Car Review: The Toyota Supra returns after a 27-year absence

Toyota is the sensible car company, with sedans, trucks and plenty of crossovers. They’ve done very well without making a sports car.

But when the current CEO Akio Toyoda took over in 2009, he had a new motto, “no boring cars.” This new CEO with motor sports in his blood was signaling that the time was right for the Supra sports car to make a return after 27 years.

To do it right, Toyota went looking for a partner.

Creating a low-volume sports car from scratch costs big money, and trying to sell a new Supra at six figures would be an even tougher sell in today’s crossover-crazed market.

Enter BMW, who knows something about sports car and had the inline-six engine Toyota needed for the next Supra.

You might have read about or seen pictures of the 2020 Supra online but there’s nothing like being up close and personal with this racy-looking, two door sport car at the Supra’s U.S. debut event.

The 2020 Supra is its own car and it really stands out, with shapes that look almost impossible to form with metal and aluminum. But it still pays homage to Supra’s of the past.

It uses that distinctive roof with dual bubbles over the heads of the driver and passenger from the Iconic 1960s Toyota 2000GT. Looking at the side you’ll notice the shape of the side glass is also reminiscent of the past. On the 2020, you’ll see many vents, fins and slots on the Supra body like on the top of the hood or around the side of the car around the wheels.

While most are for decoration, this Supra is ready for the aftermarket. Those plastic pieces can be removed revealing space for extra brake or engine cooling or a body kit.

Looks are very important to a sports car but the drive is what makes a successful car. Toyota set the bar very high by going after the Porsche Cayman, a stalwart in the sports-car world.

The 2020 Supra mostly hits the mark when it comes time to hit the road.

The new Supra balances track and daily-driving ability without making you pay with a rough ride. While there is no slick manual transmission, there is a very good eight-speed automatic that delivers lightning-quick shifts when needed. It’s happy on the track and is smooth on the street and wants to quickly upshift for fuel economy.

The turbo six might be from BMW but it seems to have a slightly different sound. It’s a smooth runner that loves to rev with very little turbo lag. All of the pops and crackles from the exhaust are instantly exciting and would make most drivers want to take their foot off the gas to hear it again and again.

Hold on tight, this fast car delivers zero to 60 mph in about four seconds. The handling limits are high with the relatively short wheel base it will drift without much trouble.

During time at the track, I learned that this car is forgiving when pushed and little errors don’t end up on YouTube, thanks to stability control. But you can turn it off and really push the car; I’m not that guy as I could see the Supra bite if you have more bravado than skill.

The steering seems very direct, but it was a little light on the track for my taste. Brakes were fade free for track time and haul it down easily from triple-digit speeds.

The new Supra will start right around $50,000, a price that’s within reach to more drivers.

Again with Toyota working with BMW, the Supra features the IDrive system that controls the NAV and radio. Other tech includes Wireless Apple CarPlay. The seats are leather/Alcantera in the base car or spend another $3,500 and upgrade to leather seats and an upgraded JBL sound system with 500 watts of clean-sounding audio.

The seats have many power adjustments including the width to help keep you planted in the seats for track driving.

Taller drivers should make sure there is plenty of space — one of my riding partners was about 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and seemed to fit with a helmet.

Vision out of the car is good, looking forward and is somewhat limited out the side, so mirror placement is important. A glance out the small back window is filled with spoiler.

I went in skeptical of its performance, and after time on the street and on the track, came away impressed.

Verdict: Toyota hit the mark with the new Supra with a little help from Europe.

This Toyota-BMW collaboration has given us a new, focused 2020 Supra that is great fun on the track and an equally competent road car that will make people look twice and give you the thumbs up.

Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by DriveShop, FMI or Motus One for the purpose of this review.

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