The Toyota Supra Returns – A90 GR Supra Unveiled

Few things take as long to arrive as the fifth generation Toyota Supra has.  In the automotive world, it’s tough to keep things secret, so for years now, Toyota hasn’t even tried.  They admitted several years ago that a new sports car was in the works through their partnership with BMW – the glorious Toyota FT-1 concept gave us our first glimmers of hope that the project would be the revival of the Supra.  Then Toyota confirmed it, and the announcement was followed by years of speculation, concept after concept, and camouflaged show cars.  The Supra was alive and well – but it took what felt like forever to finally arrive.

Here it is though, the 2019 Toyota GR Supra – codenamed A90 – the fifth generation Supra after a 17-year hiatus, and it has the Porsche 718 Cayman in its sights.

Highlights

  • Toyota GR Supra has Porsche 718 Cayman in its sights
  • Built on BMW CLAR platform
  • First global Toyota GR model
  • Front-engined, rear-wheel drive
  • 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-6 engine
  • 250kW, 500Nm, 8-speed automatic gearbox
  • 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds
  • 4-cylinder derivative built for 2JZ swap
  • Lower centre of gravity than Toyota 86
  • Enough power to exploit a driver’s chassis

Why The ‘GR’ Appendage?

As you may well have cottoned onto, the Supra nameplate isn’t standalone for the fifth generation.  Toyota has dubbed the model the GR Supra – owing to the heavy involvement of the brands racing arm, GAZOO Racing.  GAZOO Racing, or GR as they’re becoming known, are more than just a motorsport division, though, as they’ve been brought on-board to handle any and all of Toyota’s performance models.  It’s a glorious thing, Toyota returning to the performance car fray; and GR is at the forefront of it all.

The Toyota GR Supra is the first global GR model to be unveiled, following in the footsteps of the limited market Yaris GRMN hot hatch.  But enough on the name – it’s the details you’re interested in…

Potent Inline-6, Rear-Wheel Drive – Like A Toyota Supra Should Be

The Toyota Supra nameplate has been developed on a heritage of two key points – an inline-6 engine up front, and rear wheel driveIt’s what separated the original Celica Supra from the Celica upon which it was based.  The fifth-gen A90 Toyota Supra keeps with tradition and follows that simple recipe.

Power is derived from a single twin-scroll turbocharged (not twin-turbo) 3.0-litre 6-pot, developing 250kW @ 5,000-6,500rpm and 500Nm of torque between 1,600- and 4500rpm.  The engine is one sourced from BMW, and is the same B58 motor that features in the new Z4 M40i.  Power is directed to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic gearbox as the only option, though Toyota hasn’t ruled out a manual entirely, stating that development of such depends wholly on the demand for it from buyers.  For the meantime though, it’s worth noting that the 8-speed is one of the best on the market – the same 8-speed automatic unit sourced from ZF as used by BMW, Jaguar, Audi, and Alfa Romeo – and it features steering-mounted paddle shifters.

As for performance, launch control comes standard, enabling a 0-100km/h sprint of just 4.3 seconds, 0.3 seconds quicker than the Z4 M40i. Helping keep things glued at the rear for maximum performance, the Toyota Supra also benefits from an active differential that can lock up to 100% almost instantly by means of an electronically controlled clutch to adjust torque from left to right at the rear end.

Those disappointed with the reduced power output can be consoled by the fact that it’s highly likely Toyota will offer a Supra GRMN version at a later date, which should hopefully have the wick fully dialled up for maximum attack.

Any Other Engines; A 2JZ Perhaps?

No 2JZ, sorry folks, but in Japan only there will also be two 4-cylinder engine options for the Toyota Supra.  Wait, a 4-cylinder?  Isn’t the 6-cylinder the defining trait of the Supra, historically speaking?  That it is, as the Supra was the 6-cylinder derivative of the 4-cylinder Celica – we’re confused as well.  The 4-pot GR Supra will offer a 2.0-liter BMW turbo four with two power outputs; 145kW and 190kW – making the least powerful Supra less powerful than the Toyota 86.  Hmmm.  Both derivatives will also feature the 8-speed automatic gearbox from ZF and rely solely on rear-wheel drive.

But put the pitchforks down, folks.  On a Facebook post teasing the new GR Supra a week before its unveiling, Toyota confirmed that the 4-cylinder derivatives are engineered to allow the engine to be swapped out for a 2JZ – which in Japan is bound to happen within weeks of the first models being delivered to customers.

Enough About The 4-Pots,
Tell Me About The Chassis

Right, back to it then.  The chassis of the Toyota GR Supra is based on BMW’s CLAR platform that underpins the BMW Z4.  However, the closed top coupe gives it greater structural rigidity – which Toyota tells us is 2.5-times greater than the 86 and higher on the Supra than it was on the Lexus LFA supercar, despite the LFA’s carbon fibre construction.  In addition to structural rigidity, key pillars of the Toyota Supra’s chassis development were centre of gravity, a short wheelbase, broad track width, and ideal weight distribution.  The centre of gravity is lower than that of the Toyota 86 – an impressive feat considering the 86’s Boxer engine is renowned for a low centre of gravity – whilst the weight balance is a perfect 50:50 front/rear split.

Key Dimensions

  • Length: 4,380mm
  • Width: 1,865mm
  • Height: 1,295mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,470mm
  • Weight: 1,520kg

The perfect weight balance was achieved by pushing the engine as far back into the engine bay as possible – a technique used by Mercedes-AMG and Mazda in previous years to improve balance.  Additionally, the A90 GR Supra’s wheelbase is 100mm shorter than that of the 86, while the track is wider.

While all of this bodes well for handling, handling is nothing without suitable suspension to tie things down.  Toyota made full use of the highly rigid body structure to allow finer tuning of the suspension components.  To that end, double-joint McPherson strut front suspension and a five-link rear suspension setup have been used to allow for effective tuning and high levels of performance.  Available on some trim levels – South African specification is yet to be determined – adaptive variable suspension will enable greater levels of comfort and performance depending on drive modes selected.  Sport mode even allows for up to 7mm in ride height reduction.

Of course, the final links in the handling chain are the four rings of rubber at each corner.  Toyota has equipped the 19-inch forged alloy wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres – 255/35 at the front and 275/35 at the rear, with the wheels housing four-pot Brembo brakes for superior stopping power.

Fine tuning of the suspension was handled by numerous hours of testing and tuning on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, to ensure the Toyota Supra can live up to the demands of the world’s most challenging racetrack.

We’ve Drawn Our Own Conclusions About The Exterior,
Tell Us About The Interior

Much like the 4th-gen Supra, the A90 Toyota GR Supra features a driver-focused interior design.  The two-seat sports car’s dash is asymmetrical in design, with the centre console leaning towards the driver.  The dashboard itself is low and slim for high levels of visibility, while the instrument cluster features an 8.8-inch digital display and a heads-up display caters to all the important information a driver needs, in his/her line of sight.

Infotainment is handled courtesy of BMW’s iDrive system – a system that works rather fluently in newer iterations – featuring an 8.8-inch touchscreen display that can also be operated via a rotary controller on the centre console.

The two bucket seats in the A90 GR Supra are sports seats that have been influenced heavily by Toyota GAZOO Racing’s motorsports exploits, with particular note being given to the fact that owners are expected to utilise the new Supra on track.  They feature high levels of side bolstering, an integrated head restraint, and the seats can be optioned with either leather upholstery or a combination of leather bolsters with perforated Alcantara seat backs and cushions for improved ventilation.

In the way of technological features, items such as adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, adaptive LED lights, auto-dimming mirrors, a 12-speaker audio system, and a range of safety features including blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, and parking sensors are all available.

The Elephant In The Room:
A BMW Supra?

Many fans of the Supra, particularly of the 4th generation A80 with its 2JZ-GTE motor, are not happy though with the collaboration between BMW and Toyota on the new Supra.  The Supra was of course co-developed alongside the latest generation BMW Z4.  Both the Z4 and Toyota Supra are built upon developments of BMW’s CLAR platform, which also underpins the new 3 Series, 5 Series, and 8 Series, along with several X-models.  Fans don’t like this, claiming the Supra to be yet another badge-engineering effort as the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ was – with BMW doing the heavy lifting with Toyota taking credit.

While the basis for the Supra is the same as the Z4, BMW had only limited involvement in the engineering and design process.  The basic template was co-developed, with key points like the wheelbase and A-pillar positions being established to find the basic chassis’ hard-points.  After that, engineers went their own way, designing, tuning, and developing the chassis to suit their own brand’s needs.  The Toyota Supra benefits from being a closed top coupe, which gives the body greater rigidity – a trait that should endow it with impressive handling capabilities.  Toyota also lean towards a greater comfort bias with their suspension, though not at the compromise of performance, and so we look forward to what should be a well-sorted suspension setup capable of cross-country cruises or racetrack dissection.

But what of the engine; can a BMW B58 motor really be the successor to the infamous 2JZ? This is the biggest gripe fans have – why didn’t Toyota develop their own inline-6?  Why didn’t they just overhaul the 2JZ to modern standards?  On the latter front, ever-tightening emissions restrictions have ensured that older engine architectures are not environmentally suitable for reuse in modern cars.  There’s also the cost factor to think of – the cost of developing an entirely new inline-6, along with a new platform if fans had their way, would have pushed the development costs of the new Supra through the roof, resulting in a car that could only be sold at extremely high prices, cutting off most of the intended market.

Instead, Toyota sought out the brand currently producing the best inline-6 motors on the market.  BMW holds those bragging rights with an illustrious history of sixes that continues to this day in the M2, M3, and M4 models.  They were the natural choice, and with the use of the B58, not only is Toyota employing a technically sound motor, with proven performance, and reliability, but they also benefit from parts availability and tuning development in the aftermarket sector.  As to why Toyota offers the B58 detuned to 250kW, when the Z4 offers up to 285kW in the US market, we’re a little disappointed too – 280kW+ would’ve been brilliant in a compact coupe like the Supra – but Toyota claims that they didn’t want to overpower an engaging chassis, instead endowing the Supra with enough power to exploit what they deem to be a driver’s chassis.  The thrill of the drive is paramount.

It’s important to remember that the A80 (Mk IV) Supra was an average sports car in stock trim.  It was only once the aftermarket scene got hold of it that it developed the cult status it bears today, and many fans are comparing the aftermarket A80 to the stock A90 and frowning upon the new model in disappointment.  The future may yet yield the same aftermarket cult status for the A90 GR Supra.

Production & South African Arrival

Production of the Toyota GR Supra starts in the next couple of months, with all models being built alongside the BMW Z4 by Magna Steyr at their headquarters in Graz, Austria.  While Toyota South Africa has not confirmed final pricing or specification, they have confirmed an expected arrival of the GR Supra on local shores around mid-2019.

United States pricing, for reference, starts at $49,990, or R685,522 at current exchange rates.  Expect pricing to rise when it comes to SA, with import duties and other taxes pushing pricing up to near the R900k mark, or even higher.  The Z4 M40i will be comparably priced at just over R1-million.

The very first Supra to be sold was auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson last night for an astonishing $2.1-million. The First Edition model, known as “Global 1”, was auctioned off for charity, with all proceeds going to the American Heart Association and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

Toyota; Supra; GR Supra; Gazoo Racing; Gazoo; A90; 2JZ; B58; CLAR; Torquing Cars;
Never forget your past – the A90 Supra draws strongly on the heritage of the Toyota 2000GT

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