During the press drive of the A90 Toyota GR Supra at Sportsland Sugo in Japan, Tada spent quite a bit of time with members of the regional press to talk about the Supra and the interesting development story behind it.
I can't say it enough: I really had a good conversation with Toyota chief engineer Tetsuya Tada. He had the honor of taking the lead on two of the company's most exciting projects; the 86 sports coupe, as well as the much-awaited fifth generation Supra. And I had the pleasure of picking his brain for several hours in the day he spent with us.
When I asked him about the potential MR2 revival, he gladly obliged with a surprise answer. But there was another question that I've been itching to ask Tada-san ever since they launched the Supra: “Why doesn't the Supra, given its name, come with the more powerful BMW S58 engine and when can we expect a Supra with a manual gearbox?”
Okay, so I actually had two questions, but they were rather intertwined. For starters, BMW does have a more powerful variant of the B58 engine, and it's known as the S58; it's capable (in stock factory tune) of producing 500 horsepower. The other is more obvious, especially given that the Supra is supposed to be a pureblooded sportscar, and such a sportscar should -at the very least- have a manual option for purists.
Toyota's chief engineer for the Supra sportscar project was actually ready with an answer... but not the kind I expected.
“If you had to choose between the S58 twin turbo or introducing the manual transmission, which would have the higher priority?” said Tada-san as we walked over to have lunch.
Personally I was taken aback; I'm not really used to getting answers in the form of a question, but it was clear that the A90's chief engineer wants a little help deciding which way to go with the Supra. Some parties want him to give it more power while others want a manual, or even both.
“What you're experiencing today is the first iteration of the new Supra. From this point on -as with all other sportscars- every year we will have a new iteration of it that comes with new upgrades,” continued Tada. “For the 86, for instance, every year there were a few evolutions and upgrades, all the way to the GRMN model.”
“With regard to upgrades, there is an order we can introduce things in,” continued the Supra's chief engineer. “The only question is in what order should we go with?”
But Tada wasn't just asking me; he also said he'd like us to ask all of you -our readers- what he should prioritize. He wanted your opinion on what they should work on first as a potential next variant or variants of the A90. The man, after all, is very responsive to input from the public which is why they revived the 86 and Supra in the first place.
The Father of the Toyota GR Supra says they can do both, but he wants the public's pulse on which direction to take first.
“I really want to hear what you guys want the absolute most,” said Tada.
Here's the interesting bit: Tada san had mentioned to other automotive websites that the manual gearbox option for the Supra won't happen, especially in a time when the industry -super sportscar manufacturers included- are moving away from a manual gearbox. Does the question he replied to us mean -given the voice of many Supra fans, enthusiasts, and even customers- that he is exploring the possibility of a manual gearbox for a future Supra update or variant?
With that in mind, which do you think should come first: (A) Toyota A90 GR Supra with a 6-speed manual or (B) Toyota A90 GR Supra with the more powerful S58 engine? You could say (C) for both, but that won't exactly help him out.
The answer I gave Tetsuya Tada then and there was: “Okay, then it's just a matter of choosing a shift knob I like.”
Yes, I'd personally prioritize developing a 6-speed manual option for the 6-cylinder Supra because the B58 is already a superb engine for the car's size and handling. And developing and putting in a 6-speed manual (presumably from ZF, the same makers of the 8-speed auto) would really work well for a sportscar that, quite frankly, is fairly old school raw despite its strong digital connections.
As for the 500+ horsepower S58, well, I think that can wait for a special variant. Super Supra, perhaps?