Watch out crims, the British police have found fast SUVs
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Ah, the famed ‘is it different on a UK B-road’ test? Got it in one. And is it? Nope. The Toyota Supra rode and handled very nicely a few weeks back in Spain, where the roads are almost uniformly smooth. And it still rides and handles very nicely as a right hooker driven through the depths of Wales. Not all cars manage this translation. Some, often those that are stiffly sprung and mistake rigidity for body control, can come unstuck. They start to skitter and skate over botched utility company resurfacing or cheap county council in-fills. The Supra doesn’t. It’s a very well balanced, harmonious and accommodating coupe.
Isn’t it more GT than sports car, though? There is that side to it. It makes very few demands of its driver. The engine and gearbox are slick and silent unless roused, and while there is tyre noise, it’s acceptable, making this a quieter and less surface-sensitive car than a BMW M2 or Porsche 718 Cayman. It’s supple-riding and, with a large, accessible hatchback boot, the Supra is a lot less challenging to live with than an Alpine A110. If your hobbies include golf, skiing, fishing, shooting or, well anything else that involves carrying long slender things up to (but not including) pole vaulting, the Supra is going to handle them better than a Porsche Cayman. Provided you don’t mind being jabbed in the elbow by a shotgun. But yes, despite Toyota’s protestations that this is a proper sports car, it’s one from the comfier end of the spectrum. Does it have the bandwidth to reach the other end? Mostly, yes. It would be a steely-eyed person indeed that found this anything other than incisive, energetic and rewarding. The Supra has been very well set up, particularly at the rear end. It’s all very well having a front-engined, rear-drive car that turns in well – nothing too hard about that (said he, instantly belittling the achievements of every front axle engineer out there…) – but getting the rear end right is more difficult. Especially when the occupants are pretty much sat on it. Too much squidge and squirm and those movements will feel magnified, too much harshness and it’ll feel brittle and untrustworthy. And what about traction? Tuning the e-diff? Managing bump steer? It’s a bloody minefield. And one Toyota has trodden confidently through. The rear end is well supported, so doesn’t roll through corners or squat severely on exit. It just follows the tempo set by the front: in cleanly and easily, out cleanly and easily. Never feels like it’s having to work that hard. And then you realise how much work 369lb ft of torque at 1,600rpm is capable of putting on the car. That’s a lot of torque – you’d forgive the rear end for getting a bit lively. But traction management is great: not too much flickering orange light, just the 275/35 ZR19 rear tyres doing their job, dividing the torque evenly between them and getting out of all corners, slow or fast, with intent. It’s fast then? It certainly is. Toyota claims the 3.0-litre 335bhp straight-six and eight-speed automatic gearbox combine to send the 1495kg two-seat Supra from 0-62mph in 4.3secs. It doesn’t. We timed it at 4.0secs to 60mph, with 100mph coming up in 9.6secs. That puts it firmly in the Porsche Cayman GTS and BMW M2 Competition league. Aren’t you contractually obliged to mentioned the BMW link? I’ve been saving it. A quick rehash in case you’ve managed to miss the deluge of Supra coverage in recent weeks: Toyota partnered with BMW to create the Supra. Underneath large swathes are shared with the BMW Z4, although Toyota is at pains to point out they did all the tuning and development themselves. So engine, gearbox, suspension, chassis, electronics, infotainment and much switchgear is from BMW. Is this offensive? Interesting tack to take. Initially yes. If you know a lot about cars, you get into the Supra with a sense of indignation. “Why”, you wonder, “can’t the world’s biggest car company build its own sports car? Y’know, like it used to”. Then you remember what Toyotas are like inside. So you wonder why Toyota didn’t just pinch a load of stuff from Lexus. And then you remember that you’ve never figured out how Lexus’s infotainment works, and that the stupid mouse-thing should have been boarded-up behind the skirting board of the interior design studio. We had the Supra for a week, did over 1,000 miles in it. I never fully came round to it, but I did like the fact that the surfaces are nice to touch, the control interfaces logical and CarPlay worked properly. I had more issue with the engine sound than the cabin. BMW do cabins better than Toyota, but Toyota used to know how to do straight sixes. Japanese straight sixes are their own special thing. This never stopped sounding or behaving like a BMW engine. Gutsy noise, oodles of torque, decent fuel economy (27mpg overall, an easy 34mpg cruising) and so on, but definitely Bavarian in character. Does the BMW link help justify the cost? Whichever way you cut it, the Supra is expensive. At £52,695 basic (£54,000 for the Pro version you see in these pics), it’s a few grand more than the equivalent BMW Z4, which comes with a nifty folding soft top. It’s bang-on cost against the Cayman, M2 and Alpine, but they all have a richer pedigree, more faithful approach or stronger personality. Is that enough to put you off? It depends how much those things matter to you. If you know and care about the Supra already, speak the language of A80 and 2JZ, this car is going to feel a bit hollow. But if you’re brand-agnostic and just want a good coupe that’s fun to drive, but just as capable at commuting, you’ll love the Supra. It’s a handsome, well proportioned thing. It’s fast, sophisticated and well engineered. It’s a good car, it really is. Just maybe not the most compelling, life-affirming sports car £50,000 can buy. 8/10 Photography: Mark Riccioni
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