Toyota has tested the new Supra sports car on Australian roads before it arrives in showrooms in the second half of next year.
However, rather than making changes to suit local conditions, the week-long exercise was used to validate settings already developed on foreign roads.
The camouflaged Supra was air-freighted from Germany to Melbourne, before being sent to Japan.
The test loop took in the Great Ocean Road, Mount Buller, the Yarra Valley as well as city and suburban driving. The Supra was also sampled on sections of dirt road.
Tada-san said he wanted to sample the Supra in Australian conditions because the local Toyota test team is “expert in suspension tuning and dynamics”.
“It’s also great to experience our car on your tough roads,” said Tada-san.
Toyota would not reveal what changes it might make as a result of the test, however Tada-san said he “confirmed the performance target we set for Supra … and what you’d expect from a high-end sports car”.
“For example,” he said, “we know your drivers tend to favour strong body control and steering feel, particularly with your undulating road surfaces.”
While there will not be an Australia-specific suspension tune, Tada-san said the engineering division would analyse the data from the Victorian drive and take it into consideration “to make fine adjustment right up to production, which will begin in the first half of next year (2019)”.
“There are so many unsealed roads here and it’s particular for Australia,” said Tada-san. “We have another update chance before (going on sale) so I think we will incorporate that for the update.”
Clearly proud of his second high-profile sports-car, Tada-san said the Supra’s handling was “completely neutral … if you find you have gone into the corner too fast … it’s very easy to make (an) adjustment”.
As reported earlier, Toyota says the A90 Supra body has two-and-a-half times more structural rigidity than a Toyota 86, a lower centre of gravity lower than an 86 (“which was a challenge given the in-line six-cylinder engine”), a shorter wheelbase than an 86, and 50:50 front-to-rear weight distribution.
“The new car is much more focused on the track … it’s a very serious sports car,” said Tada-san.
Senior Toyota Australia engineer Paul Diamandis said customer research showed most prospective Supra buyers listed “holiday and travel” as their number one hobby – so the company wanted to make sure the Supra could handle a dirt road leading to a winery, for example.
Price is yet to be announced but the new Supra is expected to cost somewhere between the $40,000 RRP of a well-equipped Toyota 86 coupe and the expected $80,000-plus starting price of the new BMW Z4, with which the Supra shares its underpinnings.
The jointly-developed BMW Z4 convertible and Toyota Supra coupe will be built on the same Magna Steyr assembly line in Austria.
Tada-san said the Supra wouldn't have been possible without sharing development costs with another vehicle manufacturer.
“The six-cylinder engine is very important heritage for the Supra,” said Tada-san, via a translator. “Six years ago we started development of this car and (the) straight six engine was only held by very few companies. To revive the Supra this partnership was very important.”
Tada-san said it was not economically viable for Toyota to develop a six-cylinder engine on its own, let alone a unique platform.
“If you look at the current Toyota (we are) working in partnership with other companies a lot. That’s the era now,” said Tada-san. “You’ve got to collaborate … otherwise you can’t survive. Even Toyota, a big company, cannot actually survive in this era if you don’t (share costs on specialist cars).”
When asked if there will be a new generation Toyota 86, Tada-san said: “Next generation 86, we’ll look at it … there will be a more emotional car for the next generation 86.”
Toyota is yet to confirm technical details for the Supra, however the BMW Z4 provides a rather large clue given they will share their engine and transmission.
The single-turbo 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder is tipped to have “more than 220kW of power and 450Nm of torque” and is expected to come with an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
A manual transmission will likely not be available due to the shrinking sports car market globally.
BMW’s engineering chief Klaus Frohlich told US media media earlier this year: “At the moment this segment is very small, and I had to fight hard to make the [new Z4] happen at all, honestly,” Frohlich told Road&Track magazine.
“It was against the finance controllers. But you should drive it. It is sensational.”
For Toyota, the Supra will act as a halo for the rollout of future “Gazoo Racing” models, in essence Toyota’s sporty division.
The Supra will help launch the Gazoo Racing brand but the “GR” badge is expected to eventually make its way onto hot versions of other models in the Toyota range, including Yaris, Corolla and C-HR.
“As the first Gazoo Racing branded car, the positive impact Supra will have on the brand far outweighs the sales … of the car,” said Toyota Australia spokesman Brodie Bott.