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When Toyota's chief engineer, Tatsuya Tada, was asked to jump on a flight to Munich virtually unbriefed for a high-level meeting with BMW's senior management around five years ago, he was excited and nervous.
That meeting heralded a green light for him to commence work with BMW on a brand new platform for the new 2020 Toyota Supra that would be shared with the new Z4 convertible.
After intense negotiation and a protracted prototyping phase, BMW and Toyota settled on the core dimensions that would form the basic platform their vehicles share.
Common to both the Supra and Z4 is BMW's turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine, a BMW interior and a ZF Sachs automatic transmission. But that's where the similarities end.
Tada-san's team began working on unique suspension, engine, steering and braking tunes, in addition to a unique design that would set the Supra apart from the Z4.
In fact, the BMW and Toyota teams didn't drive each other's cars until production had almost started, creating something of a blind taste test.
Toyota's final product, the GR Supra, was unveiled to the world at the 2019 Detroit motor show almost five years after Tada-san's first meeting with BMW executives.
The Supra moniker is steeped in history at Toyota, synonymous with the pinnacle of performance grand touring for the brand. Dating back to 1978, the original A40 Supra was based on the Celica and replaced its four-cylinder engine with a six-cylinder unit.
That tradition continued with the A60, which was also called a Celica Supra, given it was effectively a faster version of the Celica. It wasn’t until 1986, when Toyota launched the A70, the Supra badge was allowed to stand alone.
Featuring a turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine, the A70 Supra was the fastest Japanese car at the time, and served as a new base for Toyota’s foray into track racing and rallying in Japan and Europe.
The A80 Supra – arguably the most well-known Supra model – was unveiled in 1993 and it was a runaway success. It also made the 2JZ engine famous, with tuners able to extract some 1000hp out of the package and create all manner of crazy road and track cars.
Pricing and specs
Kicking off from $84,900 plus on-road costs, the latest Supra is available in two trim levels; GT and GTS. Stepping up to the GTS will cost you another $10,000 more, but brings with it a greater specification level.
Standard specification across both the GT and GTS is excellent. Standard features include adaptive LED headlights, heated and folding mirrors, automatic wipers, leather seats with eight-way power adjustment, an 8.8-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring, adaptive cruise control, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging,18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker stereo with DAB+ digital radio, and satellite navigation.
Stepping up to the GTS nets you a 12-speaker JBL stereo, a head-up display, bigger 19-inch forged alloy wheels, and red brake calipers with larger brakes at the rear axle.
The cabin is a great place to be seated, with body-hugging seats offering electric side and back bolster adjustment. Leading the tech charge is a Toyota-skinned version of BMW's 8.8-inch iDrive infotainment system. It's easy to use and is backed by an intelligent voice recognition system to simplify command entry.
Unlike some small sports cars, there's plenty of storage for odds and ends. You'll also find two cup holders and a wireless phone charging bay – a very handy feature in this day and age.
Ahead of the driver is another colour display offering trip computer information, a tachometer and detailed navigation information. In the GTS variant it's backed by a crystal-clear head-up display loaded with useful information to help keep your eyes on the road.
The entire package is backed by a suite of standard safety equipment including high-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistant, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Under the bonnet is a slightly modified version of BMW's B58 turbocharged six-cylinder engine. It's a 3.0-litre unit with a twin-scroll turbocharger, mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
Producing 250kW of power and 500Nm of torque, it's colossally quick. Using the inbuilt launch control program it'll sprint from 0-100km/h in just 4.3 seconds, which is partly thanks to its sticky tyres.
Toyota fits the race-inspired Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyre as standard. The treads measure 275mm at the rear and 255mm at the front, with the GT sitting on 18-inch alloy wheels and the GTS on 19-inch wheels.
They offer incredible grip in the dry and a surprising amount in the wet, despite a slick-oriented tread pattern.
Don't expect the Supra to cost a fortune to fuel either, thanks to a minimum 91RON fuel requirement and a claimed combined fuel consumption of just 7.7L/100km.
What's it like to drive?
This is the part that we found most surprising. We had the chance to sample the Supra both at Phillip Island race track in Victoria, on a stretch of winding country road, and around the city.
At the race track it drives like no Toyota before it. Adaptive suspension dampers are employed on each corner of the car and allow it to transition between two stiffness modes – Normal and Sport.
Normal is softly damped and allows for bumps and corrugations in the city to be soaked up effortlessly.
Hitting the Sport button transforms the package into a firmer track weapon, but not to the point where it'll shatter your teeth if you collect a ripple strip.
Tipped into turn one at Phillip Island after washing off speed from a 240km/h peak along the straight, the Supra leans in but confidently holds its final position through the corner.
It doesn't squirm or wriggle around like some softer sprung sports cars, nor does it try to whip the tail around the second you lean on the throttle. It's incredibly well composed and pleasantly behaved as you get stuck into it.
The steering is equally as impressive. It's not overly heavy (which is always an illusion in modern vehicles given the level of power assistance) and comes with a very quick steering rack, which means only minor inputs are required to achieve an adequate amount of steering lock.
While engine noise is artificially plumbed into the cabin through the speakers, the exhaust has an audible bark and crackle as you move through the gears, so it's not devoid of emotion whether you're sitting inside the cabin or outside of it.
Speaking of which, the engine is razor sharp. While the B58 has been around in BMW land since 2015, successive iterations have introduced sharper throttle response and virtually lag-free turbocharger induction.
It’s one of the smoothest engines in the business and is rarely caught napping. It interacts nicely with the eight-speed automatic gearbox and isn’t afraid to lean on the torque band instead of diving back through the gears.
The audible turbocharger induction noise also puts a huge smile on your face each time you go for the throttle.
The only real letdown for us was brake pedal feel. The pedal started to get quite spongy after a lap or two of Phillip Island.
Normally this indicates a high level of brake fade. In this instance though there was still plenty of bite, it was just a lack of feel through the pedal that artificially induced a feeling of brake fade.
Pedal feel aside, the brakes are whoppers – measuring in at 348mm on the front axle with four-piston calipers and 345mm at the rear with single-piston calipers (330mm on the GT).
Over our stretch of country road, the Australian ride and handling validation shines through. Continuous undulations and rutted road edges would normally have a low-riding sports car like the Supra skating over imperfections and tugging at the steering wheel as the tyres chase road drop offs.
Toyota has managed to retain feel through the steering wheel, but remove the tugging sensation by using a softer damper setup and higher profile tyres offering greater rubber movement freedom.
The same goes for driving the Supra in town – speed humps, driveways and cobblestones are dealt with easily.
Creature comforts like a high-quality reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, good visibility out the front and rear, and a tight 10.6m turning circle make it a breeze to park in tight spaces.
If you're heading away for the weekend, don't expect to pack your entire wardrobe, though. There's only 290 litres of cargo capacity in the rear with a fairly tight boot opening.
True to Toyota's brand values, the Supra is affordable to run and service. Service intervals occur every 12 months and the price is capped for five years at $380 per service, making it cheaper to service than a HiLux year-on-year.
On top of the impressive servicing costs, the Supra is also covered by Toyota's five-year warranty, which covers non-competitive track driving.
The all-new Toyota Supra lives up to its name and carries on the heritage of its predecessors.
In fact, it's so good that I decided to put my money where my mouth is and buy one. And, I can't wait for it to finally arrive.