Our Toyota Supra long-termer can be sporty and a cruiser

Published: 15 January 2021

► CAR lives with a Supra
► Ben Barry is a big fan
► Will living with one change that?

I think this new Toyota Supra's a great motorway car. I know, that sounds a bit damning for a sports car, but it's because it feels so planted when you're cracking on. It's satisfying in a way I can't quite pinpoint just yet, although it's something to do with the swell of torque always available from the silky BMW turbo six.

I always default to the softer damper setting, even when I've got the steering and powertrain in perkier Sport (press start, select gear, press Sport, it's ingrained now), because the stiffer damper mode is a bit spiky.

You sit slightly recumbent in the low-set driving position (comfy enough, though my back's had enough after two hours). Road noise would creep in from the unseparated rear luggage area, but I tend to crank up the stereo to cover it up. My car's spec includes 12-speaker JBL Audio.

It's not just about laid-back, stereo-up motorway driving, though. I also particularly enjoy squirting along quick third- and fourth-gear twisty roads – that planted feel again, the smooth performance, how eagerly it changes direction and the accurate, pacey steering. I'd like more feel to that steering (make that some steering feel) and crisper gearshifts, and I can see there's room for extra dynamic sparkle on more technical roads, but I always enjoy the Toyota.

For a while I thought this car had less traction than the last new-generation Supra I drove. Tyre tread on the Michelin Pilot Super Sports is still very healthy, but the car was sliding early and quickly – short wheelbase, decent torque – in a softish sort of way. I adapted by not flattening the throttle quickly, more feeding it in like I'm dosing an infant on Calpol. And then I checked the pressures. They're at 30psi, down from the minimum 32psi recommended and I presume they've been that way while I've had it, seeing as the tyre-pressure monitoring hasn't blinked. Time for some higher pressures and a bit of experimentation, I think.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Toyota GR Supra Pro

Price £54,340 (£55,050 as tested)
Performance 2998cc turbocharged six-cylinder, 335bhp, 4.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 30.5mpg (tested), 188g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.7p per mile
Miles this month 1143
Total miles 1979

Month 1 living with a Toyota Supra: hello and welcome

Supra LTT cornering

There's so much irresponsibility to mentally sift through but ultimately there are two images that leap out when I think Toyota Supra, both Mk4-related. The first is Kazuhiko 'Smokey' Nagata, owner of Top Secret, a Japanese tuning house. Smokey brought his 1000bhp Supra to the UK in the late 1990s, hit 197mph on a straight stretch of the A1 (M) in the dead of night, before attending a Cambridgeshire police station and being sent back home.

The second was a pre-YouTube video of a lemon yellow Supra from Japanese tuners Jun, drifting a fast, dry corner on a circuit. It came into shot towing a cloud of tyre smoke and exited with a trebly wail that swirled howling turbo and screeching tyres into one nails-on-blackboard cacophony. I never knew cars could do this on a sealed surface.

The Mk4 ended production in 2002 but still has a strong following (sought-after UK-spec cars are advertised for £40k-£50k), and a fanbase that kept the faith for 17 whole years before the Mk5 arrived. So when a long-term loan became a possibility, that long wait and all that residual fondness meant I put my hand up for the keys like an over-eager pupil desperate to answer a question. I now have six months to resist driving like a lunatic in an Initial D comic.

While key tenets of the Supra philosophy remain the same, namely a turbocharged straight-six engine and rear-drive layout, more is different about this all-new generation – especially as the Mk5 is based on the BMW Z4 platform, and built at the same Magna Steyr production facility in Austria.

Read our BMW Z4 long-term test

So not only are the powertrain, suspension hardware and electronic systems carried over from the BMW, but so too is the infotainment and switchgear – you select Drive (this time the Supra is automatic only) on a BMW shifter, and twirl an iDrive rotary controller to select your radio station and nav destination. The interior even smells distinctly BMW. This seems strange at first, like opening your front door but walking into someone else's house. Equally, though, I'd rather use BMW infotainment than Toyota's.

For all the commonality, Toyota has been free to take this car in its own direction, with Tetsuya Tada (the engineer behind the GT86) leading development and giving the Supra his own distinctive signature. Not forgetting that the Supra is available only as a coupe, the Z4 only as a cabriolet – the only bespoke small sports car BMW makes and it lets Toyota do the more sporting version!

Supra LTT rear

More than the platform, the bigger mental block for me was performance. The Mk4 Supra went head-to-head with the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R, so I was sceptical on first hearing the Supra would produce 335bhp – comparable to the last of the UK models sold two decades earlier and far short of the now-ancient R35 GT-R's 562bhp.

But then the new Supra is also £31k cheaper than the £84,035 Nissan GT-R, and this is a more compact Supra than its predecessor – 131mm shorter overall and with a wheelbase 80mm shorter, which has played a useful part in keeping the weight down to a comparable 1495kg despite two decades of safety kit and technology added in.

The latest Supra GR (for Gazoo Racing, the umbrella for all Toyota racing exploits/racey road cars) comes in either entry-level or Pro trims. Our car is a Pro, which costs £54,340 and adds wireless phone charging, head-up display, 12-speaker JBL audio, full leather (standard is alcantara and leather) and a luggage net to an already strong standard spec.

Considering that Pro is but a £1305 premium, it's hard to imagine Toyota selling any entry-level Supras at all. Refreshingly, the only option added to our car is £710 for metallic white paint. It leaves the final tally at £55,050.

When I first drove the new Supra last year, I said I'd happily own one. This long-term loan will be the acid test.

Our Supra's spec details

Fully loaded
Our car gets the top-spec Pro trim (the launch-special A90 Edition was limited to 90 units). It adds just £1305 to the price, but comes with a stack of extra kit, including 12-speaker JBL audio and full leather. The only other option on our car is £710 of metallic white paint.

BMW for collab
Just like it did for the GT86, Toyota has teamed up with another manufacturer for the Supra – this time BMW. But unlike the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ, there's more than just badge engineering – the two cars look completely different, and only the Supra is a coupe.

Sawn-off dimensions
BMW 3.0-litre straight six with a twin-scroll single turbocharger gives 335bhp and 369lb ft torque. Eight-speed auto is standard, as are adaptive dampers. Wheelbase is shorter than the more junior GT86; the Supra has two seats, where the GT86 is a 2+2.

Logbook: Toyota GR Supra Pro

Price £54,340 (£55,050 as tested)
Performance 2998cc turbo straight-six, 335bhp, 4.3sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 34.4mpg (official), 33.5mpg (tested), 188g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.5p per mile
Miles this month 352
Total miles 836

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator