2020 Toyota Supra Premium Review by Rob Eckaus +VIDEO
It's worth celebrating
By Rob Eckaus
THE AUTO CHANNEL
What is the Supra besides polarizing? It’s a low, two seat sporty coupe, fairly light, quick, agile, and the 5th generation of the name, resurrected for 2020 after the 1998 model year was the last one sold in the US and acquiring legend status further elevated by a certain movie.
Having owned what became a lightly modified 1994 Twin Turbo, a 4th generation, and wanting one well years before the Fast & Furious movie, I was well aware of what it was all about and was glad to see the name come back. Although they added GR to the name which means Gazoo Racing, the name of Toyotas multi-discipline racing effort.
There’s a few things that upset enthusiasts and fanatics in general. It currently only comes with an 8 speed torque converter automatic, the ubiquitous ZF units. It’s styling causes strong opinions both for and against, and then one very controversial aspect; it’s a re-bodied and revised BMW Z4. Toyota obviously developed the body, suspension tuning and interior layout. But the chassis and engine is BMW. Which is actually a brilliant partnership. Independently developed with a new inline-6 cylinder engine it surely would have cost much more than the $49,990 base price. You also get the transmission shifter and infotainment interface that is pure BMW. It’s built at the same plant in Austria as well.
Why not use a proven platform and tweak it to the desired level? And it still comes in $13,710 cheaper than the similarly (6 cylinder) equipped Z4. Granted that is also a 138lb heavier hardtop convertible. Rated at 335hp and 365lb-ft torque starting at 1600rpm yet dyno sessions and quarter mile testing in the mid-low 12 second range with trap speeds in the low teens suggest its more than that. Rated at 31mpg highway, it achieves that rare ratio of a 12 second car achieving 30mpg or higher. A milestone achievement not that long ago. Despite the 13.7 gallon gas tank and heavy throttle use and backroad travels, 22-23mpg was observed. It is attention grabbing with a lot of swoops and curves for its short body. The rear quarter fender bulge has nice curves but ends abruptly with the rear skirt and narrower duck tail rear hatch lip. Unfortunately, that sensual rear fender curve is interrupted by a fake vent in the door and the front fender has one as well. The capped roofline means ducking lower than initially anticipated to keep your head from being bumped or worse, biffed. Once inside, it’s fine for the driver, but say if you’re sightseeing by driving around looking at homes, you’ll be getting stares from residents walking but you can’t see the homes on the passenger side very well. There’s a small gap between the infotainment screen and rear-view mirror, but the seat height and hood slope makes it work instead of being a detriment.
The rear looks wide and purposeful though. My wife called it Shakira because its hips don’t lie and a friend called it fat, but he wasn’t being complimentary. Toyota says it is one of the shortest wheelbase to width cars in production, checking it against Porsche’s 992 911 S, they are nearly identical in wheelbase, width and weight. One thing about its styling, it is unique. It will not be mistaken for any other car on the road from a distance; front, rear and the side. Kudos to Toyota for pulling that off.
Looking under the long hood, although there are numerous BMW identifiers on components, it has a pretty trick release that doesn’t require a secondary lever or latch activation to open, just a pull upward once unlatched from within.
The transmission shifts rapidly and smoothly. When the paddles are used for both upshifting and downshifting, the response is immediate, reminiscent of what seems to be the industry standard, Porsche’s PDK. It’s also is geared rather aggressively, with 6th being the 1:1 ratio. Lots of exhaust pops and crackles can be achieved by revving from idle or downshifting aggressively. Very reminiscent of the Jaguar F-Type in this regard, not to mention the cozy cabin. It’s addictive and I found myself doing it often. However, the exhaust is a constant background companion which may not bother some, or many, but in Sport mode, it’s just intrusive. Depends on your driving situation and mindset.
As widely publicized, if the windows are down, the wind buffeting heard by the ears is poorly attenuated. The cargo area is accessible by the occupants and probably doesn’t help with that and along with some noticeable road noise. There was some creaking from the body structure when exiting the driveway at an angle in reverse going down the curbing. Otherwise it was solid feeling, no qualms. This is more of a sports car than a grand tourer despite having an admittedly excellent torque converter automatic in terms of sound deadening and priorities..
Once behind the wheel, styling touches don’t matter. Its smooth power delivery and minimal lag quickly bring a smile to your face. Turn-in is immediate and the car feels light and tossable. Right away the it conveys to the driver a feeling of desire and confidence to push it on the track, it’s ready to go and so are you.
It is small inside, but the seats are comfortable but a little narrow. The seatbelt is easily reached, sometimes rare in a coupe. In terms of storage, the door pockets can be used, but the center console just has two couple holders and no storage under a lid. There is a spot for wireless charging as well as a plastic shelf above the phone but it just doesn’t seem ideal. Oh and the horn is a little wimpy. When parking, it doesn’t give an audible confirmation the vehicle is put into park, you need to make a visual check. This can lead to some unintentional accidents.
Never mind the interior idiosyncrasies, they aren’t deal breakers and the car is fun to drive. It does short-shift into second when not in Sport mode, not letting the foot decide at partial throttle lift. It is aggressively geared so it’s not like you suddenly hit a dead spot since that 365lb ft of torque starts at 1600rpm.
The 4100 people that bought the 2020 model should have at least opted for the Premium package for $4000 more. The notable additions are full leather seating, sport pedals, 12 speaker JBL, 500w sound system, large 8.8” infotainment screen, wireless charging, upgraded 2.1a USB port and larger rear brakes. Every model has an active (electronic) rear differential, active (adjustable) suspension and active exhaust.
The 2021 model year brought more controversy. But so what, right? Why blend in and be bland? Get exposure, do stuff, make changes! This second model year introduces the 4 cylinder model at a base of $42,990 and 255hp. That isn’t what is sticking in everyone’s craw though. The 6 cylinder price goes up $1000 for the base, but now the engine matches BMW’s rating, 382hp. The Premium price increase is $500. But really, why would anyone expect the horsepower not to rise to match BMW? And it’s a turbo so it’s easily tuned for more power anyway.
This Premium trim level example had the Driver Assist Package for $1,195 which included full speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. That worked extremely well, keeping a proper following distance and less abrupt slow-downs. It also includes Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The later a big help along with the rear camera due to the blind spots it has. The lane correction is thankfully adjustable because at it’s highest setting it will literally yank the wheel. Two options I can’t stress enough for any car are now offered by Toyota. Paint Protection Film for the front bumper ($485 msrp) and hood and door cups for $395 msrp. Both seem to be dealer installed, so make sure you inspect the results closely upon delivery.
Even if it’s not your immediate purchase goal, this is the kind of car you keep track of, what it sells for used, what the year-to-year changes are, it’s racing success, its exploits when modified and more. It’s an enthusiasts sports coupe and it should be celebrated.