2020 Toyota GR Supra First Drive - To Enjoy Properly, Ignore the Context

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
2020 toyota gr supra first drive to enjoy properly ignore the context

The howling denizens of the Internet may not be a representative sample of real life, but they are loud nonetheless, and they’ve seemingly had it in for the Toyota Supra since the wraps came off.

It’s too much a BMW, they say. It doesn’t feel like a real Supra, thanks to all those German parts underneath. Others (understandably) whined about teaser fatigue, or complained about the car’s styling.

While subjective complaints about a car’s looks are understandable, and while I understand the complaints about the new Supra not being Toyota enough (I did ask for a percentage breakdown of Toyota/BMW parts content; the company politely declined to comment), all of the noise ignored one thing – what it’s like to actually drive the damn thing.

That’s what will likely matter most to those who will drop over 50 large on this car.

Oh, that “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, but everyone is just gonna call it Supra.

(Full disclosure: Toyota flew me to Virginia, put me in a hotel room that’s larger than some studio apartments in New York City, and fed me several meals. The company also turned me loose on track at Summit Point and offered a water bottle and Michelin, which provides the car’s tires, offered a visor.)

My report may not placate the screaming masses, but then, nothing likely will. It’s the Internet, after all. But for those forum-dwellers who actually care, I can say that when the flag drops and the bullshit stops, the Supra is quite delightful.

On road, drive mode set to normal, the Supra is docile enough for daily driving, but the 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque from the BMW-sourced twin-scroll turbo 3.0-liter inline-six is just a flick of the throttle away. Switch things to Sport mode, and the 8-speed automatic transmission holds lower gears like a champ, and the exhaust suddenly comes alive with cracks, burbles, and backfires that were merely hinted at moments before.

On track, the Supra’s electric power steering felt a bit light, but that turned out to be a good thing on a modified version of the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point, which has a section that requires a quick left-right-left maneuver. It was also easy to make mid-corner corrections.

Toyota emphasized the Supra’s 50/50 weight distribution and reminded us that balance was the goal. The end result is a car that will let you wag the tail, but is also easily catchable. I encountered oversteer a handful of times (my track runs were in Sport mode, and I usually left the safety nannies on, although I did one run with traction control off) and it was never of the snap variety. One time, the slide was so gentle that it took me a second to notice and adjust.

Understeer did occur on one or two occasions in which I braked a bit too late coming into a tight corner – not surprising, as all the weight is transferred to the front in that scenario. Generally, though, the Supra was as balanced as advertised, and easy enough to control. You can even adjust the line with the throttle with ease.

The front suspension is a double-joint type MacPherson strut setup, while out back it’s a multi-link setup with five-arm construction. The Supra has adaptive dampers as standard. Toyota used an aluminum hood and doors to keep weight down, but the car still weighs 3,397 pounds – more than some versions of the Honda Accord.

Power came on boil almost immediately, and the brakes never offered up any fade as the day went along, although the fronts were smoking after I pitted following one session.

The noise made by an upshift at full zoot is almost worth the price of admission alone. I did find a shady spot on a public road where I could mat the throttle without pissing off the neighbors – or the West Virginia police – and the Supra scooted away from rest with the kind of acceleration that makes you grin, while displaying more than a little tail wag.

Supra looked better in person than in photos – the double-bubble roof reminded me a bit of the old Dodge Viper coupe, and the nose, apparently inspired by F1 cars, looks much more coherent up close. It’s a head-turning car, in a good way. Worth noting: Most of the aero bits (such as the cooling ducts) are cosmetic, not functional.

The interior, however, is a different story. It’s pure BMW. Photo comparisons show that it’s not the same layout as that of the Z4 (upon which the Supra shares much of its bones), but it’s all Bimmer nonetheless. The infotainment controls are basically iDrive, the buttons are all Teutonic. Even the steering wheel, which bears a Toyota badge (of course), is clearly borrowed from BMW. So is the shifter. Adding insult to injury, the nav/infotainment system is tacked atop the dash. I did, however, appreciate the driver’s knee pad – it makes track driving more comfortable. No more banging one’s knee during left-hand cornering.

It’s not a bad cabin, and it’s comfortable – the seats are snug enough for track driving without sacrificing on-road comfort – and it’s understandable, from an economics perspective, why Toyota would simply use the BMW trappings. But I get why some folks cried foul: It doesn’t feel very Toyota/Supra to use another OEM’s interior controls.

Getting in and out of the cockpit will prove challenging for taller drivers – I constantly whacked my noggin, even before donning a helmet for the track festivities. And there’s not much in-cabin storage. Oh, and there’s no exterior release for the hatch.

If you’re not tired of teasers and/or put off by the Germanic cabin, you can snag a Supra for $49,990 to start, plus the $930 destination fee.

Since all trims are mechanically similar, the biggest differences are comfort, convenience, and cosmetic. The base car comes with Alcantara seats, Bluetooth, and iPod capability, 19-inch wheels (shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires), keyless entry and starting, heated and folding exterior sideview mirrors, LED exterior lighting all around, rain-sensing wipers, active dual exhaust with brushed stainless steel tips, dual-zone climate control, and driver’s knee pad. Premium audio and nav can be added for $2,460. A driver-assist package that includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, parking sonar, and rear cross-traffic alert is available on the base car (and the other trims) for $1,195.

Standard active safety features include forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane-departure warning with steering assist.

The next trim up from the base Supra is the Premium trim, which adds a larger infotainment screen, navigation, premium audio, wireless Apple CarPlay support, telematics, wireless cell-phone charging, heated seats, leather seats, and color head-up display.

Toyota is also offering 1,499 Launch Edition models (technically, 1,500, but the first one was already sold at auction). Available in white, black, or red, these cars will have matte black wheels and red mirror caps. White and black cars get a red interior, while red cars get a black interior. Each comes with carbon-fiber accents, and all Launch Edition cars will get a numbered badge signed by Akio Toyoda.

Premium cars will set you back $53,990 before D and D and options, while the Launch Edition, which offers the driver’s assist package as an option, starts at $55,250.

Fuel economy, for those who care, is listed at 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined.

Porsche’s Cayman is the obvious target for Supra, but its pricing puts in range of the Corvette Stingray, the Audi S5, and the higher-performance pony cars. Of course, the ‘Vette offers V8 power, while the pony cars also have V8s along with rear seats (sort of) and different missions, so the amount of cross-shopping among these vehicles may be negligible. Other options that Supra buyers may consider include the BMW M240i, the Z4 itself, of course, and the V6 version of the Jaguar F-Type.

I have yet to drive the Cayman, so I can’t tell you if Toyota hit that target, but I can say the Supra is, when stripped of all the noise, a damn good sports car. The BMW interior is a letdown, but that disappointment disappears at speed.

Sure, the A90 generation of Supra isn’t pure Toyota. Thing is, does that matter? I don’t care for iDrive all that much, either, but it’s not like Toyota interiors are sexier or more functional than BMW cabins these days. Not to mention that the inline-six is smooth as silk and provides plenty of punch.

Forget about the complaints from the keyboard warriors. The Supra, judged on its own merits, is a pretty solid two-seat sports car for under $60K (assuming no dealer shenanigans).

The Internet mob takes the L on this one.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Join the conversation
2 of 50 comments
  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on May 23, 2019

    It has a color problem. In white/light colors it looks bland and un-Toyota like but put on some dark reds, blues or blacks and it pops and looks pretty wicked. The Beemer connection is certainly no selling point and Toyota may choose to downplay this in publicity..

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on May 28, 2019

    Automatic only overpriced barf on wheels with a cheap interior. Whats not to like? The fact that so much of it's lineage is BMW makes my wallet cringe. Proof that Toyota's heart is not in the sports car market judging by how little effort they put into this.

  • CoastieLenn So the Camaro is getting the axe, the Challenger is belly up, the Charger is also fading out of existence. Maaaaan Michigan better have a game plan on how to inject some soul back into the American carscape. The Mustang and Corvette can't do it on their own. Dark times we're living in, bro's. How long do you think it'll be before the US starts to backpedal on our EV mandates now that the EU has rolled back their ICE bans with synthetic fuel usage?
  • Duke Woolworth We have old school Chevrolet Bolts, only feasible to charge at home because they are so slow. Travel? Fly or rent luxury.
  • Styles I had a PHEV, and used to charge at home on a standard 3-pin plug (240v is standard here in NZ). As my vehicle is a company car I could claim the expense. Now we are between houses and living at the in-laws, and I'm driving a BEV, I'm charging either at work (we have a wall-box, and I'm the only one with an EV), or occasionally at Chargenet stations, again, paid by my employer.
  • Dwford 100% charge at home.
  • El scotto Another year the Nissan Rogue is safe.