The Supra is back. Yes, the fast, cool-looking Toyota coupe that featured in the Fast and Furious movie series and was once quicker than a Porsche 911, but half the price, will make a long-awaited return after a 16-year hiatus. And given the fact that Toyota and BMW joined forces to co-develop the Supra – as well as a new BMW Z4 – means that anyone who has even the faintest interest in sports cars cannot ignore this reintroduction.
Originally based on the Celica, the first generation Supra launched in 1978, and by the time the fourth generation went out of production in 2002, it has garnered cult status by appearing in popular games like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, Need For Speed and Midnight Club as well as blockbuster movies including the Fast and Furious franchise that’s grossed over $5 billion. It is actually the fourth generation model that most readers will remember as it took design hints from the legendary Toyota 2000GT, took on Europe’s best with its 280hp twin-turbocharged straight-6 and competed in numerous racing series.
For the last 15 years, we have been hearing constant rumors about the Supra’s rebirth, with an extra injection of hype after Toyota and BMW announced their collaboration back in 2013. The strange thing was that both carmakers went almost silent on this joint venture until mid-2017. Now, the on-again, off-again, on-again story of a new Supra finally has an ending. Or should we say a beginning?
Destined to be unveiled in its racing setup at the Geneva Motor Show on March 6, information is just starting to surface about this new strategic launch. As far as design and proportions go, you can’t look at the Toyota FT-1 Concept car from the 2014 Detroit show and not see strong design hints for the all-new Supra. This is a halo car for Toyota and must have hero looks and segment-leading performance.
Photo courtesy of Toyota
The new Supra inherits proportions almost identical to the FT-1 Concept but loses the F1-influenced hood.
While the actual Supra will employ almost identical proportions to that of the FT-1 Concept and retain the same shaped headlights and double bubble roof design, it will tone down the Formula 1 influence seen in the FT-1’s hood and add larger air dams. The illustration you see here is an artist’s impression of what the new Supra will look like based on a mix of the FT-1’s exterior and design elements seen on the camouflaged Supra prototype circling Germany’s famed Nurburgring circuit.
The new breed
What stands out about this new Supra is its elevated level of aesthetic appeal and on-road grunt. Toyota’s new coupe will arrive with more emotional content than we’ve seen on any model from Toyota over the past 15 years. And we have to thank Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda for that, the boss who is pushing his design teams “to ditch dull” and inject emotion. It’s also reassuring to see that Toyota chose the right engineer to head up the development team – the current 86’s chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, who has been charged with balancing the Supra’s looks with its performance and pricing.
Now to the all-important engine selection that was co-developed with BMW. The entry-level model will be powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo generating 192 hp while a high-powered 245 hp 2.0-liter turbo will offer beefier performance. Leading the new line-up as its flagship model is a BMW-developed 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder turbo pumping out a healthy 360 hp, with all three engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
But what makes the new Supra different to all preceding Toyota models is the fact that it will be built in Austria by manufacturing firm Magna Steyr. This company specializes in low-volume production for carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Peugeot and will start producing the Supra later this year, readying the cars for delivery to showrooms in Europe and Japan by Spring 2019. The car’s main U.S. market can expect deliveries to start soon after the production version is unveiled at the Detroit show in January.
In Japan, however, the Supra will be sold through Toyota’s new specialist sub-brand GR, which of course originates from the company’s racing arm Gazoo Racing. Launched last September, Toyota tells us that the specialist brand will have 39 stores up and running across the country by the end of March.
GR’s mission is to eventually customize the vast majority of Toyota’s line-up and has already rolled out GR variants of popular production models like the Yaris, Prius, 86 and Harrier among others. But GR will also offer bespoke models like the Supra and the 1000 hp GR Super Sports Concept which is based on a hybrid Le Mans-spec race car and was revealed at the recent Tokyo Auto Salon.
The hero car effect that this joint project generates could help both BMW and Toyota gain even higher positions in Fortune’s Top 50 “World’s Most Admired Companies” after BMW ranked in at 19th and Toyota picked up 29th for this year’s rankings.
Look out for the Supra early in 2019 when it arrives in showrooms with the entry-level 2L version wearing a sticker price starting at just over $50,000, while the flagship 3L turbo model will tickle the north side of $60,000.