Designer DNA makes this classic sports car truly shine.
When you hear that Banana Republic has just gotten a stock of blazers from the Armani factory in Italy, with fabrics and details specified by Armani tailors but carrying a BR label, you run to the nearest shop and grab one. Or three. Because these are once-in-a-lifetime treasures that you’ll wear forever.
The magic is that while yes, the blazer has the underpinnings of Armani, it is still the Banana Republic you love: the design fits your life, your style and budget but adds that little extra that will make you love it for seasons to come.
That is the 2020 Toyota Supra.
Partnering with BMW to bring Back the Supra: The Backstory
Toyota wanted to get back to building performance sports cars and BMW was looking for efficiencies that would allow it to continue to build the Z4. Cross-brand partnerships like these tend to be little-known but are commonplace: partners bring key competencies together to create great cars.
In this instance BMW provided the underpinnings—the engine and suspension of the Z4—and both share a similar size and shape. But the Supra’s soul sets the stage for the next era of Toyota’s heritage: sublime details and a role as the flagship of Gazoo Racing (the GR in the model’s name) ready this car, and Toyota, for a place on the podium. More details also make it distinct: the roof line allows more headroom for tall passengers; the historic Supra ‘dragon’ logo, carried over from the last generation that was a fixture in Japanese drifting culture, and the hatchback design define this Supra even more .
What We Loved
- The roomy cabin. Yes, roomy. In a sports car!
- Sport mode — it’s throaty and rumbly and all a sports car should sound like
- The fantastic drive experience
- Head up display with turn by turn directions (navigation package must be added)
- The BMW partnership, which makes this Toyota all the sweeter
- Wireless Apple CarPlay (unfortunately Android Auto is not yet available) with a wireless charge pad
- Carbon fiber details on the center console
- It’s a hatchback. That alone is enough to win me over
- The historic Supra ‘dragon’ logo
- And YES there’s a great place to put your purse!!!
The Drive Experience. Get Ready for Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh
And all you have to do is take a spin to see that yes, the Toyota Supra is worthy. I had the chance to drive both the Supra and the Z4 back to back and while both are stellar, they are not the same. At all. I tested the BMW Z4 M40i (Priced from $63,700), which like the Toyota Supra (priced from $49,900) is a 2-seater sports car. The Z4 M40 i has about 47 more horsepower—382 to Supra’s 335. The BMW, as can be typical, makes you work for all that power, with stiffer steering and suspension, so you feel all the bumps in the road and need to put some muscle into turns and curves.
The Toyota Supra is a bit more sublime. 335 horsepower is entirely more than you’ll need or use or possibly even want in a car this size. It’s easy to drive, delivering plenty of power without getting out of hand. Pop it into Sport mode if you need more.
I fell in love with Supra’s instant power when I tapped the accelerator, and even in normal mode, and loved the low rumble of power. But in sport mode and I was smitten with the throaty crackle and pop from the tailpipe. You can feel it all the way to your toes.
This Car Is a Head-Turner on the Road
All week guys in Porsches and BMWs were rubbernecking to get a long look at the Supra. From the sleek front end and the aerodynamic silhouette to the power under the hood that sports car fans have already heard about, I had a lot of men slowing down to take a look that week (and yes, I’m sure it was the car).
After my week I was less critical about the fact that it’s not available in a 6 speed stick shift or with a convertible top. Or that, unlike the original, it only seats two, not four.
A Driver’s Car, and Designed to Do More
From the moment the Supra was revealed, car experts were enthusiastic and characteristically critical. One of the top points of contention are the “fake air vents” all around the Supra that had critics scratching their heads. But, this detail had sports car “tuners” or the guys who buy a car and add power and performance to it, grinning.
That’s because the Supra is, by design, intended for racers and enthusiasts to be able to add what they want to glean even more performance. Yes, owners can add a fancy spoiler, but they can be bit more exacting—and less obvious— by adding engine and braking components that will put those ‘fake’ air vents to use; they are actually blanks that can be removed. I thought it was rather thoughtful and crafty of Toyota to add them so shade-tree racers or pro teams can tinker away. Sort of like crowdsourcing for ideas that will no doubt be put to test on the track, which Gazoo Racing will likely also put to use in its racing ambition.
So Many Surprises Are Tucked in to This 2-Door Sports Car
I was completely surprised by the space in this 2-seater sports car. Yes—space! As in, you can shop for a week’s worth of groceries for a family and have plenty of room. You can fit two roll-aboard suitcases and a couple of tote bags. You can bring the dog.
Another surprise and delight detail: look around the Supra’s cabin and you’ll see more of BMW’s DNA. Most notable is the gear selector, which is classic modern BMW and will feel new to Toyota drivers. And, the rotary infotainment selector and the way the system is organized: very BMW.
And, the infotainment system and the steering wheel controls are distinctly BMW, too. Starting with the wireless AppleCarPlay system which is run by connecting via Bluetooth rather than a USB cord. This took some figuring out; it requires connecting your phone, but once you have, CarPlay will connect every time you get into the car. And luckily there is a wireless charge pad so your phone stays charged. (Sadly for Android users, Android Auto is not yet available)
The steering wheel controls also are more BMW than Toyota. Overall the design and placement of controls looks very similar to the BMW Z4. And specifically, a scroll dial on the right side of the steering wheel allows you to trip through radio stations. A similarly sized toggle on the left side allows you to set your adaptive cruise control follow distance.
Why You Want a Hatchback
Unlike the BMW, however, this car as brilliant hatch space. I simply loved this and for this one feature completely forgive the fact that this car isn’t available in a convertible — yet.
The hatch is narrow, so getting things into and out of the Supra can take some figuring. However, it’s completely usable, and a removable cargo cover offers you even more space. Best of all, the cargo area is reachable from the front seat so you can put your handbag right behind the passengers seat and easily grab it when you get out of the car. I can’t say enough how much I loved this.
On the outside, the hatch gives the Supra a fastback-style appearance, both sleek and sporty as well as practical, and it fits the Supra heritage; these cars were always hatchbacks.
Why This Car Broke My Heart
When I was 18 my car, a sporty little MG Midget, needed more daily TLC than I had time or money for. I began shopping for something more reliable, but I also wanted a sports car. I loved the light, agile drive experience and fuel efficiency of the MG. But reliability was at the top of my list. I quickly discovered a ’77 Toyota Celica Supra and fell in love.
I found one that looked just like this. It was owned by a girl only a few years older than me. She had just graduated from college and, in her first job, was buying a brand new car.
It was a beautiful light sapphire blue, it glistened in the sunlight. The interior was airy, clean and felt fresh; she’d taken good care of it. It drove beautifully; the clutch had a softer spring to it than my MG’s stiff clutch.
But, it wasn’t to be. She wanted twice what I had to spend. So, I kept shopping. And regretting. I loved that car.
There’s nothing like buyer’s remorse. It haunts you for years, taunts you in your dreams. Like that Armani-made, Banana Republic-designed attainable, wearable for years blazer. When you see, grab it. And don’t look back.
What This Car Costs
- Supra 3.0, which includes a 6 cylinder twin turbo engine, Brenbo brakes leather wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters, heated auto tilting (when in reverse) side mirrors, 8.8” Driver information screen, Alcantara microsuede trimmed seats, carbon fiber panels on the dash and center console, 8.8” center multimedia system, wireless charge pad, smart key with smart entry, 2 USB ports, Toyota Safety Sense driver assist and safety system including lane keep assist and automatic high beam, child restraint system on the passenger side, 2 years of scheduled maintenance, 24/7 roadside assistance $49,900
- Supra 3.0 Premium edition adds red Brembo brakes, leather seats, premium sound, head up display, $53,990
- Add driver assist package with adaptive cruise control with full stop, road sign assist, , blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert, parking sensors and emergency braking function, $1,195
- Add premium JBL sound system, $1,265
- Add navigation, $1,195
- Delivery, $995
- Price of the model we test drove, about $56,280
What You Need to Know
- Seats two
- Premium fuel recommended for maximum performance
- Fuel economy estimated at 24 MPG city/31 MPG highway
- Summer tires are standard; buyers in colder climates may need to add all season or winter tires for cold weather performance
- Rear wheel drive —great for performance but tricky in slippery conditions
- 3 year/36 month bumper to bumper warranty — a year less than the BMW Z4
- 6 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty
Disclosure: Toyota provided the GR Supra for this test drive; all opinions are my own.