2020 Toyota Supra Review

2020 Toyota Supra - Supra shakes up crossover culture


Tired of reading all about the latest five-door crossover debuts and redos usually reserved in this DriveChicago space?  It's now time to shake up this web page with a blast from the past that's also all new for 2020. After an extended 20 year wait, Toyota's Supra returns for sale in the United States.

Supra ranks about as far from a gargantuan crossover as transport gets. Sure, when packing up the kids, in-laws and 110-pound St. Bernard for a two-week stay in Door County Wisconsin, grab the three-row crossover.  However, if you and your significant other desperately desire social distancing from the tots, in-laws and weighty, drooling pooch, the front-engine, rear-drive Supra conveniently seats a cozy and romantic two; no more.  Previous-generation Supras offered a back seat, in theory, but space was limited even for a 110-pound puppy.

It's a hoot driving this fifth-generation Supra with pricing tickling the 'just right' Goldilocks zone; not too bare bones or too big, but slipping in the $50,000 comfort range.  

Toyota developed Supra in partnership with German luxury automaker BMW, disheartening select automotive purists in close touch with the previous four Supra generations.  However, begrudging acceptance of economics of scale keeps pricing in the Goldilocks zone.  Supra, a niche product, needed an automotive 'buddy' to amortize costs.  In this case the not-so-shabby BMW Z4, which underwent its own next-gen makeover in the 2019 model year.  Both construct in Graz, Austria where BMW has a major presence.  

While Supra and Z4 share underpinning hardware and interior similarities, each sport their own unique tuning. Plus Supra exterior styling remains Toyota-centric and radiates from the get go. Of the two, Supra clearly made bold choices.

Supra's contoured body structure starts up front with its long wide hood curving down and intersecting with lower flared/arched front side fenders. The hood's decorative black C-shaped scallops and fender vents are for show only.  Rear fenders arch with twice the volume of front counterparts while narrow side door windows give way to high side belt lines.

Six (three on each side) bejeweled LED headlight lenses integrate both daytime running lights and turn signal functions.

Out back, long narrow window glass adorns the 45-degree-angled hatch door.  Shock-absorber-like devices outside the cargo area keep the pleasantly lightweight manually-operating door aloft and steady when opened.  The vertical cargo opening configuration resembles something between a 'Figure 8' and an hour glass outline.  Storage room, at a premium, measures in at 10.2 cubic feet, good for holding a couple weekend get-away luggage bags.  Golf bags may require a roof rack. Two cup-like under-door moldings greatly assist when closing the lid and its curved swooping spoiler. Dual exhausts adorn the lower rear.   

For those measuring taller than six-feet, watch your head when entering.  This lanky scribe provided a perfect foil for Supra's fashion forward design and low entry way.  Part of Supra's success secret is its low center of gravity, assisted in part via minimal ground clearance (4.5 inches to be exact).  

Once ensconced inside and surrounded by black leather seats with integrated head restraints, enthusiasts enjoy better-than-anticipated noggin space as the low-slung roof's apex culminates above the seats.  A future ceiling or A-pillar handle could help egress and ingress. Centered gravity, pitch-perfect 50-50 front-back weight distribution, angry exhaust notes (more pronounced in 'Sport' mode) and performance rear-wheel drive craft together the connected feel to the road below.

Three well equipped Supra trims arrive for its 2020 return with minimal option packages or extras.  Unfortunately, 'Launch Editions' went supra fast as production revved up in the spring of 2019 and the 1,500 units snapped up quick as a wink. Consider it Toyota's Early Bird Special on four wheels.

Each Supra Launch Edition included an individually numbered carbon fiber badge on the passenger side dash replete with a graphic of Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda and accompanying cursive signature.

Remaining Supra aficionados get to mull over two remaining grades: the 3.0 and 3.0 Premium. Launch Editions were based upon 3.0 Premium trims. The 3.0 references a gentle nod to its under-hood motive compliments of BMW, a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six cylinder generating 335 horsepower and mated to a standard eight-speed automatic gear box.  This six-banger includes start-stop technology, quieting engine functions during prolonged stops, and returning back to attention once the right foot leaves the brake pedal.  The 13.7 fuel tank requires pricier premium 91-octane fuel to quench the high-performance engine's thirst.

With a minimal price difference between the two volume trims, best to gravitate to and drink up the top-rung experience. The 3.0 premium adds such pleasantries as heated leather-trimmed seats, larger flat touch screen (8.8 vs 6.5 inches), in-dash navigation, painted-red brake calipers, larger rear brakes, color heads-up windshield display and wireless phone chargers working in tandem with newer generation Smartphones.

A 3.0 Supra checks in at $49,990. Our Renaissance Red 3.0 Premium trim started at $53,990, ending at $56,195.  The only factory option, a $1,195 Driver Assist Package, joined a $930 destination charge and $80 dealer floor mats.  The Early Bird Launch Edition Special checked in at $55,250. Pricing in general remains thousands less than the BMW Z4 two-seat drive buddy.

The recommended Driver Assist Package adds a suite of next level radar-centric safety nuances starting with dynamic cruise control, which automatically speeds and slows Supra based on the vehicle ahead.  Both blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert assist the driver when approaching vehicles that may be unseen by pilots due to the coupe's diminutive windows and pesky blind spots.

The driver's door is home to a release button unlatching the sizeable, manually operated rear hatch. Supra's two side doors don't carry as much weight as pre-imagined and what sometimes thwarts easy closings in other coupes (looking at you Lexus RC).

The electronic transmission shifter features a 1980's arcade game joy stick design slipping effortlessly into a driver's right hand. Gears select with forward/backward triggers.  A button atop summons 'Park' when pushed.  A thumb-operated right-side release button unlocks the transmission from neutral to select 'reverse' (with a gentle motion forward) and 'drive' (tilting back). All the while a green light illuminates each gear. Carbon fiber enhancements surround the shift device.

Switching to the 'sport' drive mode from 'normal' sharpens throttle response, increases steering weight, improves transmission shift crispness and amplifies exhaust sounds.

Dual-zone HVAC control twist dials come standard with push buttons in between to monitor fan direction and speed.

The sound system and navigation interact through a flat, touch-sensitive color screen affixed to the upper middle dash. A horizontal row of eight station pre-set buttons reside below.  Besides the finger push, drivers may also interact through secondary steering wheel buttons and circular chrome dial between the front buckets motivating an on-screen curser near the 'sport' mode button.

The single screen instrument panel animates with a sporty colorful design and digital speedometer skewed to the left. In the center resides a prominent 'C-shaped' tachometer with illuminated bar-style fuel and temperature bar gauges at each side.

2020 Toyota Supra

Price as tested: $56,195

Engine:  3.0-liter inline six cylinder

Horsepower:  335

Wheelbase:  97.2 inches

Overall Length: 172.5 inches

Overall Width: 73 inches

Overall Height:  50.9 inches

Curb Weight:  3,397 pounds

Fuel Economy:  24 mpg city/31 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty:  Five years/60,000 miles

Assembly: Graz, Austria

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.