2020 Toyota Supra Review: Hallelujah, It’s Finally Here
Toyota Supra is back, after more than two decades, but is it enough to win the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, and buyers?
The weather is surprisingly mild at Summit Point’s Shenandoah circuit, in West Virginia, a point that Toyota’s team is sure to mention. The day before it was over 90 degrees outside, and the sun was unrelenting.
Toyota invited me out to experience the all-new 2020 Supra, and it’s a big deal for everyone involved. After all, the last time we saw the Supra nameplate in the United States, dial-up internet was still an uncommon privilege. We have come a long way since 1998, and so has the Supra.
This new model, chassis code A90, still has two doors, a turbocharged inline-six cylinder engine, and rear-wheel drive, but just about every other facet of Supra is thoroughly modern. That three-liter turbocharged powerplant has direct-fuel injection, a timing chain versus a belt, sky-high 11.0:1 compression, and uses aluminum in its construction, versus iron. It’s paired exclusively to an 8-speed automatic transmission. That’s twice as many gears as the optional automatic in the previous Supra. Oh, and that powertrain is sourced from BMW. The engine is called B58.
Supra’s entire platform is actually BMW-based, the result of an alliance between the two manufacturers to each build their own sports car. Toyota now has a Supra, and BMW now has a Z4, again. Fans of the brand may recall that the Toyota 86 sports car began a similar way, through a partnership with Subaru.
The details of Supra, in large part because of this collaboration with BMW, have been a serious point of contention for enthusiasts. So, is the new Supra just the latest result of badge-engineering, or, is it the real deal? There’s only one way to find out.
Supra was honed on the Nurburgring
Did you know it’s not called Supra? Toyota actually calls the car “GR Supra.” GR stands for Gazoo Racing, which is Toyota’s international motorsports division. Perhaps a bit humorous, considering the tie-in with BMW, but Toyota spent a lot of time driving and developing Supra on the infamous Nurburgring. The reasons behind the ‘Ring development were twofold: it’s one of the most hardcore tracks on Earth, with the Nordschliefe being almost 13 miles long. It’s also extremely bumpy and rough, like a back road. So, in theory, if a sports car works well at the ‘Ring, it will work on your favorite driving road.
To that end, Toyota is adamant that Supra has the chops to hang at the local track day and knock out fast laps. Make those, fast, consistent laps, too. Toyota allowed myself and the two dozen other journalists in attendance unlimited on-track time during our eight hours at Shenandoah. Most track days operate via multiple 20-30 minute sessions, and the Supra delivers here. Despite being hotlapped all day, with no cool down time between drivers, every car offered perfectly consistent, trouble-free lapping.
I am a track day junkie, and a prolific brake killer, among other things. My friends made me custom “No Brake Jake” stickers that are displayed prominently on my track cars. It’s half joke, and half warning to other track-goers.
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Despite my car-killing proclivities, Supra was unbothered. It didn’t kill it’s Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, nor it’s brakes. Those large stoppers are 13.7-inches up front with four piston calipers, and 13-inches out back, with single-piston calipers. Though, that’s only for the base GR Supra, if you spring for the Premium, or Launch Edition model (a 2020 exclusive), the rear stoppers get bumped up to 13.6-inches.
Those brakes are tucked behind a set of 19-inch wheels, which measure nine-inches wide up front, and 10-inches wide out back, with 255 and 275 section-width rubber, respectively.
The suspension, likewise, is impressively flat under braking in cornering. The standard two-mode adaptive dampers are likely a big part of this. Despite the high levels of adhesion and precision, Supra is willing to wag its tail if you lean too heavily on the throttle. And, with 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque on tap nearly instantly from that turbo-six, it’s a capable of putting on a real smoke show, if drifting is your thing.
My only notable gripe on track is the transmission. While it offers super fast upshifts, downshifts were occasionally reluctant, and sometimes utterly recalcitrant. More than the absolute performance, however, it simply felt odd that this car does not offer a manual transmission. A 6-speed manual seems like it would really fit the character of the car better.
Indeed, Supra is, by most every measure, a supremely capable track day toy, which is less common at this price point than people assume. Toyota wasn’t kidding about its on-track chops and credentials. It’s not just marketing fluff, Supra is the real deal.
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