Toyota's Sports Coupe Ambition Doesn't End With the Supra

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
toyotas sports coupe ambition doesnt end with the supra

At Toyota all eyes remain on the upcoming Supra — a long-departed model returning to the automotive landscape with some help from BMW. The Supra, however, isn’t exactly a sports car for the masses. No more so than the co-developed BMW Z4 is.

Once upon a time, Toyota fielded a slew of fun, compact coupes that tickled performance itches further down the income ladder. It’s something the automaker hasn’t forgotten, as the slow-selling but genuine 86 shows. The automaker wants more of those type of vehicles, apparently, and it could result in the return of another long-lost nameplate.

According to the Supra program’s assistant chief engineer, Masayuki Kai, market demand compelled the automaker to get the Supra back into production. Once that 2019 model bows, it’s on to the next project. Well, potentially.

“We want to have Celica back, we want to have the MR2 back,” Kai told Road & Track. “The biggest was Supra. Supra was number one, the biggest demand from the market,” he continued. Now that we’ve brought Supra back, what will come next depends on the market needs.”

Kai claims a future Toyota sports coupe might break with the brand’s heritage and appear with an all-new name.

Given the middling demand for the low-priced 86, one wonders if market demand for a coupe positioned between it and the Supra even exists. None of those potential vehicles will boast third-row seating and a raised ground clearance, which seems to be the only things American consumers demand in their lives. Even if demand does exists, making a business case for the vehicle’s development could prove difficult.

“Sports car are becoming more and more expensive to develop,” Kai said. “So a single company cannot afford to invest in all the tooling for parts and components, because the volume of sports car is quite small. A sports car requires a lot of specific components that you cannot share with other cars. The suspension components we’re using on the Supra, you can’t use on a sedan like Camry or Corolla. And as you know, all the homologation issues are also getting more and more complex and difficult.”

The only solution, he claims, would be another partnership, just like the Supra/Z4 and 86 (nee FR-S)/BRZ.

Toyota discontinued the lacklustre seventh-generation Celica and mid-engined MR2, then in its third generation, in the U.S. at the end of the 2005 model year, citing declining sales in a shrinking market.

[Image: Toyota]

Join the conversation
2 of 51 comments
  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Sep 24, 2018

    The first time I saw a Lexus CT200h at the dealer I go to, I thought, why is this a Lexus and not badged as a Celica in the Toyota store? As a Celica, that car would have been a minor hit, instead of a flop.

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Sep 24, 2018

    I'd love an 86 that was 20% quicker, 20% roomier and 20% quieter. That's all that's needed for me.I've looked at some 228i,and it was too pricey for the usual options one expects in a new car and EB Mustang is just too large of a footprint. I would keep the Celica name.

  • Bkojote Electrify America has been a total eff-up (this should be no surprise given it was a VW led project.) Say what you want about Tesla, but their charging network is their greatest asset. Ford's also had some serious quality control issues. Apparently those center displays on their new vehicles are prone to straight-up failing. And for those being like 'see this is why them EV's are terrible' I'm sure a few Bronco owners would love to tell you about their engine failures as of late.
  • Wjtinfwb How does the ICE mid-engine C8 platform work for... anything else? A sedan? SUV? With a mid engine configuration? A mid-engine SUV will have to be Suburban sized to offer the utility of a CRV. GM should dust off the Omega platform designed for the Cadillac CT6 for an SUV/Sedan offering with exceptional handling, Rear or AWD capability and acceptable space utilization. They also need to focus on interior fit & finish, trim choices and high quality final engineering and assembly. What GM doesn't need is another half-baked product with a storied and prestigious badge on the decklid and a premium price on the Monroney. No more Cimarron's, Allante's or X-cars needed to tarnish the reputation of Corvette.
  • InCogKneeToe BUILD It and they will come.By Build It, I mean a Vehicle that the Customer Wants and it works for them. It could be called Chevette for all that that matters. The Mach E's success isn't because it totes the Mustang on it.Just build what people want, the next Caravan/Taurus/Beetle/Maverick (truck).
  • YellowDuck do you make a mid-engine crossover? Or even a 4-door coupe? Me not get.
  • 28-Cars-Later Thanks Corey. The head stud job on NOrthSTAR-T was $3K *years ago* as it involves an engine pull so rear wheel arch rust in and of itself isn't a show stopper. I'll be sure to check out the trunk as it may start to add up on deferred maintenance. Supposedly this was garaged so the underneath the rockers etc. should be decent but if those are shot its not gonna work.