A NEW DAWN: Toyota GR Supra

Supra

There is nothing like a bit of controversy to spice up things in the motor industry. Inevitably, despite protestations to the contrary, this often leads to the brands in question getting more press coverage than they may otherwise have – there being no such thing as bad publicity and all that.

Toyota and BMW’s co-development of the GR Supra and Z4 roadster is but the latest example of this, although platform sharing is all but par for the course in the modern-day motoring world. There are numerous examples of brand collaboration in the industry today, and while Toyota and BMW may not seem, on the face of it at least, the most natural of bedfellows, sometimes getting what we want means working with people who we wouldn’t normally associate with. It’s the same with car companies.

Sometimes these collaborations fail – think the Mercedes-Benz badged Nissan Navara – and sometimes they work, which leads us neatly to all-new, fifth-generation, Toyota Supra, which recently made its South African debut on the high roads, and byroads, of the Eastern Cape.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Based on the 2014 Toyota FT-1 concept, the aggressively styled Supra is nothing if not a dramatic looking machine that, at least in the looks department, sets itself apart (really really far) from its German cousin.

But, despite Toyota’s protestations to the contrary, is where the on-paper disparity between the two cars ends.

Crucially, the Supra is powered by a BMW-sourced 3.0-litre straight-six engine that churns out 250 kW and 500 Nm of torque. As with the Z4, power is channelled to the rear wheels via an eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission. This combination, along with the addition of launch control, endows the Supra with a 4.3-second, zero to 100 km/h sprint time.

That’s super quick by any standards, and will leave even the most enthusiastic driver surprised at the Supra’s surefooted responsiveness.

Supra

PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN

While the Supra is fully imported to the country, and can’t quite claim the above “Proudly South African” moniker, Toyota South Africa has tailor-made, as it were, the Supra for local conditions, and budgets. There is a down-specced (and slightly cheaper) GR Supra Track version, and the full-fat GR Supra, both of which boast 19” alloy wheels and an active diff set-up, as per the Z4 platform.

The ‘standard’ car comes fully specified with all the trimmings expected of a near-R1 million sports car, including most driver aids and other componentry that would otherwise be available as options on the BMW. This encompasses an 8.8” touchscreen infotainment system, satellite navigation, a high-fidelity 12-speaker JBL audio system, Alcantara and leather sports seats, a wireless charging pad, park distance control, and a head-up display. And that’s just inside the car.

Added to this ergonomic laundry list are under-the-skin features such as adaptive suspension, and active-safety equipment including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam headlights, road sign assist, rear-end collision alert and cross-traffic alert.

For those who feel that the GR Supra (which comes in at a base price of R1,072,300) is a little too rich for their blood, Toyota also purpose-created a track-spec Supra, which, they say, is aimed at “driving enthusiasts”, and comes in at a somewhat more palatable R953,000. If you’re wondering where the price drop comes from, the GR Supra Track worryingly loses out on a few safety items including the pre-crash warning system, lane-keep assist, and lane departure warning. You will also not find adaptive cruise control or road sign assist, while the tyre deflation warning system also gets the chop. There is also no head-up display or navigation, no wireless charger or adaptive headlamps, and the now manually-adjusted seats are in cloth trim.

The Track car does, however, come with equipped with dual-zone air conditioning, a leather steering wheel and digital instrument cluster, LED rear lights and LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming rear mirrors and rain-sensing wipers, and a reverse-view camera without rear sonar feedback. The infotainment system is down-specced to a 10-speaker system, while the display is a smaller, less functional 6.5” unit.

Supra

AND CAN IT DRIVE?

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the drive, let’s draw a line in the sand here. Yes, the Supra simply cannot hide the pervasive German influence that’s visible throughout the cabin; and no, it doesn’t try to conceal this, either. The question is, however, whether this matters where it matters – on the road…

Climb in the Supra, and the first thing you notice is that this car was designed with a singular purpose: to achieve maximum engagement from the driver. Sure, it is luxurious enough to justify the price tag, and the necessary bells and whistles are present and accounted for, but only when you press the start button, and the six-cylinder comes alive with a frenzied growl, do you realise that this is not your average Toyota.

Despite the confines of the city, where our launch drive began, the Supra makes no subtle moves or coy advances. Instead, even in Normal driving mode, power delivery is surprisingly instantaneous and engaging. Ride quality, while not cushy, is supple enough to consider the Supra for daily driving duties, should you wish to do so, and firm enough to remain composed during more technical driving exercises.

And that is precisely what we exposed the Supra to during the remainder of our Eastern Cape driving experience.

Considering the Supra’s manifest sportiness, one would expect it’s ride quality to be severely compromised by undulating road surfaces, something there is an abundance of in this part of the world. To my surprise, however, in Normal mode, the suspension performed amicably under the circumstances, while dialling in Sport mode stiffened the suspension noticeably, but left enough inherent comfort to qualify the Supra for long-distance cruising status.

Moreover, the Supra is an entertaining, and spectacularly uncomplicated car to pilot, especially at speed. Despite being so closely related, the Supra and Z4 are entirely different beasts.

Where the Z4 is a stiff-collared college kid, the Supra is its skater boy twin that gets the model girlfriend.

The two cars may share a platform, engine, and gearbox, but both Toyota and BMW were separately responsible for settings to the cars’ active damping system, power steering set-up, and differential. Even the BMW engine did not escape scrutiny, and adjustment, from Toyota’s development engineers.

LAST WORD

Not without its (minor) faults, the Supra does what it says on the box, and deserves its place in the hallowed halls of Supra-dom, as every boy racer who has yearned to drive one since childhood will confirm. So what if the inside is more Munich than Tokyo, what matters is how driving a Supra makes you feel, and whether it will make a worthy addition to your dream garage. It gets the thumbs-up from us in every respect.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © TOYOTA SOUTH AFRICA