By on September 22, 2018

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]

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51 Comments on “Toyota’s Sports Coupe Ambition Doesn’t End With the Supra...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Cost and performance are much more important than design and features.

    You can get a good deal on a Fiat spider 124, but the engine in it is a let down. A N/A 3.0 inline 6 would have been the perfect engine for that car. Same issue with the Toyota 86, it has the underpinnings to be a great car but the engine is a complete let down a 3.5ish inline 6 would have been perfect. And no, turbo is not the answer, turbo is never the answer to add power on a gas car.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Packaging? A 3-liter I6 isn’t fitting into either of those without a lot of work. A VR6 might fit, but then you have to charge for a new engine architecture.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Nonsense, they just have to snap their fingers and magically, a totally new engine appears, sharing nothing with any other engine they have developed in the last 30+ years. Then they twinkle their nose and a 3.0L inline 6 suddenly fits where a small 4 cylinder is already a tight fit. Oh, and it does not add any weight to the front of the car, disrupting balance and handling. They could just make it out of duranium, that solves that.

        Its so simple. Duh.

        • 0 avatar
          nvinen

          Yeah an I6 probably wouldn’t fit. But an LS V8 does, as has been demonstrated many, many times. So the solution is obvious. V8 all the things!

          • 0 avatar
            John

            My son knows a guy in San Diego, who installed a LS3 in a Miata, I have seen the Vids of it, the LS3 actually fits better in the engine bay than the original Twin Cam Inline-4.

            And I have seen Renegade Porche 911’s with with LS3’s and even an LS7. But I don’t foresee Toyota out sourcing or building such an engine for a limited purpose. Ohh forgot to mention, I saw a 1995 supra mark IV with a LS376/525 crate engine and T56 6-speed transmission at a car show in Long Beach, California. The modifications were so well done, that the car looked as though it came from the factory.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            An LS is probably a lot more compact than any of Toyota’s V8 engines.

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah I mean the Civic would be a great car if only it came with a V8.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I will criticize today’s small overboosted turbo engines as the next guy, but in a sports car it actually is the answer. If they put the Mazdaspeed 3’s engine in the Miata/124 I don’t think anyone would mind.

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    Outsourcing sporty cars to Subaru and BMW is hardly a commitment to the type.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Judging by the hole where my left eye used to be from where the Honda dealer tried to gouge it on a Civic Type-R, there is definitely a market for well done sporty performance cars. They also build brand equity too.

    But the key is to make it good and special. Just don’t stick a CUV engine in an economy car and assume it’s going to be fine – like Honda did with the half-baked cynical Civic Si, which is now bolted to dealer showrooms.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      Yeah, the new Civic Si probably would’ve been more successful if they kept the old engine and paired it with the new chassis

      • 0 avatar
        Superdessucke

        Agreed. Looking at the specs. I see no reason to pick an Si over the Civic Sport Touring. Both have 1.5 L turbos. The main difference is the Si has the CR-V”s turbocharger, but the HP difference is so slight that it’s nothing you couldn’t make up for in the Sport Touring with a chip.

        And the Sport Touring comes in the hatchback body style, which is more attractive then the other two styles, in my opinion.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          The Si has a mechanical LSD and adaptive dampers, so the differences are bigger than you suggest. I’d get an Si for the LSD alone.

          The old 8000 RPM screamer was miserable in traffic. Quick on the boil but wheezy off of it, and loud from idle. What Honda should have done was detune the 2.0T.

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus

            Don’t ruin the hate fest with facts, now.

          • 0 avatar
            Superdessucke

            I said the major difference, not the only difference. I guess you have to decide whether the LSD and dampers are worth the extra cost on the already good handling Civic. I don’t think a lot of buyers are but you could make a case for it.

            Anyway I can agree with you on the 2.0T. That would have made it a more tempting proposition.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Man, I guess people are different.I loved the old NA engine in traffic. Precise as heck, in all gears, and with a long, long rev band. Stick it in 1st, and you can tailgate within inches in stop and go, with barely a touch of the clutch. Which is, nannylore notwithstanding, the key to maximizing the number of vehicles that get across an intersection per green. Turbos are horrible at low rev precision driving.

          • 0 avatar
            Lockstops

            sportyaccordy: Why would you need to rev it to 8000 rpm in traffic? Or why would the sufficient power available at low revs not suffice in traffic?

            Also, of course a next-generation similar engine would be improved compared to the old one. Besides, NVH would decrease even with an identical engine since much of that is not up to the engine itself but a development of the car.

  • avatar
    scott25

    It seems obvious to partner with Mazda, putting the 86 on the Miata platform. It could also work for a future RX car and larger Toyota. Still wish some RWD sedans and crossovers would come out of this though. It doesn’t just have to be sports cars.

    The Celica should be a FWD coupe on the TNGA platform, potentially with an AWD GT Four/Alltrac variant

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      TNGA underpins the Lexus LC and LS as well as the Toyota Crown. Toyota could build a RWD US market sedan or crossover if they wanted to.

      • 0 avatar
        Noble713

        Toyota just needs to do crash testing for the Left-Hand Drive Mark X’s that they manufacture in China (where they are called Toyota Reiz).

        ~$26,000 RWD sedan ready and waiting. Is there any other RWD sedan in the world that starts well under $30k?

      • 0 avatar
        John

        You have it correct, every car in Toyota’s line will be TNGA by 2022.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Really, TNGA is just the name of Toyota’s new family of architectures. They aren’t literally using the same platform on the Prius as the LS. TNGA describes a set of core philosophies and development methods, but still consists of three distinct platforms. The one on the Camry, Prius, Corolla Hatch, RX, et al. is TNGA-K. The one on the LS and LC is TNGA-L. There’s also an upcoming one called TNGA-N that will be in the next IS and RC. It may be related to TNGA-L; I’m not sure.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    They could try giving the 86 a motor and sound deadening. You know, respond to the criticisms since the outset.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    By “partnership”, Kai means Toyota will do their own styling while another manufacturer does all the engineering and development. Oh, they’ll need their own owners manual, so there’s that, too.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I don’t want to hear the world’s largest automaker snivel about a few pennies. Just build it (in Mexico obviously) with enough power… They will come. A Toyota pony car would do well, priced right, not crazy like the last Supra, Stupid.

    Yeah using Tundra/Tacoma/4Runner drivetrains while increasing drivetrain choices on those. Or a mid-engine, 2-seater job, based on the Camry. It’s not rocket science,

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This would be an epic waste of money. Toyota would do better investing this money into making its mainstreamers more fun to drive. Corolla needs a high power engine option NOW.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    In their prime, I don’t realy remember Celicas being anything other more than sporty looking. MR2 was fun, though.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      That’s an excellent point. With the exceptions of the limited-production turbo AWD models and the last generation GT-S, all of the Celicas sold in the US highlighted styling and quality over performance or handling. Their greatest success came when their competitors could be counted on to break down early and often. They were sold with high performance engines in other markets, but high performance in the US during the seventies and early eighties meant meeting emissions standards while getting 20 mpg and not needing expensive repairs in the first 100,000 miles of ownership. Toyota accomplished this with very conservative engine specifications.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    If I was Toyota I would try a re-boot of the BRZ and 86 to see how the market reacts before going BMW.
    * Modify the sheet metal to make it look better. (Sorry, at this time it looks like a generic econo car)
    * Offer an upgraded interior package option.
    * Offer an upgraded turbo option at 300 hp.

    The upgraded versions may not sell like hotcakes but it would give off that halo-glow at a low engineering and tooling investment cost.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    For 10 or so years, Toyota sold a replacement for the Celica. It was called the Scion tC. It sold so well they closed the marque.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      They sold 427,571 over a span of thirteen years, most of them in the few years before the financial crisis. The tC had the lowest average buyer age of any car on the US market, and young buyers either didn’t recover during the Obama regime or moved on to tiny CUVs.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Shy of partnering with Porsche, or mayyybeee a revitalized Lotus, I have trouble seeing an MR2 being viable.

    A Celica sounds like exactly what everyone is screaming for. A center point between the 86 and the Supra. Softer, bigger, heavier and more powerful than the former; cheaper and younger than the latter. Kind of like the old one, which was sort of a (My-Little)Pony Car.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I’m asking this in good faith and not in a sarcastic way.

    Is it too late for Toyota to make ‘fun’ cars? Sure, Toyotas have a well deserved reputation as being reliable but even at 52 I wouldn’t even consider a Toyota as a personal vehicle. Around here Toyotas are as thick as fruit flies and all of them appear to be driven by people with the same interest in cars as they have in their toasters. Buick has the reputation of being ‘old folks’ cars and it seems like Toyota is well down that path too. And around here Subaru is well down that same path. I see Toyotas a dull, boring, lifeless cars and wouldn’t even consider one.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      I agree with you 100%.

      To me, Toyota has recognized the demographic switch and is trying its hardest without going against their traditional “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” scheme. Their trying hard with this new Supra but my take is that because it’s primarily a BMW, they can cut some serious losses if it doesn’t sell well.

      I believe Toyota, resting on its laurels and reputation for the last 20 years without being “innovative and new” like the rest of it’s competition has done so well- has cemented its image, much to the chagrin of hardcore Toyota fans who can’t seem to see any fault.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      I think Toyota has certainly earned its “boring” reputation, with some really lackluster efforts in the last couple of decades. However, I have driven a few new Toyotas lately (RAV4, Corolla, Yaris), and I think the driving experiences in these cars have actually improved over previous generations. All of these cars were a little soft in the handling department, by my standards, but I didn’t hate any of them. The RAV4 was probably the best. The Yaris felt “honest”, which I liked, but the yucky radio and lack of inside-adjustable side mirrors(!) were detrimental to the overall experience. (You would put a touchscreen on the radio before that?) The Corolla felt uneasy on curvy highway ramps and so forth, but it was generally responsive and comfortable in most driving. I would say that was a step up over past Corollas.

      I can’t comment on the big SUVs or the minivan, as I haven’t driven them.

  • avatar
    stanczyk

    This “Supra is coming” saga lasts too long.. probably longer than Toyobaru GT86 saga .. and they dont sell too well , because they are underpowered and Toyota is not “up-grading” them ..

    So how they want to sell more sporty-cars .. if they can’t take care of what they’ve got right now..!?!

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    I had a gen7, it was fun to drive for a FWD, but the engine had an oil contamination issue, and the radiator just seemed to pick up punctures.

    I wish they would ride the retro fad with a Mustang-style mk1 Celica remake.

    Buy the rights to that Peugeot e-Legend concept, with Toyota build quality and reliability and take my money already!

  • avatar
    JMII

    We want to have Celica back, we want to have the MR2 back…
    …Sports car are becoming more and more expensive to develop

    Same here: I want to date a super model…
    …however they run away every time I approach them.

    This is PR double talk, there is no way Toyota is building any new sports cars in the current market. The next statement I expect from them is that the new Supra is canceled due to lack of demand. Which will occur the minute their contract with BMW expires.

    • 0 avatar
      cognoscenti

      “The next statement I expect from them is that the new Supra is canceled due to lack of demand. Which will occur the minute their contract with BMW expires.”

      This. Sad, but true. I’m honestly amazed at how little the buying public cares for fun cars anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        CoastieLenn

        I feel like Toyota made the same mistake with this Supra as Honda did with the NSX. They teased it for so long, talked about it so much, hyped it up so much… and released it AFTER their buying contingent lost patience and moved to something else.

        Someone at Toyota’s marketing and PR team wasn’t paying attention to the NSX scenario and they definitely should have been.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Agree to an extent, but I think the NSX v6T-hybrid power/automatic only left some Gen 1 purists numb. I’d personally prefer a NA v10 r8, even if only DSG available. That and Honda dealers are just so resistant to negotiation

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    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.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    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.

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