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Is the Toyota Supra a real sports car?

By Andy Enright, 12 Feb 2020 Features

Is the Toyota Supra a real sports car?

We pit the Supra against one of the High Country’s finest driving roads to answer a tricky question

OF ALL the hardships a person has to face, none is more punishing than the simple act of waiting. And we waited a very long time for Toyota’s Supra. Were you supremely patient, you’d have scratched 6053 hash marks into the wall for the sixteen and a half years between the end of fourth-generation Supra production and the start of the fifth. Heck, it took 12 years for the FT-HS show car to morph into the production Supra.

What’s more, the longer we waited the more our anticipation and expectations built, to the extent that the GR Supra could never really live up to the hype. A combination of misty-eyed nostalgia, the legend of Smokey Nagata, Top Secret, the Mid Night Racing Club, Gran Turismo and, yes, the Fast and Furious franchise had lifted what was a respectable GT coupe to near-deity. And then we got a rebodied BMW Z4.

For the first Wheels road test of the Supra, we headed to the remote location of Licola, a village tucked into an inaccessible nook in the Victorian high country. It boasts a permanent population of 2, has no grid power or mobile signal, but is ridiculously overendowed with well-sighted, traffic free 100km/h posted corners. It’s not far from perfect to put the Supra through its paces.

You can read how the Supra stacked up against the reigning champ, the BMW M2 Competition, and the revitalised Audi TT S here, but if you’re pushed for time, here are the cliff notes.

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It’s a deeply surprising car. No, its BMW genes aren’t what you’d describe as artfully concealed, but settle into the snug cabin, get used to the big 373mm steering wheel and no bulkhead behind you and you’re set for some fun. At first, the Supra can feel surprisingly soft for something that’s shorter of wheelbase than an 86. There’s a certain polish to its controls that feels well engineered, but not exactly what you expect from such an aggressive looking thing.

Indeed, if you drive the Supra gently, it’s a pleasant thing, albeit fairly loud. During testing a Car of the Year, we discovered that it possessed the loudest cabin in the entire 31-car field and by some margin. We also discovered that the diesel Touareg was quieter than an electric Tesla, which demonstrates that there’s no substitute for objective testing.

Nevertheless, the Supra has, like its esteemed predecessor, a certain degree of grand touring ability. Pick it up by the scruff of the neck and fling it at a challenging mountain road and it easily outperforms the old stager. Outperforms some more esteemed contemporary names too.

The steering is measured, the ride is just supple enough to prevent the oversquare footprint being too upset on poor surfaces and the logic of the eight-speed ZF auto is extremely good. The spring rates are such that if you manhandle the car into a corner it can shift its weights a little clumsily, so it rewards a smooth turn in. It gobbles up the ground on a cross country route. 

An admission. We had to nix a whole bunch of footage for the TV segment because the thing looked too fast for the show. Seriously. Some of the mid-corner footage was banzai. Even with a closed road section, we had to select some of the tamer looking stuff. If you’re looking for a quiet road and have a day to spare, do yourself a favour. Set the nav for Licola.

Anyway, enough of me. Settle in and watch editor Inwood going for a pedal in the Supra. Apart from its tiger print plates, it’s a lovely thing. Worth the wait? On balance, I reckon so.