest interactions with the nameplate occurred solely in the digital realm, via gaming consoles on titles that pandered to the fantasies of young enthusiasts still far from the legal driving age. And then there was popularisation of tuner culture – an environment inseparable to the famed Oriental two-door.
Foremost in mind is the iconic Fast & Furious franchise, whose protagonist, portrayed by Paul Walker (RIP), will forever be remembered piloting a heavily-modified orange A80. Good times. Anyway, what is my point? The A90 represents a first, authentic, hands-on exposure to the Supra nameplate. And not just for the demographic I mentioned, but for the SA market as a whole. Sure, the moniker popped up in negligibly small numbers on the local scene before.
But this is the first time we have a plentiful supply and all access to a Toyota Supra. You can go into a dealership and buy one. No resorting to tricky import plans. No squandering hours dreaming on a PlayStation. It is here. An example of the model arrived at our office last week for a three-day evaluation. Instant regret was felt after dropping that social media status update. My telephone blew up with pleas from acquaintances and obscure relatives, asking for a spin. Unfortunately, no weight-distribution-upsetting cargo could tag along on this serious journalistic endeavour.
I set off to the parking basement in a bid to view the newcomer with a fresh pair of eyes. Right from the get-go, you could say that its aesthetics hold universal appeal, seizing attention from anyone, not just those who fancy themselves as lovers of the automotive.
Those classic sporting coupé proportions – lengthy prow, pert rear, low roofline – come together so exquisitely, melding cues from yesteryear in a modern fashion, with an overall flavour that is distinctively Japanese. Yes, yes, you can spot the odd bit from BMW here and there: side mirrors and handles, for example. And then, of course, when you open the door to get behind the wheel, a manufacturing plaque stamped with Bayerische Motoren Werke greets you.
Who cares? We need to remember that, although the core ingredients are shared, the Supra and Z4 were developed independently of each other. If you are so inclined to pursue an exercise to glean the differences between the two, you are going to find marked contrasts in textures … The lighter and more rigid Toyota is likely to leave quite an impression if spirited driving is high on the agenda – in contrast to the grand tourer-esque nature of the roofless Bavarian. As a driving tool, it is sublime.
Depressing the accelerator with a smidgen more effort than required while merging onto the freeway, I had almost forgotten how playful the Supra was, after our first, brief meeting at its launch earlier this year. Tangible squirm as the rear tyres look for purchase remind you that you are piloting a vehicle with the potential to humble an overzealous driver. That said, not once did it feel as malevolent as some powerful, rear-driving performance machines tend to.
The balance between playfulness and controllability was most certainly noticeable. And when those nuances fade into the periphery, the acoustics and delivery of the turbocharged 3.0-litre, six-cylinder makes for a heady sensation as you thrust towards the horizon. The quoted 250kW and 500Nm feel a little more substantial somehow, probably attributed to the (fractional) weight deficit versus its German relation.
As the year begins to draw to a close, staffers on the motoring team here begin to ponder their hits and misses of 2019. Without thinking twice, I can say that the Toyota Supra will have a rightful spot on a few members’ most wanted lists.
For me, it ranks right up there with pedigreed athletes from more exotic outlets. Whether you come from a place of misguided wistfulness for the past – or were lucky enough to have actually driven any of the Supra forebears for a real point of reference – there is no denying that the A90 is a remarkable piece of kit.
Pricing: Upwards of R953,000