Car Review

The Toyota GR Supra is basically a re-skinned Z4, but we're happy it exists

Look beyond its BMW roots and you’ll find that the 2019 Supra is far greater than the sum of its parts. We answer your pressing questions about it

04 August 2019 - 00:03 By
The Toyota GR Supra stands out from rival offerings.
The Toyota GR Supra stands out from rival offerings.
Image: Supplied

The new Toyota Supra - is there a more controversial vehicle right now?

Highly unlikely I'd say. Seriously, if you want to incite an aggressive and possibly friendship-ending argument between a collective of car guys, then just spit out the words "Toyota" and "Supra". Within five minutes they'll be slamming their pint glasses down and insulting each other's mothers with all the toxic fervour they can humanly muster.

Reason being that this sporty newcomer - marketed under the Gazoo Racing banner - is an automotive polariser of the highest order thanks to its BMW roots. Peel away that steely Japanese exterior and you'll discover that the Supra is basically a re-skinned Z4. It shares the same chassis. It shares the same motor. It shares the same dashboard and iDrive infotainment system.

FAST FACTS

Toyota GR Supra

• ENGINE: 2.998cc six-cylinder turbo

• POWER: 250kW from 5,000
to 6,500rpm

• TORQUE: 500Nm from 1600
to 4500rpm

• TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed auto

• 0-100KM/H: 4.3-seconds (claimed)

• TOP SPEED: 250km/h (limited)

• FUEL: 7.7l/100km (claimed)

• PRICE: R1,082,300

Why is this? Well because in a world of shrinking sports-car sales, manufacturers can no longer afford to invest the time and money it takes to produce such a niche and limited product - especially off a clean sheet. So to get around the expense and enjoy superior economies of scale, they platform share.

Usually this isn't such a big deal (nobody cared when the Mazda MX-5 morphed into a Fiat 124 Spider) but in this case Toyota has been taken to task in a major way - surf the internet and you'll see the hate is real. From a purist's point of view this collaboration might seem somewhat flawed (even contrived) but in my eyes the Supra looks different enough, exciting enough to warrant its existence. As somebody who enjoys sports cars and the Toyota marque I am glad to see this nameplate back.

I'm still finding it hard to wrap my mind around this. So, how does it drive?

The short answer is very well. Toyota launched the Supra down in the Eastern Cape, which is, if you don't know, a province crisscrossed with many great driving roads. And drive we did. Modern car launches mainly cater to so-called "influencers" who seem more interested in taking photographs of their lunch rather than the car in question but here people such as myself got to enjoy close on 400km of quality seat time.

And straight out the blocks the Supra impresses - particularly in terms of ride quality. Toyota may have borrowed the platform from BMW but they sure have engineered a different driving experience with a suspension setup that never feels harsh or crashy. Firmer springs and/or dampers might help with lap times around a racetrack but out in the real world you want a car that offers a certain level of suppleness. The Supra obliges and you're able to drive faster and with more confidence across a far greater spread of surfaces.

Lumpy corners. Uneven crests. Patchwork straights stitched together with tar snakes. These things fluster most sports cars yet the Supra shrugs them off, making it particularly suited to local roads.

The Toyota Supra impresses in terms of ride quality.
The Toyota Supra impresses in terms of ride quality.
Image: Supplied

I also enjoyed the steering. Companies such as Audi and BMW engineer steering setups that twist too hard and artificial. Toyota has done the opposite with a helm that feels light and almost delicate in comparison. Feedback may be muted at slow speeds but as soon as you turn up the wick - and you will - it rewards your mitts with a liveliness you don't often experience in modern sports cars.

Interestingly, despite its relatively short wheelbase, this Toyota is not as playful as I was expecting. Well certainly not when compared to its sister, the GT86. Fitted with sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres the Supra offers superb levels of lateral grip that, again, give you the confidence to really push hard through the curves.

Stupid question but I'm guessing it's rapid in a straight line?

It certainly is. Toyota claims its BMW-sourced inline six (the B58 for all you car nerds out there) is good for 250kW but in reality it feels far stronger, giving the Supra some serious punch from standstill. The car transfers its power down to the asphalt well (again a testament to the suspension) and when you call the launch control into effect it reels in the horizon at a rate.

For the time being the only gearbox on offer is an eight-speed ZF automatic that already sees action in countless BMW and Jaguar products. It's a fine unit and here the software provides pleasingly rapid shifts up and down the cogs - particularly when set to Sport mode. Eighth is also extremely long and gives the car almost ridiculously long legs when cruising on the highway. A proper manual transmission would be cool to have as an option and Toyota hasn't ruled one out going forward just yet.

What's life like on the inside?

The biggest thing that hits you inside the cabin of the Supra is an unshakable sense of déjà vu. This is simply because Toyota really hasn't done much to disguise or even dilute them BMW roots. The switchgear. The iDrive infotainment system. Fonts. Door cards. Gear lever. I could go on. Get over this, however, and you'll find the innards of the Supra are most agreeable.

The Toyota GR Supra's interior will give you serious déjà vu.
The Toyota GR Supra's interior will give you serious déjà vu.
Image: Supplied

I like the thin-rimmed Toyota steering wheel as well as the sports seats that blend together both comfort and support. The Supra also offers a lot of standard kit. Ignore the more bare bones Track model (R953,000) and you get an impressive amount of amenities for your money: far more than you would on the equivalent BMW Z4 M40i. I put the two sales brochures together, did some math and worked out that you'd have to spend over R90k extra on the BMW to get it up to the same level of specification as the Toyota.

I've heard you're a Toyota fanboy. Is this why what most of what you've written is so positive?

Stop being so cynical. Approached with an objective mind the Supra is a fine sports car that's great to pilot, comfortable to spend long periods of time in and, perhaps most importantly, stands out from rival offerings with its overt Japanese love-it-or-hate-it styling.

However, I do think that Toyota could have done a bit more to make it their "own". Small things like engineering a different exhaust note and perhaps adding in some turbo wastegate flutter (because JDM) would have gone a long way in lending the Supra a more distinctive personality. Ditto the interior that is unashamedly BMW in its execution.

I understand that copying and pasting is convenient but it also shows a lack of imagination. Be this as it may, I'm glad that the Supra exists - platform sharing or not, it's a stellar effort.


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