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Supra, GT86 chief engineer hints at Toyota's desire for a smaller sportscar

Supra, GT86 chief engineer hints at Toyota's desire for a smaller sportscar image

Vince Pornelos / Manufacturer Press | July 30, 2018 14:02

In line with orders from Akio Toyoda, Toyota could build a smaller sportscar to slot below the 86

Toyota is really recapturing its mojo for fun to drive cars.

Tetsuya Tada, the Chief Engineer who led the project that eventually became the Toyota 86 (and Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S), was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to reveal his department's latest achievement: the fifth generation (A90) of the legendary Toyota Supra name.

In an interview on the official Toyota Great Britain blog site, Chief Engineer Tada says that the new Supra coupe, co-developed with BMW (which will generate a Z roadster), features a classic front-engine, rear-wheel drive powertrain, and is powered by a straight-six engine, just like the previous model. 

But there was an interesting portion in that interview, wherein he indicated that there was another potential model in store for the largest automaker from Japan: they still want another sports car. 

“Akio [Toyoda] has always said that as a company he would like to have Three Brothers, with the GT86 in the middle and Supra as the big brother,” said Tada.

Now we've known that Toyota has always had these plans, culminating at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show when the automaker revealed the Toyota S-FR concept; a tiny, 2-door roadster reminiscent of the Suzuki Cappuccino from the 1990's. Lately, however, we've been worried that Toyota could have axed the project as they have been very quiet about a production version of the S-FR, that is until Tetsuya Tada said that Akio Toyoda could still want it as the third, little brother to the 86 and Supra. Spy photographers have not spotted any prototypes of the S-FR.

As to when (or if) we can see the production version of the smaller and presumably more affordable S-FR, we'll have to wait and see. 

The Chief Engineer for Toyota's sports cars continued on about the new Supra, revealing some more details about the car, and how the development of the 86 helped them with the Supra. 

“Before the GT86 arrived, Toyota had not produced a sports car for a while, so there was a lot of ground to catch up. But for the Supra project we already had the experience from developing the GT86 and were able to start from a much higher level. This meant we were aiming for a much higher level in the finished car,” continued Tada.

The 86 was launched in 2012, and soon after, Tada and his team started work on the Supra to take driving to an even higher level.

“It’s actually the same level of rigidity as the Lexus LFA supercar, and it has been achieved without using carbon fiber so we could keep the price point at an affordable level. That was the most difficult thing to achieve,” continued Tada.

At Goodwood, the Supra impressed the crowd as it was the first time that a near production model was shown to the public, though it seems even the engineer himself was perhaps the happiest one of all: he was the one behind the wheel. 

“But I’m pleased we were successful because when I was sitting in the queue to go up the hill at Goodwood, I was surrounded by all these amazing supercars and thinking: ‘This is the cheapest car in the line by a long way – probably about a tenth of the price – but we got the biggest cheer!’

Tada mentioned the challenges in the development of the Supra, especially in an automotive climate that is shifting away from fun sports cars to high tech vehicles that can drive themselves.

“Looking at the current automotive industry, the talk is all about autonomous driving, electrification and artificial intelligence. What that’s doing is giving rise to a lot of strict regulations, and that limits our capacity to make emotional sports cars; it’s getting much more difficult to do that.”

“So for the fifth point, I think the new Supra will be the last present from Toyota to those who enjoy hearing the pleasing sound of a pure petrol engine at high revs,” concluded Toyota's chief engineer.