Motoring Writer Ian Lamming bumps heads with an old friend, Toyota’s brand new Supra
SO what’s trending? So what’s trendy? So what’s what?
Well? Toyota doesn’t care and neither do I. If you follow the latest trend, strive to be always on-trend and pride yourself on being trendy then chances are your motoring experience is going to be as dull as ditch water.
That’s because the current trend, or as the auto industry calls it, ‘a once-in-a-hundred-years revolution’, is towards technological innovations such as electric power, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence.
So most modern cars are high-tech modes of transport with the emphasis on safety, efficiency, ecology.
That’s why they are so easy to drive, require the bare minimum input from the driver – who is virtually a passenger nowadays – and tend to be devoid of personality and the old fun factor of yesteryear.
Toyota is bucking that trend and new Supra is the antithesis of society’s modern obsession. This has been a deliberate attempt by the manufacturer to try and retain some semblance of spirit, individuality and character in a new car – and that dictat has come from the very top.
Toyota’s President Akio Toyoda loves to drive, in fact he spent countless hours bazzing an old Supra around the Nürburgring circuit in Germany to become a ‘Master Driver’. He fully admits that Supra is like an old friend and holds a special place in his heart.
Even when Toyota had no plans to make a new Supra, just like a lot of other diehard fans around the world, he secretly wanted to make it happen.
He got his way and guess where the fifth generation was conceived and born? Yes, that’s right the Nürburgring Nordschleife and as a result is a complete hoot to drive.
Toyota bosses also insisted on visiting enthusiasts’ clubs around the world to talk to owners of previous Supras, asking them for their bare minimum requirements.
Strange, they didn’t visit me and I always loved the old Supra. I had a black one once which I called the Batmobile.
The answer always came back that Supra had to be a straight-six turbo with a front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration – and I would go along with that.
Once that had been established then it was a case of handing the project over for the ‘GR’ treatment; that stand for Toyota’s Gazoo Racing division, the umbrella organisation for the firm’s global motorsports programme.
They’re none too shabby; in the space of a year they achieved top level success in winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Manufacturers’ Championship in the FIA World Rally Championship and the 2019 Dakar rally.
Engineers and designers strive to develop people through participation in motorsport; create fans through the excitement of motorsport; and apply the knowledge gained from motorsport to make cars even better and fun to drive on the road. What a great ethos.
Rose tinted glasses firmly in place there is certainly no disappointment in the way new Supra looks.
Runway-long bonnet, compact body and double-bubble roof get the juices flowing, while the rear boasts muscular rear wings and an arcing integrated spoiler. Add gargantuan 19in alloys and the perfect aesthetic is complete.
Open the door, slip in a left leg, then stumble, bang your head on the low roofline, before dropping unceremoniously down into leather bucket seats, catching your coccyx on the way. Yes, Supra is low-slung and snug but, like most things in life, it’s worth the pain.
Fire-up the straight six and all is forgotten and forgiven as it burbles menacingly in the background. For the brave of heart there is even launch control enabling full power take-offs from standstill while maintaining maximum traction – so that’s how you hit 62mph in just 4.3 seconds.
All that clout – 335BHP to be precise, pulling minimal weight – means Toyota has had to take care with other aspects of the Supra. As a result, structural rigidity is high, staggeringly so, even greater than the Lexus LFA hypercar, the centre of gravity is lower than the GT86 coupe and weight distribution is the ideal 50:50 front/rear.
The result is car which is gloriously poised and the driver can feel everything that is going on beneath its tyres. Balance, grip and ride are astounding and this is done without sacrificing any comfort. The steering is just so positive that you feel you are part of the car itself and the brakes are immensely powerful and controlled. The relationship between engine, automatic gearbox and chassis is sublime. Mr Toyoda is absolutely right – this is a driver’s car and it is immense fun.
Inside the two-seater cabin the head-up display, meters and paddle shifts all sit perfectly in line with the driver. There are additional switches on the three-spoke leather-bound steering wheel, which is shapely and great to grip. The 8.8-inch high-definition driver’s instrument display features a 3D-effect tachometer and shift indicator in the centre, a digital speed read-out to the left and infotainment and navigation information to the right.
The air conditioning control panel sits proud of the console and an 8.8-inch central multimedia display is mounted above the console, operated by touchscreen or rotary controller. In total, the cabin is a delight.
There are those who might, of course, prefer the badge of the BMW Z4 to that of a Toyota, thinking it may come with more kudos. But really? These people do not appreciate the cult status Supra holds among the sub-culture which follows drifting and the Fast and Furious genre.
So thank heavens, I say, for Toyota, a manufacturer which appreciates there is more to the journey than simply reaching the end. If that’s not on trend, then I’m happy to be untrendy and I’ll have much more fun along the way.
Toyota GR Supra Pro
Engine: 3.0 petrol turbocharged
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 170