Toyota is serious about building cars that appeal to the heart, not just the mind.
YEARS IN THE MAKING
The born-again Supra has been in the making for an unusually long time. Rumors alluding to it first appeared in 2006. We thought we’d see it at the 2017 Tokyo Auto Show, but the event closed its doors with no sign of a Toyota coupe anywhere. We then speculated it would make its global debut in January at the 2018 Detroit show, but one of the company’s top executives admitted the car wasn’t ready yet. Three wasn’t the charm, either; it didn’t break cover at the 2018 Geneva show, though Toyota introduced a race car-like concept car to whet our appetite. The Supra sat out the auto shows in Paris and Los Angeles, too. Maybe it’s a little camera-shy.
The wraps will finally come off in January 2019 during the Detroit Auto Show, but Toyota ruined its own surprise. Its German division accidentally sent low-resolution images of the Supra to enthusiasts who signed up to receive more information about the model, according to enthusiast forum SupraMKV. Assuming they’re authentic, these shots give us our best look yet at the fifth-generation Supra. They complement a pair of revealing spy shots posted on the same forum over the past few weeks.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
The Supra nameplate made its debut in 1978. Toyota used it on four generations of the coupe until it made the final example in 2002. Designers could have easily gone retro, they certainly had the heritage to back it up, but they didn’t. They preferred looking toward the future. The next Supra instead gets a sleek, modern design inspired by the well-received FT-1 concept introduced at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.
Its front end is characterized by a long hood, horizontal headlights, a pronounced nose cone, and large air dams integrated into the bumper. The roofline peaks right above the driver and gently slopes down into a ducktail spoiler, a styling cue that gives the model an almost fastback-like look. The rear bumper receives an oversized air diffuser flanked by a pair of round exhaust outlets. And, like the original Supra, the fifth-generation model boasts a hatch that enhances practicality. It’s envisioned as a sports car you can live with every day, not merely a track toy that sits in the garage during the week.
It’s no secret that the sports car segment is declining all over the globe, so it’s increasingly difficult for companies to justify spending money on new entrants. That is why Toyota teamed up with Subaru to design the 86, and why Fiat re-skinned the Mazda MX-5 Miata to bring back the 124 Spider. The Supra shares its platform with the third-generation BMW Z4 introduced in California in August of 2018. We have often spotted prototypes testing with other BMW models, which suggests the German brand is at least partially responsible for fine-tuning the Toyota’s chassis to ensure it falls in line with its “ultimate driving machine” ethos.
The Supra and BMW’s next drop-top use the same basic architecture, but they look completely different. For starters, the Supra will only be offered as a coupe while the roadster won’t spawn a hardtop model. Brand-specific sheet metal will ensure the Supra looks like a Toyota and the Z4 like a BMW. Fear not, enthusiasts, this won’t be another case of indolent badge-engineering.
They won’t drive alike, either. “As far as the design is concerned, it will be absolutely unique. Not only in terms of design but how they drive and how they handle,” promised Marc Werner, the head of BMW’s Australian division, in an interview with website CarAdvice.
WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD?
Toyota confirmed the Supra will launch with a straight-six engine borrowed from the BMW parts bin. The turbocharged, 3.0-liter unit is expected to make about 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque in its most basic state of tune. Rear-wheel drive will be the only configuration offered, though transmission options remain unconfirmed. Some rumors claim the model will be automatic-only, while others assert a six-speed manual transmission will be offered in some markets.
Enthusiasts who want even more power will need to go hybrid. Sources familiar with Toyota’s plans told Autocar the Supra’s second powertrain will be a gasoline-electric hybrid built around a turbocharged four-cylinder engine borrowed from BMW and powerful electric motors that draw electricity from endurance racing-inspired supercapacitors. Again, the hybrid powertrain might be automatic-only. It’s a bad time to be a fan of stick shifts, especially in the United States.
“If we can have a World Endurance Championship racing car with hybrid technology, it can happen on a road car,” Johan van Zyl, the president of Toyota’s European division, told British magazine Auto Express.
WHAT ARE ITS RIVALS?
Historically, the Nissan Z has been the Supra’s arch nemesis. The snake and mongoose-style rivalry will continue when the Supra returns. The 370Z is one of the oldest coupes on the market so it might be out of production by the time the Supra lands. Nissan has previously confirmed it will replace the model, though the company instructed its designers to take their time. The Supra will also compete against the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, plus an array of European-bred coupes like the Audi A5 and the BMW 4 Series.
WHEN CAN I BUY ONE?
The Japanese company confirmed it will ship the first examples to buyers during the first half of 2019, meaning it will reach showrooms as a 2020 model. Pricing information and availability won’t be announced until closer to its on-sale date. If it’s any indication, Gerald Killman, Toyota’s vice president of research and development, bluntly announced that “it won’t be cheap.”
Contract manufacturer Magna Steyr will build both the Z4 and the Supra in its Graz, Austria, facility, alongside the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Combined production will be limited to approximately 60,000 units annually.