The fourth generation Toyota Supra was the most exotic of the Japanese sports cars sold during the 1990s. It was the fastest and most expensive for sure but it also offered the most refinement.

It proved to be too expensive for a car with a Toyota badge and it’s sales dropped off to such an extent that Toyota stopped importing it in 1998. All told only about 11,000 Supras were sold during the six-year period, making it a rare car.

In many ways it’s desirability, since going off the market, has increased as it’s becoming regarded as a classic. At any given time there are not many Mark IV Supras for sale and it appears clean examples are grabbed up fairly quickly. As a pre-owned sports car, a clean and well-maintained Supra can be a relatively good bargain, although prices appear to be increasing for prime examples.

 

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1997 Supra Turbo

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Supra

4. Rumors of Future Supra

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Option Installment Rate

8. Sales History

9. Awards and Commendations Earned

10. Other Reviews

11. Price of Spare Parts

 

1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation — 1997 Supra Turbo

Likes: looks, refinement, performance

Dislikes: small back seats

Competitors: Mazda RX-7, Nissan 300ZX, Mitsubishi 3000GT, Chevrolet Corvette

Miles: 36,000

Condition: A+

Price when new: $48,000 (est.)

Current Estimated Value: $31,000 (Nov. 2002)

When I first spotted this particular Supra in a parking lot it stood out in the crowd – it’s still a great looking car even ten years after it was introduced. Its smooth curvy lines give it less of an aggressive look than the Mazda RX7 and Nissan 300ZX, which were its main competitors. It’s much more of a GT (Grand Touring) as it’s slightly larger than those two, being closer in size to the Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth and the Chevrolet Corvette.

In the performance arena the Supra is closest to the Corvette, especially when fitted with twin-turbos, which increase the 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine’s output to 320 horsepower from 220 horsepower in the base model. Fortunately more than half of all Supras sold between 1993 and 1998 were the turbo model so chances are good that you can find one even if they are more sought after.

The owner of this twin-turbo Supra purchased it new and used it as a long distance commuter car for the first year or so. He wanted a performance car that was also reliable and comfortable to drive every day. That was one of the reasons he opted for the less popular automatic transmission that is found in under half of the Mark IV Supras sold.

Despite having an automatic transmission the engine in the twin-turbo Supra delivers enough power that the slight loss in performance is negligible. Around town the car can be driven gently without it complaining. It’s docile and in many ways the engine’s characteristic with twin turbos is better suited to an automatic than a manual. Put your foot to the floor with either transmission and, after a slight hesitation, the first turbo kicks in and the car rockets forward. Once the engine speed has risen the second turbo kicks in to deliver more power. Although it may not have the low-end grunt of a V-8 in a Corvette it delivers more power once the engine is revving higher. Magazine performance figures put it on par with the Corvette of the same era with a 0 to 60 mph time of about five seconds.

Thanks to nice big fat 17-inch tires the car hugs the road well. Inevitably the ride is stiff on anything less than billiard table-smooth roads but that’s a penalty that has to be paid in any car that delivers great handling. On a smooth Interstate however the car’s ride is just fine, much better than in many SUVs. The steering is pretty light for a big car yet it stiffens up enough at speed to provide good road feel to appeal to a fast driver.

From a driver’s point of view the car’s interior is just dandy. The short stubby gearshift is just to the right of the steering wheel and the parking brake is mounted right beside it, just where it should be in a sporty car. The instrument cluster wraps around the front of the steering wheel and blends into the high center console giving a strong aircraft cockpit look and feel. Fortunately the size of the car also means there is plenty of room even for large framed people, much more so than in other sports cars. Likewise the passenger enjoys decent surroundings though some may find the center console, with its leaning towards the driver, a bit overbearing. Naturally the fit and finish of the interior is top notch but it is nothing fancy in terms of materials. In fact it is far from being luxurious with no extraneous wood or aluminum trim.

Officially the car is designated as a 2+2 coupe, which means it has two rear seats. However it’s pretty cramped back there for anybody other than small children. The back of the rear seats is a one-piece cushion that folds down to provide a flat floor for increased storage space. The rear tailgate is hinged just behind the front seats so there is easy access to the whole of the shallow storage area. A hinged cover for the rear of the storage area is attached to the tailgate so it opens when the tailgate is lifted up.

During five years of ownership the owner said he’d had nothing go wrong except for a broken cable to the radio antenna. He did complain of excessive tire wear however and said that replacement tires are expensive as they have a unique tread pattern. There was a slight whining noise coming from the rear axle. The owner said he had changed the oil in the rear limited slip differential, which can be an area of concern on this car. Another fairly common complaint, which is not serious, is that the plastic covers over the headlights and rear taillights become cloudy over time and need replacing to keep the car looking fresh. There were no signs of any scratches or repairs on the car’s white bodywork. He had not suffered from any water leaks around the edge of the removable sport roof, which can happen in some cars with this option that’s found on most cars Supras in the U.S.

Potential owners of a pre-owned Supras have a wealth of resources at their fingertips thanks to the large number of enthusiastic owners around the world. There are numerous owners’ clubs and several web sites with tons of information. Some such as www.mkiv.com  and www.supras.com include a registry of Supra owners. If the number of web sites and owners clubs is any indication of the long-term popularity of a car the Mark IV Supra has a future. It’s a classic in the making – a car that will give an owner years of enjoyment and a potentially lower rate of depreciation than more ordinary cars.

2. Summing it Up — Owners' Views

Good:

"Fabulous performance"

"Reliable"

"Don’t have to be on first-name terms with a mechanic"

Bad:

"Tire wear"

"Lack of seat adjustments"

"Needs more steering adjustments"

"Manual override on automatic pretty useless"

3. History of Supra

Toyota first introduced the Supra as a performance version of the Celica in 1979. The main difference compared to the Celica was a longer wheelbase and a six-cylinder engine in place of the four. In 1982 a new Celica with a decidedly boxy look was introduced. The Supra, affectionate know as the "Mark II" by enthusiasts had a different nose and independent rear suspension as well as an increasingly more powerful engine. The car continued to be called the Celica Supra until 1986, but it was growing more and more dissimilar to the basic Celica.

In order to further differentiate the Supra it became a totally different model from the Celica, which switched to front-drive in 1986. When the 1986.5 Supra was introduced it was designated as the "third-generation" Supra and quickly became a popular GT-style performance car. Toyota’s idea was to compete against the Corvette instead of the Camaro.

Toyota certainly succeeded when it introduced the "Mark IV" Supra in 1993. Here was a car with performance to match almost any sports car on the market and was even worthy of being compared to a Porsche, if not a Ferrari. Unfortunately the price of the car was also reaching into supercar territory with a sticker price ranging from just under $40,000 to over $50,000 for a loaded twin-turbo model. Sales declined as potential buyers were put off by the sticker price. Toyota almost dropped the car in 1996 but instead lowered the price by more than $10,000 in 1997 and called it the "15th anniversary" model. It appeared as if Toyota had forgotten about the Celica Supra produced between 1979 and 1982!

However, sales barely picked up and importation of the Supra was halted in 1998. Amazingly the last few 1998 models languished on dealer lots until 2001, as nobody seemed to want them. Just as Nissan, Mitsubishi and Mazda had discovered there was a limited market for high-performance expensive Japanese sports cars. In many ways though the Supra lived on in a more luxurious format as the Lexus SC-series of sports coupes are built off the Supra platform.

4. Future Supra?

Toyota is mum about a new Supra. The company is fairly conservative and is probably waiting to see how well the new Nissan 350Z and Mazda RX-8 fair in the competitive sports car market. If they do well it’s unlikely that Toyota will decline to compete in this image-building segment. If there is another Supra in the future it is likely to be less extravagant and less costly than the Mark IV model. Indeed it may well go back to being a derivative of the Celica.

5. Basic Facts: 1993 – 1998 Supra

Vehicle Type: Sports Car

No. Passengers: four (2+2)

Origin of assembly: Japan

Engine: (standard): 3.0-liter 220 hp DOHC I-6

(optional): 3.0-liter 320 hp turbocharged DOHC I-6

Transmission: 5-spd manual, 6-spd manual, 4-spd. automatic; rear-drive

Length: 178 inches

Wheelbase: 100 inches

Width: 71 inches

Height: 50 inches

Curb weight: 3550 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 10 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 18 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 18/23 (5-spd manual); 17/24 (6-spd manual); 18/24 (automatic)

Safety and Recall information can be obtained from a variety of sources including elsewhere on autotrader.com.

6. Changes in the Supra line 1993 - 1998

1993 Model Year

All new model introduced with twin-turbo engine as an option

1994 Model Year

No changes

1995 Model Year

No changes other than addition of SE model, sold only in 1995

1996 Model Year

Six-speed manual transmission dropped

1997 Model Year

Fifteenth anniversary limited edition (LE) with options package including spoiler

Body stiffened for increased rigidity

Six-speed manual transmission returns as option

Minor cosmetic changes

1998 Model Year

Variable valve timing on non-turbo model increases power by 5 hp

Manual Transmission not available in states with California emissions standards

7. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1993 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

Normally Aspirated 35%, Turbocharged 65%

Transmission:

Auto 53%, Manual 6-speed 23%, Manual 5-speed 24%

Traction control: 65%

Leather seats: 65%

Sport Roof: 65%

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

Normally Aspirated 14%, Turbocharged 86%

Transmission:

Auto 39%, Manual 6-speed 51%, Manual 5-speed 10%

Traction control: 77%

Leather seats: 86%

Sport Roof: 86%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

Normally Aspirated 66%, Turbocharged 34%

Transmission:

Auto 44%, Manual 6-speed 23%, Manual 5-speed 23%

Traction control: 85%

Leather seats: 55%

Sport Roof: 55%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

Normally Aspirated 66%, Turbocharged 34%

Transmission:

Auto 41%, Manual 6-speed 0%, Manual 5-speed 59%

Traction control: 87%

Leather seats: 87%

Sport Roof: 90%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

Normally Aspirated 13%, Turbocharged 87%

Transmission:

Auto 39%, Manual 6-speed 47%, Manual 5-speed 14%

Traction control: 77%

Leather seats: 86%

Sport Roof: 86%

1998 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

Normally Aspirated 15%, Turbocharged 85%

Transmission:

Auto 59%, Manual 6-speed 41%, Manual 5-speed 0%

Traction control: 74%

Leather seats: 84%

Sport Roof: 84%

8. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1993 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct. 1992 through Sept. 1993

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 2,038

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 3,488

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 2,387

1996 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 861

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 1,389

1998 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1997 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 688

9. Awards and Commendations

No significant awards

10. Quotes

"The Supra is the best sports car Toyota has ever produced and one of the best of its breed. Toyota's smaller MR2, a mid-engine 2-seater, is balanced, beautiful and far more affordable. But the Supra offers a combination of smooth power, fighter-plane response and sheer chutzpah that make it stand out in any crowd." – www.newcartestdrive.com, 1995

"This car devours canyon roads with a seamless transition from braking to turn-in to taking a set to a sweeping exit. At first the brake pedal feels a touch soft, but press harder and there’s immense stopping power to be had without agitating the chassis." – Road & Track, Feb. 1994

"In the Supra, Toyota has magically combined the expressiveness and intensity of bygone GTs with modern day refinement, comfort, and reliability. This is a tourer that will coddle you on long drives -- yet when you ask it to attack a stretch of serpentine road, it responds like a barely disguised race car." – Car and Driver, Dec. 1994

11. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $520 (above average)

Side marker lamp: $22 (below average)

Door (left front): $883 (above average)

Fender (left front): $269 (average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1998 model. Prices are current as of 2002 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision Repair Services

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

AutoTrader.com

Related Articles & Car Reviews

Find Cars for sale near you:

Research by Vehicle Type

  • Convertible
  • Coupe
  • Hatchback
  • Hybrid
  • Luxury
  • Sedan
  • SUV
  • Truck
  • Van/Minivan
  • Wagon

Shopping Tools

Loading Ajax Content Loading Ajax Content