First entering the automotive lexicon in 1979, Toyota Supra harkens back to an era of 'entry import sport.' Back then, and through its second generation ending in 1986, Supra got folded into the compact Celica family. By Generation Three (1986.5-1992) Supra and Celica parted ways: Supra retaining performance-friendly rear drive while Celica settled in with platonic front drive. The fourth generation Supra closed out in 1998, taking a two decade sabbatical before its 2020 model year rebirth.
Resurrecting a storied moniker from the automotive past and slapping on a modern chassis remains common business practice; so too is platform sharing, when two seemingly rival companies join together to produce offspring. More often than not, platform sharing involves a lower-volume product, a two-seat sports vehicle for instance, where both parties recoup investment costs. In this case Supra and BMW's Z4 roadster team up, since diminutive two-seater specs don't mix well with sedan, crossover or bulky SUV platforms.
Toyota also teams with fellow Japanese automaker Subaru to construct the 86/BRZ rear-drive lightweight tandem. For those drawing a blank when picturing a Toyota 86, it started life as the Scion FR-S (coupe-like sportster) before adoption into Toyota's lineup after the young-at-heart Scion division quietly exited the marketplace, stage left, in 2016.
Toyota provided a glimpse into the fifth-generation GR Supra hardtop (BMW's Z4 got the convertible version) when flaunting the FT-1 concept tease at public auto show circuits around the country (including Chicago) back in 2015.
The GR prefix represents 'Gazoo Racing' an internal Toyota motorsports code of personal importance to Toyota's top guy and notable Big Wig, CEO Akio Toyoda.
The rear-drive Supra sits low to the ground with a miniscule 4.5 inch ground clearance, attaining near-perfect front-back weight balance. It also boasts a wide stance with rear track measuring 62.6 inches (two inches wider than Toyota 86) and front track at 62.8 inches (three inches wider than the 86). On open roads, Supra remains planted during spirited turns.
For some, the low stance creates an interesting twist when entering and exiting; especially those with six decades of existence under their belt and heights above six feet. A strong central core helps when bending and maneuvering inside all while avoiding door frame head knocking. Supra feels the road below, imperfections and all, while transferring those murmurs to inhabitants, instead of smoothing out the rough edges; an acquired taste.
Lots takes place during GR Supra's notable 2021 sophomore season as a second engine option comes aboard in the form of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin scroll turbo joining a returning 3.0-liter, twin scroll inline six turbo significantly tweaked with improved horsepower (now 382, up from 335) and better low-end torque. Both engines require premium fuel. The prominent, deep-throated audio notes emitted by our six tester drew interest of passersby as much as its striking good looks.
Toyota accomplishes a 14 percent power upgrade in the turbo six by incorporating a dual branch exhaust manifold improving air flow and heat management along with a new piston design benefitting the compression ratio. A retuned chassis welcomes aboard reprogramed electric power steering and vehicle stability control upgrades, noted during multiple turning maneuvers.
Both engines team with an eight-speed automatic transmission; the days of a manual, stick-shift opportunity remains, for now at least, buried deep within the rear-view mirror as a remnant of a bygone generation.
Supra simplifies shopping with three well-stocked trims (2.0, 3.0, 3.0 Premium) each offering a single option package and half-dozen exterior color preferences. Four-cylinder 2.0 Supra pricing checks in at $43,090. Our 3.0 Premium listed for $54,490.
The recommended $1,195 Driver Assist Package brought the bottom line to $56,680 after factoring a $995 destination charge. This package includes radar-enhanced rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring, two useful high-tech aids as narrow side windows and tough side sight lines create potential headaches.
First year sales during a pandemic stricken 2020 ended up at a niche-respectable 5, 887, easily doubling down from numbers posted by the Toyota 86, ending at 2,476.
Half-a-dozen Memorial Day Weekenders commented positively in Supra's favor; a multi-generation crowd pleaser; probably the better looking the two automotive twins. It's long, wide hood reaches down to the highly curved, bulbous front side fender meeting closely with a side character line reaching out onto long (and surprisingly lightweight) side door. Cosmetic black, vent-like scallops mingle on the doors and hood while black composite cladding frames lower extremities.
A six pack of diminutive, square, auto-leveling LED lights stacked and staggered together in 2 x 2 x 2 fashion flank the grill-free front centered by Toyota's circular T logo atop and a tri-sectioned black lower air dam. A long string of under brow amber lights curve under the LED six pack emitting a striking turn signal message when teamed with secondary amber side-mirror bulbs.
At the other end, the long (relatively heavy) rear hatch resides at a 45-degree angle as it narrows towards the flipped up whale tail end point flanking smoothly rounded rear fenders. Lift up manually and Supra welcomes 10.2 cubic feet of cargo space, enough for long holiday weekend complete with a couple of small roller-type luggage carriers, a diminutive bag of puppy chow and tag-along squeaky toys.
The extra food and toys were on board to welcome a young and shaggy K9 colleague. Nine month old Abby, a grey miniature Schnauzer with 'drama queen' attitude and a nose for news (and nuisance) eagerly accepts her role as automotive newshound.
While accurately listed as a two seater, Abby proved three is not necessarily a crowd inside a GR Supra. A lap puppy by nature, Abby found other plateaus to enjoy the ride and a siesta or two, whether gangly slung over center cup holders or uncovering a not so secret, narrow, critter-sized, passage between seat backs leading into the cargo hold.
As with many two-seat roadsters, finding a trove of inside compartments to store stuff, remains low. Supra is no exception. One does find the convenience of the duo, circular inline beverage holders and bonus rectangular hold between front buckets (as long as no K9 intrudes) in addition to a Supra-small glove box.
A dare-to-be-different instrument panel combines an animation backdrop with a stationary, backlit "C-shaped" center structure creating a three-dimensional visual experience. A prominent tachometer with animated white needle illuminates inside "C" framing while a digital speedometer flanks to the left and four-color message center to the right. Inner bottom edges feature bar-type gas and temperature gauges.
The right palm-friendly electronic gear shift harkens back to a 1980's arcade style multi-function joy stick. Push the top edge for summoning 'Park.' Gently nudge forward for reverse, backward for drive. Aft of the shifter resides a traction control button allowing tires smoke and squeal functioning when deactivated. In line behind is a long button for choosing 'sport' or 'normal' drive mode.
The long, smooth dashboard adds to a non-cluttered, clean face sporting narrow closable air vents. Above these vents, expect a centered 8.8-inch multi-function, touch-sensitive flat screen. Below the vents reside a row of eight preset buttons working in tandem with the screen. Small HVAC controls with dual temperature twist dials flank a row of push buttons including fan direction and speed.
The multi-function screen also accepts additional input cues via a circular, tactile push dial between front buckets. The easiest way of selecting favorite audio remains the three-spoke steering wheel thumb scroll at 3 o'clock for zipping through terrestrial and Satellite stations.
By simply trotting atop the center console of buttons and push dials, Pandemic puppy Abby easily adjusted satellite radio stations to her liking while from time to time deactivating traction control, seemingly to say, "Daddy, please spin those rear tires."
Japan's largest automaker includes 'ToyotaCare,' a notable perk standard in every 2021 Supra. It's a no-cost maintenance program covering normal factory-scheduled service for two years or 25,000 miles including oil and filter changes, fluid level adjustment and tire rotation. Also included; a Roadside Assistance package (with unlimited miles for two years) in case unforeseen jump starts, towing or emergency fuel delivery events spring up unexpectedly during a long holiday weekend.
2021 Toyota Supra
Price as tested: $56,690
Engine: 3.0-liter inline turbo six
Wheelbase: 97.2 inches
Overall Length: 172.5 inches
Overall Width: 73 inches
Overall Height: 50.9 inches
Curb Weight: 3,400 pounds
Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Five years/60,000 miles
Assembly: Graz, Austria