Well, I’ve done it. I’ve just come back from driving the new 2020 Toyota Supra, the replacement for the fifth-generation Supra that left the market all the way back in 1998. And I must say it’s an impressive car. It drives well, it handles well, it steers well, it accelerates well. It does everything well. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite do it as well as most people were probably hoping.
First, a little overview for anyone who’s been living under a rock with no idea what’s going on with the new Supra. The latest Supra was co-developed with BMW, who sells a convertible version as the new BMW Z4. While the Z4 will offer 4- or 6-cylinder powertrains in North America, the Supra will only use a 6-cylinder — in this case, with 335 horsepower. Unfortunately, the Z4 with the same engine makes 380 hp.
That’s where the controversy starts — and it builds from there. For instance: Toyota decided to reinvent the Supra, one of the most famous Japanese cars in history, by … building it in Austria? And how about the fact that there’s no manual transmission? Indeed, the new Supra is automatic only. And while the performance numbers are strong — 0-to-60 mph is 4.1 seconds — is 335 hp really enough for a car as legendary as the Supra, especially after a 20-plus-year hiatus?
I thought that driving the Supra would help me realize some of these worries are non-issues, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I drove the Supra, and I really did enjoy it: it steers well, it handles well, it’s surprisingly quick given the power and I personally love the way it looks — I think its stylish and handsome and modern and a big departure from the more restrained look of the Z4. I’ve previously said the Supra is the less attractive of the two cars, but I take that back — I think it’s the Z4.
But there are several issues I couldn’t get past, and the biggest one is the transmission. Several times during the press launch, Toyota told me that the goal for the Supra was to rival the Porsche Cayman and Boxster — cars that offer manual and dual-clutch automatic transmissions. So why, then, does the Supra only offer a torque converter automatic? A Toyota presenter said the transmission is “almost as fast as a dual clutch,” and I almost let out a laugh. Why not just use a dual clutch, then? More importantly, I think the lack of a manual shows that this isn’t quite the sports car this could’ve been, as serious drivers — especially at this price level — do still want manual transmissions, proven by the fact that Porsche still offers them (and sells them) on its mid-engine cars.
There’s also the issue of performance. The Supra drives very well — it handles well, it’s sharp, it’s quick enough. But it won’t blow the doors off anything. Back in the day, the famed top-end Mark IV Supra Turbo competed with the Nissan Skyline GT-R — and now, the GT-R has something like 600 hp and does 0-to-60 mph in under 3 seconds. The Supra is a long way from remaining competitive.
So why not just appreciate the Supra for what it is? It’s a decent sports car, reasonably fun to drive and priced pretty well at around $50,000 before options. And I agree, all that is good stuff — but the problem is that when you use a storied name like “Supra,” you bring a lot of hype and a lot of expectations. Old-school Supra models are selling for $100,000 or more, and the car has become famous for its role in “The Fast and the Furious.” People love this thing. And so you need more than just a “good sports car” if you’re going to revive it.
But that’s exactly what Toyota has given us — a “good sports car.” The Supra is fun to drive, it’s fast enough, it’s nice looking, and it has a lot of good tech borrowed from BMW — but I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping for more. More power, more transmission options, more thrill, more excitement, rather than an automatic-only coupe with 45 less horsepower than the BMW on which it’s based. Indeed, the Supra is good. Fine. Nice enough. Truth is, that name is really the only issue with the car. The 2020 Toyota Supra is a very good sports car — it’s even a very good sports car for the money — it’s just not a great “Supra.”
Where the rubber meets the road, the Supra has so much going for it. But it could be more — and I sincerely hope this version of the Supra is just the beginning of the revival, with more Supra (like the GT4) on the way in the coming years. Find a Toyota Supra for sale
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