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The Top Gear car review:Toyota Supra
What is it like on the road?
It’s really good to drive. Cue relief. It’s crisp, responsive, well connected, confidence-inspiring and quick. If you’re considering a Porsche 718 Cayman, then you really should drive a Toyota Supra. The BMW Z4 isn’t really a rival. Too much of a cruiser (the dynamics are sharp enough, but the image and attitude aren’t). And hardly a looker. It was Toyota that demanded the short wheelbase that’s done the BMW no favours.
It’s the fact that Toyota has been able to take the same mechanicals as BMW and shape them into a proper sports car that’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Supra. But it’s not all completely successful, so let’s start there. The eight-speed automatic just about passes muster as a sports transmission, but it’s a close run thing. Requested paddle downshifts can be a fraction delayed, upshifts can surge.
Similarly, the engine: plenty of mid-range shove, but not much point venturing beyond 5,500rpm. Nor that much further before the auto change up point at 6,500rpm, either. The brakes (vented, but not cross-drilled, no ceramic option) do fade, and could be more precise underfoot.
But the good stuff dominates. Here is a car that’s really well connected. The front wheels unfailingly go where you aim them, and the rear axle is communicative and well supported. What this means is that the Supra moves into corners well, and it gets out of them well, too. Actual steering feel? Not really, but the steering set-up – especially in Sport (that or Normal are your only choices) – is lovely, well weighted and responsive. It’s too light in Normal. Turn-in is positive, roll very well contained, and it feels agile, almost as if it has four-wheel steering (it doesn’t) thanks to the short 2,470mm wheelbase.
It’s friendly over a wide range – you can choose to brake deep into an apex, or you can go in gently and power out. Nothing much flusters it. It doesn’t succumb suddenly to either understeer or oversteer, because there’s enough information coming to you that you’re already on top of the situation. If you do choose to, erm, exploit the edges of the performance envelope, you’ll be glad to hear it settles into oversteer with aplomb, has enough power to perform in third gear, enough lock to save most blushes.
On to more relevant things. It rides calmly. This is surprising. Given the Supra’s accuracy you’d imagine it to be potentially brittle, but actually it flows along, relatively undistracted by lumps and bumps. Each wheel is very well controlled. Nor is NVH an issue. You could easily imagine settling in for a long trip. It’s certainly quieter on the road than a Cayman, more settled than a BMW M2 Competition, if not as deft as an Alpine A110.
Which brings me on to weight. It’s not Alpine light obviously, but it’s more agile than the 1,495kg kerbweight would suggest. I’d guessed 100kg less before reading the literature. And before you ask, it’s 115kg lighter than the equivalent Z4, the 1610kg M40i.
OK, that’s got that out the way. Taken in isolation and ignoring lurking elephants, the Supra is great to drive. I deeply enjoyed it, wanted to spend more time in it. But it doesn’t half feel like a BMW. It’s the engine that does it. Toyota claims to have worked on the torque characteristics and so on, but the noise, the feel, the interaction is pure BMW. Engines are often what we fall in love with and Japanese straight sixes have a reputation to uphold, the old Supras 2JZ unit especially.
What price individuality? If you’ve never driven a recent BMW turbo – or something Japanese with a straight six – you’ll take this motor at face value and enjoy it (the Supra’s certainly not short of pace), but if you care about the back story or have driven a 335i, I think you’re going to feel puzzled.
And this complex gestation has another victim: charisma. Great cars are often great because they’re flawed or highly individual, but the Supra feels confused – part German, part Japanese, not quite knowing what it is. Still, it does drive well.