By Peter Lyon, Tokyo, Japan
Remember the quick, cool-looking Toyota coupe that featured in the Fast and Furious series and was quicker than a Porsche 911, at half the price? Well it’s back. At least, it soon will be.
But Japan’s biggest automaker is staggering the launch of the long-awaited, all-new Supra, teasing the motoring public with surprise camouflaged guest appearances like the one at Britain’s famous Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this summer.
There has been a 16- year hiatus since the last Supra A80 model ceased production, so the market is ripe. To satisfy an obvious need, Toyota and BMW have joined forces to co-develop the new Supra A90 model, in conjunction with a new BMW Z4, which will make its public debut at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, on California’s Monterey Peninsula.
Originally based on the Celica, the first generation Supra launched in 1978. By the time the fourth-generation model went out of production in 2002, it had garnered cult status 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 younger readers will remember as it took design hints from the legendary Toyota 2000GT, was powered by a 280 hp twin-turbocharged straight-6 and competed in numerous racing series.
All-new fifth generation
Fast forward to the present. When the all-new A90 version barrelled up the legendary 1.16-mile long Goodwood hill in July, it was the first time the new coupe had been seen on a track by the public anywhere - this time without all the wings and appendages that obscured the true identity of the Race Car Concept shown earlier in Geneva.
Toyota chose the Festival to present its all-new, fifth-generation Supra to a couple of hundred specially-invited prior-model Supra owners at a secret location near the track. Then, the following day, Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, jumped behind the wheel of the heavily camouflaged coupe and sped up the hill as his guests looked on and listened to what they’d been waiting for – that exhaust note!
Would it meet their expectations? According to a few Supra enthusiasts I managed to corner, the exhaust sound was, “beefy, dry and raspy with just the right howl.” That sounds like a thumbs up to me. We’ll have to wait and see if any modifications are made before the car lands in showrooms by next spring.
Two engine choices
Now to the all-important engine variation that was co-developed with BMW. While Toyota and Tada were being tight-lipped about exact engine specs and performance figures, we were able to scrounge some details from a Toyota source who volunteered the following information.
The entry-level model will be powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo generating 192 hp. Leading the new line-up as its flagship model will be a BMW-developed 3.0-litre inline 6-cylinder turbo pumping out a healthy 360 hp, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
From what I’m hearing, another feature that makes the new Supra different from all preceding Toyota models is that it will be built in Austria by manufacturing firm Magna Steyr, a division of Canadian-based Magna Corp.
Magna Steyr specializes in low-volume production for carmakers such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Peugeot and will start producing the Supra later this year, readying cars for delivery to showrooms in Europe and Japan by Spring 2019. The car’s main North American market can expect deliveries to start by February.
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 in the all-new Supra. This is a halo car for Toyota and must have hero looks and segment-leading performance.
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.
What stands out about this new Supra is its elevated level of aesthetic appeal and on-road grunt. It will pack 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.
Look for the Supra early in 2019 when it arrives in showrooms with the entry-level 2.0L version wearing a sticker price starting at just over US$50,000, while the flagship 3L turbo model will tickle the north side of US$60,000.