Here's an odd statement: the Toyota GR Supra is a very difficult car to really review.
It's all because of one simple fact: it's not a Toyota through and through. There is a strong BMW connection here, and that in itself presents a problem. The link with Bavaria means its not a purebred Supra of decades past that purists love. The car is made in Austria, using a parts bin that is largely and recognizably BMW. Even the tuning parts will be Euro too given its origins, though Japanese tuning houses are now working to develop parts for the Supra.
Honestly, I don't care where the Supra -or GR Supra- comes from, and we'll cycle back to that later.
My first time with the Supra that bears the GR badge (for Toyota's Gazoo Racing brand) was just outside of Sendai in Japan for a day of romping around a beautiful racetrack at a restrained 240 km/h on the main straight. There was also a lot of driving on some of Japan's tight, tricky, and forested backroads, and I have no doubt we disturbed a few Japanese takumis (master craftsmen) somewhere there, probably honing their craft, as we blasted along.
But a day of driving is really but a smidge of what the GR Supra is. The proof of how good a car is when you actually live with it for a little while; in doing so, you learn more about its nuances, its compromises, and see how it works as intended and how it works for you.
The GR Supra arrived at my home one afternoon, and it came in a beautiful shade of Prominence Red. Actually this color option makes it the most affordable model in the GR Supra line up at PhP 4.990 million; most of the other color options are priced at PhP 5.050 million, while the rather badass matte gray option is at PhP 5.090 million. No matter though, because if I somehow purchased a GR Supra, my choice would be red.
While Toyota may have referred to many of their historical sports car models for some of the cues of the new generation Supra such as the long hood, a cabin pushed far back, the very wide and low stance, a kicked up tail, and even a modernized interpretation of the headlights from the Mk. IV/A80 Supra), the new Supra is just that: an entirely new model. There are cues, yes, but those design elements do not define the GR Supra.
Now the look of the production model GR Supra has many critics, and I understand; I too am not 100% about the design of this thing. I would have wanted a more faithful adaptation of the FT-1 Concept car from which the Supra was based on, particularly with the Formula One-style nose. One aspect of the Supra's exterior that draws quite a bit of flak are those faux vents on the doors and on the hood. The door “vents” are truly fake, but the ones on the hood actually have a purpose; the design team intended those to be just vent covers that can be removed in case aftermarket tuners wanted extra cooling.
While I may have driven the GR Supra before, on a one day drive there's really barely enough time to get to know the cabin. Yes, it's a very driver-centric cabin as a sports car should be. The ergonomics are fantastic; once you find a comfortable and proper driving position with the seat and steering wheel, you'll notice how every control just feels natural. Not even the 86 feels this good, and that's already a good driver's car.
Two carmakers have mastered this kind of ergo; one is Mazda, the other is BMW. And now given the BMW link with Toyota, so too does the GR Supra. This car is a result of what happens when a sports car is designed with a singular purpose: to drive very well. If anything, the cabin looks a bit plain jane; this version doesn't have any fancy stitching, nor did they highlight special leather or whatnot. The only real giveaway this is special is a carbon fiber piece on the center console around the gear selector and multimedia control panel. One thing that would be familiar to BMW owners is some of the control panels and buttons.
What you get is a well-appointed cabin with all the power features you need, a dual-zone climate control system, a nice multimedia system that is clearly from BMW, and a JBL sound system. Toyota also didn't bother with a back seat because, well, why would you want that kind of compromise? Instead, you get two subwoofers in the back. The boot space of the GR Supra liftback was also surprisingly spacious. With the absence of a back seat, quite a bit of space is freed up, albeit the shape of the back (especially with the wide hips of the Supra) does constrict the opening a bit.
Owners of the 86 will know that the spare tire protrudes from the floor and eats up a lot of the boot space, so much so that you almost end up using the inverted spare as a trunk organizer/holder. In the Supra, there's none of that because there is no spare. Actually it's a point of concern for me because the tires (Michelin Pilot Super Sport) were not run-flats like you would expect in something built by BMW (it even says so on the production plate on the door frame). So if you get a flat, you'll have to either repair it on site (there may be a repair kit under the trunk floor somewhere) or call for a tow.
Press the ignition and the Supra kickstarts itself to life. Pop the double latched hood and you'll see that big 3.0-liter straight-six turbo engine; a proper propulsion system for something called Supra, as the best Supras of the past, had boosted straight sixes. 1G-GTE or 2JZ-GTE, anyone?
But here's the rub: the engine isn't Japanese, nor is it twin turbo. It's the BMW B58 inline-six that has the single twin-scroll (dual inlet) turbo. There isn't even a visible intercooler like Supras of yore; instead, the intercooler is masked underneath the engine cover, as it's an air-to-liquid/air-to-water intercooler. That means it uses water to cool the intake air going through the intercooler, making for a much more compact unit.
The engine itself makes 340 PS and 500 Nm of torque. For some, those digits denoting its performance is another bone of contention, with some even saying that the Supra isn't impressive to drive anymore, especially since it has an 8-speed automatic. Of course, it begs the question: what are they comparing it to in order to qualify that statement? Perhaps some are comparing the new GR Supra to tuned Supras of decades past that did north of 1000 horsepower; last time I checked, tuners are already working on wilder versions of the GR Supra, and are achieving similar figures. Actually, the design of the B58's cylinders in the block makes it very receptive (and resilient) to heavy modifications... at your own risk, of course.
If you're comparing the new A90 GR Supra against the A80 (the previous generation Supra), then this one has significantly more power as stock, given that the JDM “gentleman's agreement” during the 90's meant the Supra only made 280 PS/276 horsepower (at least on paper). But even with the 0-100 km/h times, that Supra RZ did about 5.3 seconds. Some versions of the A80 Supra made more, depending on the variant or market spec. This new one does the same in 4.3 seconds, and it's doing it with an 8-speed auto, not a manual.
But let's set that aside for now. My week with the Supra meant I was using it as a daily driven vehicle, and boy, does it work surprisingly well. The first thing that surprised me was the ground clearance; not once did I have to try some creative oblique angle to avoid scraping the bottom on our village's excessively tall and lumpy speed bumps/humps. Just go a little slower, and it was fine. In traffic, the Supra had sublime manners; that's an odd statement for a sports car, isn't it? The gearbox was smooth, the engine was quiet (in normal mode), and the suspension was actually comfortable. The seats are nice too; no instances of discomfort even when sitting still in traffic. I'll give the JBL audio system two thumbs up too. Yes, the GR Supra is surprisingly superb as a daily commuter.
Even the fuel economy was good; considering that this is a 3.0L turbo, I had to double-check if the 7.6 kilometers (GCQ moderate traffic, average speed 26 km/h) on the fuel eco meter was accurate. When I filled up, drove, and filled up again and computed, I got 7.94 kilometers per liter in similar urban conditions. On the highway, that number went up to 12.5 km/l, but it takes a lot of restraint to not mash the throttle when traffic opens up.
Let's admit it: fuel economy and city comfort really aren't the reasons you read this review right? Once you find an open road, press the Sport button, and the GR Supra casts aside Dr. Jekyll and lets out Mr. Hyde to play. Throttle response is sharpened up, and the gearbox lets the six-shooter rev a bit more before engaging the next cog. The exhaust gets a bit louder too, letting the high pitched sound from the engine out into the open more. It's actually glorious to listen to, and I absolutely love the popping sound from the exhaust when you lift off the throttle; it sounds like a rally car because it's burning extra fuel in the exhaust, all for the sake of entertainment. That's something Chief Engineer Tada specifically asked for now because when emissions regulations get stricter, they won't be able to do it that way anymore.
At high speeds and on a race track, the GR Supra feels undaunted. 100 km/h on the road feels like a stroll around a mall, but when you take it up to faster speeds in a safer environment it doesn't feel like it wants to get away from you. We're talking north of 200 km/h and with a bit of a crosswind. Dive on the anchors and the Brembo stoppers (Yes, Brembo) keeps it all in check, and the suspension responds too. This squats with stability as opposed to nosediving too much under hard braking, unloading weight from the rear wheels. Of course, when you push it beyond the limits it is entertaining but demands skill and respect. The key thing here is that on the way there, it just feels so progressive; it shows you the line when it's going to start misbehaving (especially with stability control off), and it's up to you if you want to play beyond the safe line or just flirt with it a bit. And it's one of those cars best enjoyed on an open and winding mountain road.
One thing we need to clear up is that this isn't a supercar. This is a 340 PS sports car, not a 500 or 600 horsepower supercar or 1000+ horsepower tuned beast. Don't expect to beat Ferraris in stoplight to stoplight sprints or high speeds... unless you want to spend tens of thousands of dollars overnighting parts from Jap, err, Europe to be able to, uh, smoke 'em.
What you can expect from the GR Supra is visceral driving thrills and an inherent balance that has been carefully and masterfully dialed in from the start. That is where the Supra name comes in; it's not in outright power or speed, but in how it feels when you take it to dance. There's not much lag; if anything, the power delivery feels like it's linear like a naturally aspirated engine. The manners and control around the corners inspire confidence. The steering is perfectly weighted and feels natural for an EPS unit. The gearbox responds to the little adjustments I make with my right foot on the throttle. The seats hug firmly and comfortably. This is a car you'll feel connected to when you drive, easily comparable to cars like the pre-turbo Cayman S or even better.
The team of engineers, mechanics, and designers working the Supra project knew what they were going for. And that's the essence of Gazoo Racing; working together in a garage for better cars, or in this case, better sports cars. It just so happens that a few of them were German, and they brought their expertise to help build a sports car that pure of intent and excellent in its execution. And it's thoroughly refreshing to drive, given everything going on today.
The only thing we can really ask for is maybe the option for a manual (which Toyota is supposedly considering) and perhaps the more powerful derivative of this engine which would be the S58... that one makes 480 PS. Hopefully, those options would come in time, but for now, this GR Supra would proudly wear the halo as Toyota's ultimate driving machine.