New Car/Review

1997 TOYOTA SUPRA TURBO

by Tom Hagin

toyota

SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 39,900
     Price As Tested                                    $ 40,767
     Engine Type                             3.0 Liter I6 w/SFI*
     Engine Size                                 182 cid/2997 cc
     Horsepower                                   320 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               315 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  100.4"/71.3"/177.8"
     Transmission                               Six-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3532 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                        235/45ZR17 - 255/40ZR17
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                  5 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/24/20          
     0-60 MPH                                        5.1 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                    14.1 seconds @ 104.5 mph
     Top speed                                           155 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

Toyota's Supra began life in 1979 as an uplevel version of the Celica, became a stand-alone model in 1986, then underwent a massive redesign back in mid-1993. But recently, Supra was on the verge of extinction because of slow sales and nagging emissions regulations.

Toyota assures us that the Supra is here to stay, and for 1997, all models will be offered with a 15th anniversary package that adds lots of standard equipment at reduced prices.

OUTSIDE - Supra on the street almost always draws a crowd of onlookers, especially since the Turbo model wears a towering rear spoiler. The two conspicuous headlight lenses cover three very effective projector-beam lamps; one high beam, one low beam and a fog light. Below are a pair of air openings with inset turn indicators, and between them is a large scoop, with a single body-color bar running across its opening. The rest of the car is sculpted smoothly, with a high beltline and low roof that rolls back into a tall, pinched-in tail dotted with a tightly-packed cluster of round tail lights. Our test car was equipped with a removable sport roof, while 15th anniversary Turbo editions come with a set of highly polished alloy wheels and huge tires.

INSIDE - Supra is meant to be a driver's car, and those in front will enjoy the experience. The dash is occupied by three large gauges, which are bright and canted toward the driver. As could be expected from a near-exotic supercar, the front bucket seats cradle those up front with excellent lateral and thigh support. The only complaint we found was that the cushions were too low for our shorter testers, which made seeing over the dashboard difficult. And for some, climbing aboard can be a chore, but climbing, and remaining seated, in the back seat is nearly impossible. Its best use is for the occasional cross-town jaunt, or as extra storage space for cargo. Standard features include power windows, door locks and mirrors, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, variable speed intermittent wipers, tilt steering and a powerful AM/FM cassette. Our Turbo test model added leather upholstery, automatic climate control, keyless entry and a CD player upgrade.

ON THE ROAD - Supra Turbo uses a 3.0 liter inline six cylinder engine, and the addition of a pair of intercooled, sequentially- activated turbochargers produces an output of 320 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque. All this power is fed to the rear wheels and comes on in a massive rush. In first gear, redline is reached so quickly that there's barely time to shift, though by the time second gear is engaged, the legal speed limit has long since passed. Supra Turbo models come standard with a limited slip rear differential and traction control, both of which assist traction on slippery surfaces. Last year, Toyota dropped the six-speed gearbox that's been available since the beginning of the current model's life because of emissions regulations. But this year it's back, and all that was needed were minor calibrations to the car's electronic control unit, which quickly brought it into compliance.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Its blistering acceleration is mirrored by its handling prowess. It features double wishbone four-wheel independent suspension with gas-filled coil-over shocks and front and rear stabilizer bars. It handles great, producing great confidence from even us amateur drivers. In keeping with its GT car mission, the ride is quite rough, however, with each and every imperfection of the road felt through the seat of the pants. For 1997, Toyota has added gussets in the floor pan and roof pillars, which have strengthened the chassis, improved the steering feel and lowered noise, vibration and harshness levels. Its speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is precise and quick, and gives taut control and road feel at highway speeds and above, and is simple to maneuver while parking. The massive anti-lock front and rear disc brakes are among the best in the business, too, and gave us an impressive 60-0 mph stopping distance of 118 feet on dry pavement.

SAFETY - Dual airbags, limited slip differential, traction control, ABS and side-impact beams are standard.

OPTIONS - Wheel locks are $52, while keyless entry adds $395.

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