Porsche 718 2021 boxster gts 4.0, Toyota Supra 2021 gt

Six-cylinder sports showdown: 2021 Toyota GR Supra v 2021 Porsche 718 Boxster

Price is never a good way to compare sports cars.

At CarAdvice, we generally compare cars with the most important barometer – price. Apples v apples, as we like to put it. For those rational purchases, daily drivers, family cars and the like, objectivity remains important. We're here to give you expert advice based on our assessment criteria.

At CarAdvice, we generally compare cars with the most important barometer – price. Apples v apples, as we like to put it. For those rational purchases, daily drivers, family cars and the like, objectivity remains important. We're here to give you expert advice based on our assessment criteria.

Taking an objectively heavy approach when comparing emotive cars just doesn't work. Take, for example, a comparison between a two-door sports car and performance hatchback of similar money. If we followed the usual playbook in this instance, we'd forever be recommending Hyundai i30 Ns and Honda Civic Type Rs over much more exotic metal.

For the record, though, hot hatches remain king.

Objectivity can play second fiddle when discussing emotive purchases, as it opens the door for great comparisons. Searching for continuity between sharp driver's cars, the stuff enthusiasts baulk and ogle over – regardless of their costs and rational benefits – can be enlightening.

The enthusiast market is going through an interesting phase at the moment. The formula is changing, and critics around the world, professionals or not, are divided.

In order to explore the effect modern technology is having on sports cars, we've lined up a more classic take on the formula against an uber modern one.

Both of these cars feature six-cylinders. How they're arranged may be different, but this particular driveline has been a cornerstone of performance cars since the 1960s.

European, Japanese, and even Australian cars have all featured hopped-up six-cylinders over the years. One could argue it's just as important as the V8 or V12 engine is to the sport's car legacy.

Representing the modern era is the new, power-bumped turbocharged 2021 Toyota GR Supra GT, and its automatic transmission.

Flying the flag of old is the 2021 Porsche Boxster 718 GTS 4.0 – naturally aspirated, with a manual transmission.

2021 Toyota GR Supra GT2021 Porsche 718 Boxster GTS 4.0
Engine3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol4.0-litre flat-six naturally aspirated petrol
Power and torque 285kW at 5800–6500rpm, 500Nm at 1800–5000rpm294kW at 7000rpm, 420Nm at 5000–6500rpm
TransmissionEight-speed torque-converter automaticSix-speed manual transmission
Drive typeRear-wheel driveRear-wheel drive
Weight (kerb)1505kg1405kg
Fuel claim combined (ADR)7.7L/100km11.0L/100km
Fuel use on test10.0L/100km12.5L/100km
Boot volume290L270L
ANCAP safety ratingUntestedUntested
Warranty5 years/unlimited km3 years/unlimited km
Main competitorsBMW M2, Alpine A110Audi TT RS, Jaguar F-Type
List price (before on roads)$87,126$174,800

Styling

Cylinder count can influence styling. In fact, with this pair it's the defining reason why they look the way they do.

The Supra has always followed the inline six-cylinder recipe, even from the first model. This engine format is physically long given cylinders are arranged in a straight line.

Furthermore, being rear-wheel drive, it's also mounted north-south, or longitudinally. Even with modern efforts pushing the engine as far back into the firewall as possible, the Supra still rocks a disproportionate design.

It's also why it always has, and still features, a deep bonnet. Consider it a design nuance that's both an heirloom as well as a functional trait. It leads the rest of design, with a swept cabin, raked roof line and stubby rear end all playing along with the most important ergonomic aspect of its design.

Myself and co-tester Jez Spinks both agreed the Supra maintains a rather Japanese vibe. I personally feel it's faithful to old. The integration of the old model's high-rise spoiler into the sheet metal is a lovely gesture, as are its rear haunches.

For a car with a short legacy that's blown up in recent years, following the Porsche playbook was actually a smart move. It's likely that some who've indulged actually owned a previous-generation Supra not too long ago.

Toyota has done a fantastic job, as it still gives off the aura of a GT car from Japan.

The Porsche, on the other hand, looks purposeful sitting still. The engine has been arranged with a flat layout – a rule two-door Porsches often adhere to. What's unique about the 718, however, is a mid-engine layout. The design influence it has is no different to how a 911 has been defined by its engine placement.

The flat-six motor is wider than it is long, given the cylinders punch outward and have been split into two banks of three. Helping to manage the motor's consequential width is clever packaging away from suspension uprights in the middle of the platform.

This leaves the front end on the 718 free to only serve the purpose of suspension and steering. All in all, it creates a more proportional design compared to the Supra.

Take a moment to compare the amount of metal after the front wheel and before the door opening line with both cars. The 718's cockpit is more centrally located, whereas in the Supra you sit closer to the rear axle.

Thank the mid-engine layout for the Porsche's design. The reason it looks fast is not because designers made it so, but because the engineers have dictated it.


Engine and driveline

Same cylinder count, wildly different approach.

The Supra GT we're driving is the new, beefed-up 2021 version. The BMW-sourced 'B58' engine has been given a makeover, which sees its original 250kW power figure increase by 14 per cent to 285kW. Torque remains the same at 500Nm, but the full spread is now 300rpm thicker from 1800 to 5000rpm.

The only classical part of this engine is the layout – inline. This formula goes back years, and was made famous both globally and locally by plenty of stars. Think macro, and Jaguar E-Type comes to mind. Thing micro, even locally, and Valiant Charger pops out as an obvious one.

A six's best trait is smoothness courtesy of a harmonious cylinder count. In a four-stroke engine, pistons usually travel upward in pairs, with one entering a compression phase as the other an exhaust phase. Splitting this pairing evenly across six, all facing the same direction and in-line, results in a fuss-free engineering experience.

Also because of their inherent refinement, straight-sixes are cost-effective to screw power out of. Vibrations and wobbles are an engine's worst enemy, especially when you turn them fast and fill them with compressed air.

The transmission in the Supra is a ZF-sourced eight-speed torque converter automatic. It's easily one of the best, if not the best, automatic transmissions out there. You'll find them used in Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Maserati, Porsche, and even Rolls-Royce cars.

Calibration varies depending on the marque and model driven, but either reviewer here has yet to experience a bad one. In the Supra it shifts hard and quick, and remains composed and smooth, regardless of how silly you are with input. Fluid coupling is what makes it so great. It's a smooth buffer, unlike dual-clutch transmissions that rely on hard parts clashing, bathed or not.

The bigger dilemma for the Supra is the unavailability of a manual transmission. Despite the numerous whispers and chitter-chatter regarding a H-patterned version, nothing has eventuated nor is it looking likely.

Dilemma, so you initially think. It gets worse for the enthusiast the deeper you get. The Porsche we have on test was optioned with a manual, but it's not a great one.

I'll pause for a second while you all scoff, and inform you that fellow co-tester, Jez Spinks, did say, "Mate, you know you're whinging about a mid-engine Porsche with a manual?".

To his credit, he's somewhat right. Us luddites should be celebrating the fact we can have that engine with that transmission, but it has issues. Just because there's a clutch pedal doesn't mean it's immune from scrutiny.

The biggest concern with this configuration is the manual's inappropriate gearing. It'll clip 130km/h+ in second gear alone. On a good road, where you want to toe the line with the speed limit, you end up leaving it in second gear. In fact, it welcomes it.

The irony on this test is the manual transmission feeling more set-and-forget than an auto. It's not D for dumb, rather two for dumb.

Negatives aside, the throw is brilliant. There's a nice notch on each shift, and the linkage nicely sprung to allow for quick rowing.

Clutch feel is good; however, our test car felt a little inconsistent over the length of the pedal. From halfway to the firewall the pedal feel stiffened, which was unlike the six-speed-equipped 718 Spyder we had in the CarAdvice garage last year.

Auto or manual, who cares? The engine is the absolute gem here. The holy trinity of displacement, layout and induction type: four litres large, flat six, naturally aspirated.

There's 294kW offered at a rabid 7000rpm and 420Nm at 5000–6500rpm. Unlike vee-arranged engines, horizontally opposed engines also sport a great, natural amount of balance. It'll wind down from 7000rpm free from vibration, which is incredible in itself.

Like the Toyota, Porsche is using good stock to begin with.


Performance

Figures tell one story, seat of the pants another.

Manufacturer-claimed performance figures usually differ from reality. Official zero to 100km/h times are 4.5 seconds for the Porsche and 4.1 for the Supra.

Both cars get out of the hole mightily well, but the Supra is a doddle to remain consistent with. The Porsche is trickier to get right, solely due to the transmission.

On the roll, the results continue to favour the Supra.

Given the tall gearing of the Porsche, the Supra will dust it. Not only does it have a better spread of ratios, but it also clicks ratios way quicker.

Plus, there's the huge torque availability it has. Regardless of where you are in the rather broad mid-range, the Supra digs in, squabbles for grip slightly, and moves out. It feels strong and mighty.

While it feels brutish, the driveline gives the sense it's at the bane of calibration. The throttle pedal feels lazy, especially when you're dilly-dallying with smaller inputs. Our testing was conducted in damp weather, which meant the Supra's 500Nm had the tendency to create wheel spin. Finding just the right amount of pedal to prevent it was tricky.

The controls feel more artificial than what's found in the 718, as if your efforts are being actively processed.

In the Porsche, things are more buttoned down. Pedal input is met with an immediate reaction, as if it's hooked up to a cable, like the good old days. This sensation has nothing to do with how performance builds. It's not turbocharged, so torque is linear and needs to be worked for.

What I'm referring to is the way the transmission acknowledges your request. You feel it load up right away, leaving no second-guessing as to what your input returned, despite also being processed by electronics.

After all, both cars use electronic throttle pedals.

The engine takes time to crescendo given the tall gearing. Luckily, it's quite the pleasure to string out. The way the engine spins is simply fanfare backed by a musical theme that's pure Porsche.

It's an anthem, actually – a metallic, sparkly noise that's not corrupted by turbochargers or overwhelmed by mechanical supercharger whine. Overrunning the engine from high RPM is equally as tasty, as it also comes off the boil incredibly smooth, sounding mega in the process.

The Porsche may be slower in most real-world straight-line situations, but it offers so much more in terms of feedback. You're more involved and aware, which in turn affects your sense of judgment.


On the road

The Porsche threw a few surprises into the ring during testing. The first unsuspecting point is that despite being a convertible, it offers superior visibility. Side mirror placement and size make it easier to use in cramped car parks or to back into your garage.

We experienced patchy rain throughout the duration of the loan, so zero top-down motoring was conducted.

Another fun fact is that cabin noise between the two was comparable, even though the Supra has a fixed metal roof. This is because the Supra's seating area remains exposed to the cargo area, which houses noisy wheel arches.

In turn, the boot area becomes somewhat of an amplifier, piping unwanted road noise throughout the car like a small boom-box.

We were both quite surprised given the Supra feels more GT car than anything else, and the 718 wholly a sports car. Usually GT cars err on the side of refinement, but quite the opposite was occurring here.

Up through good, damp sections of the road, the Supra was the harder car to pedal. Its continual desire to spin the rear wheels, even in fourth gear at times, was both equal parts hilarious as it was disconcerting. I understand some enjoy a loose, tail-y experience, but both of us couldn't lean on it as much as the Porsche.

The stark difference in grip between the pair felt unusual given the Supra sports a 275-section Michelin Pilot Super Sport around a 10-inch-wide rear rim. The 718, with a 265-section Pilot Sport 4 S on a 10.5-inch rear rim, had stacks more grip to play with.

Taking a peek at the Supra's tyres did suggest the car may have enjoyed some track time before, but as to how much, or how shot the boots were, would be purely a guess.

However, if you're the sort who's dead keen on applying all manner of steering lock before your morning coffee, then you'll dig the Supra. It's entertaining if your skill set is up to the task, and likely equally as rewarding. Driving the Porsche with the same mindset will ask for more, and its tolerance to such banter is no doubt smaller.

Other parts of the Supra just aren't as piercing. The steering feels well weighted, but lacks instant off-centre response and sharpness. Everything is softer-edged and slightly more filtered.

The way its front end loads up at corner entry also alludes to its weight. You feel the mass shift and begin to burden the outside-front wheel. Upon power-down exits, the same sensation occurs torsionally at the rear, if it does manage to hook up.

Its chassis is relaxed. Covering ground on faster, straighter, and slightly mottled sections of road is the Supra's preferred pastime. Bump absorption on rippled, uneven sections of bitumen was also superior, but bigger potholes did result in dampers running out of stroke.

A larrikin in the bends, or a relaxed, GT-esque drive on the straightaways. Whereas in the Porsche, you get a more honed experience.

Right away, its steering oozes precision. Alongside the fantastic coding of the electric power-steering system, there's exotically proportioned hard parts equally participating in the brilliance. A clue to this double-act comes from an aggressive caster angle that almost causes binding at full lock during low-speed manoeuvres.

Solid fundamentals and clever engineering both come together to provide one of the most accurate and razor-sharp front ends in the business.

The third and final point in this game of composure is indeed the mid-engine layout, which leaves the front end free from convolution. Porsche engineers had nothing to work around, no weight to manage, when it came time to creating steering and suspension layout. A blank canvas, which they clearly capitalised on.

The resulting feel is a car that's incredibly trustworthy. Initial bite from the front end, uncorrupted by mass, gives you the nod to plow ahead. If you've over-called the situation for any reason, just lean on more steering lock. It'll answer back by tapping into more grip reserves and composure you didn't know it had, which gives your confidence a huge kick.


VERDICT

Considering the company it was in, the Supra punched well above its weight. There's more than $100,000 splitting this pair, but that's not the issue.

It should've been more frightened about being pitted against the best of the best, which the 718 GTS 4.0 is. To its credit, the Toyota excelled in the areas of ride quality and down and dirty rolling performance, which we all know still matters for a road car.

There's no questioning the fun on offer, too, if your driving style permits. Its gutsy, power-bumped engine is more readily enjoyable than the Porsche's, and the eight-speed auto is so good it becomes oddly whimsical to lust for a manual.

It's not hard to see where your money goes with the 718, though. It's motorsport-grade at the touchpoints that matter. From a blissful flat six attached to the most crisp throttle pedal getting around, to exotic underpinnings and a mid-engined layout, there's enough worth craving and lusting for.

Stripping it back, however, even removing the transmission from the call, two things stand out in favour of the Porsche – a naturally aspirated engine and righteous fundamentals. If you value the feel of the drive, you'll find the Porsche stacks more involving.

However, Toyota could learn from this in two ways. The first could be to dial up tactility in the Supra by adding a manual. Or second, re-imagine something from its own back catalogue – the mid-engine MR2.

We've had the 86, then GR Supra, now GR Yaris. An unquestionable ascension of contemporary sports car quality.

Imagine if it took a few, small lessons from Porsche – which is arguably now at its prime?


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