When the first Supra came on the scene in 1979—designation A40—it was not a stand-alone machine; it was a riff on the Toyota Celica hatchback. The Supra was 8.1 inches longer with a 5.1 longer wheelbase. Part of the increase in size was to allow Toyota to stick in a single overhead cam 2.6 liter inline 6, putting out 110 horsepower (this was Toyota’s first engine with electronic fuel injection). Other tricks included four-wheel independent suspension and the option of a 5-speed manual.
In 1981, the new designation was A50, with the engine being bumped up to 2.8 liters—adding six more horsepower. Toyota also added a sports suspension package.
The second-gen Supra had a total redesign in 1982. The A60 would have a run till 1986.
The A60 now sported a dual-overhead-cam 2.8 liter in-line six that now had 145 hp. By the end of its run, the Supra had gained a bit of grunt and was now boasting 161 hp. Along the way, it won Motor Trends car of the year in ‘82 and was on Car & Driver’s ten best list in ‘83 and ‘84.
The Supra Splits from the Celica
The Supra Split from the Celica in mid-1986 when the third-gen A70 was introduced. The Supra stuck with rear-wheel drive, while the Celica moved to front-wheel drive.
The lines of the Supra became softer while the motor was now 3 liters and had 200 hp. In 1987 the Supra got turbocharged up to 230 hp.
The fourth-gen A80 was a big step up for Toyota. The starting price was $33,900.00, and that could go up depending on your choices. You could have a coupe, a sport roof Targa, or a turbo with an optional hoop-like rear wing.
The motor was Toyota’s 2JZ in-line 6, making 220 hp in base form (with the twin turbos adding an additional 100hp).
The A80 was a true sports car and was taking on—and sometimes bettering—machines that were thousands of dollars more. But for some reason, it wasn’t given much love in the day, and only 11,200 were sold before it vanished from the US market in 1998. However, times change, and the A80 is now a sought-after collector car.
Toyota teased us with a wild concept car in 2014, and by 2019, Toyota gave us a production version: the A90, which kept a lot of the flair of the FT-1 concept car.
The Toyota GR Supra A90
The GR (Gazoo Racing) Supra was developed in partnership with BMW. Utilizing the platform and many parts from the BMW Z4. BMW-derived 4 and 6-cylinder motors now reside under the Supra’s massive hood. The Chassis is BMW but tuned by Toyota. The Supra is even built on the same line in the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria, alongside the BMW Z4.
When JDM fanboys see the new Supra, they all say, “nice BMW!” All that aside, the union of BMW and Toyota, strange though it may seem, has created a world-class sports car.
Toyota joined up with BMW for this jam or match made in hell, depending on your affiliations or who’s standards you fly, to get their car to market in a timely fashion. Since they had been missing from the scene for close to 20 years, this also mitigated the chance of a big financial loss. So there was a parley between the two manufacturers, and they brought the best from both of their worlds together.
Comparing the Toyota GR Supra to the BMW Z4
The Supra may be a BMW underneath, but the styling is miles ahead of the very safe and conservative Z4.
The Z4 would easily get lost in a crowd with its unimaginative design and lack of bold colors, whereas the Supra makes a strong statement with its angular and sensual design. This is especially apparent in trims like the Limited-Run 2022 Toyota GR Supra Carbon Fiber Edition.
Even though the new Supra at the Z4 are mechanically the same machine, Toyota took some styling chances, and designers had their work cut out for them, dealing with the hard points of the BMW underpinnings. It has paid off in a unique and striking machine.
When you say the words sports car, it conjures up feelings of danger exclusivity. Part of the appeal is you might not get where you’re going, but you will look good on the side of the road. Of course, sports cars generally aren’t supposed to be daily drivers—and in many people’s eyes, they aren’t practical.
Somehow, the Supra changes all that. It is a sports car, but it’s reliable like a Toyota, and you could drive it daily as long as you don’t have to carry a lot of stuff.
Technology in the Toyota GR Supra
The Supra is not a poser. It backs up its looks with a direct-injected DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline 6, putting out 382 hp. That pushes the rear-wheel-drive Supra from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds and an electronically controlled top speed of 155. The Supra is stupid fast with gobs of grip and balance.
The double-joint-type MacPherson strut suspension up-front and the multi-link rear suspension give the Supra a very BMW-type ride and keep you well-planted on your chosen road.
It doesn’t feel Japanese, but on the outside, it looks Japanese. On the inside, however, it’s all German.
The interior borrows a great deal from its BMW half-sibling but keeps it a bit simpler—and since it’s a sports car, it’s best to keep things simple on the inside. Also, being a sports car, it does have some blind spots, and getting in and out gracefully is a bit of a production.
However, once you’re inside, the purposeful Asian/German hybrid is a blast to drive. It is the front-engined turbocharged rear-wheel drive combination that makes this machine the Halo car for Toyota. It has plenty of aggression and agility to keep you coming back for more.
The Supra has multiple personalities. Put it in drive and you can trundle around town gently; move the shift lever to the left into manual, and the Supra starts to get a bit rowdy and more vocal as you paddle through its eight gears; put it in sport mode, and it becomes a real hooligan.
The Future of the Toyota GR Supra
By 2023, the much anticipated 6-speed manual will be an option in the 3.0-liter model. That should make for some real excitement. It is rapid but well-behaved; it is agile but very smooth. It is refined but playful.
Above all else, this is a very well thought out and realized coupe that, like its predecessor, will give more expensive cars a run for their money. This is a driver’s car. Like the Porsche Cayman and M2, it all becomes a matter of your weapon of choice. When you are choosing a car like this, you are not making a rational decision. This is not a rational car, but like the other cars I mentioned, it’s all about what grabs you.
Is it a real problem that there is a lot of BMW lurking underneath the Toyota-designed skin? Not as far as we’re concerned—the Supra is very much its own car.
All this makes you forget that it comes from Toyota, the company that gives you probably the most ubiquitous car in the world, the Camry. It also allows the purists to forgive its BMW association.