Has there been a more frustrating launch of a new car than the fifth-gen Supra? If you’ve been hopelessly caught up in the hype of Toyota’s reborn hero, like I have, it’s likely that the first story you’ll read in this month’s mag is our international drive.
Be warned, however: further irritation may ensue. While we have indeed driven it (finally!), the review isn’t of the production-ready car, but a camouflaged testing mule still undergoing final engineering sign-off.
This has me genuinely worried.
Not because our early taste was underwhelming – Ryan Lewis’s review shows there’s plenty of goodness lurking beneath that bamboozling paintwork and felt-covered cabin – but because by the time it finally arrives next year, the risk is that the Supra could have successfully and spectacularly executed the automotive equivalent of jumping the shark.
We’ve seen this before, of course. Drawn-out and agonisingly protracted vehicle-reveal schedules are nothing new. But while manufacturers the world over are guilty of over-hyping new models (the BMW i8 springs to mind as an example of a sportscar that felt past its best-by date when it arrived in dealers), it’s a phenomenon embraced with particular panache by the Japanese.
Anyone who traced the gestations of the Lexus LFA, R35 Nissan GT-R and even the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ twins will understand the frustration, but for me, the car that best embodies the risks of the ‘over tease’ is the Honda NSX. Here was a sportscar icon that, thanks to almost a decade of previews, powertrain unveilings, and design glimpses, sucked all of the oxygen out of its own reveal. When the covers finally came off at the 2015 Detroit show, it felt as though the entire motoring world simply shrugged its shoulders.
It’s a fate I fear for the Supra. Like the NSX, it’s mooted to appear in its totality at Detroit (pointing to the US market’s significance for its success), but come January 2019, the momentum may have been lost. In an age of evaporating attention spans and gluttonous instant gratification, timing is more important than ever.
I’m sure there are experts in Toyota’s international engineering and marketing departments who’ll argue everything is running according to plan, but as if in stark contrast, this month threw up an example of how to launch a car with zero forewarning. If you’re a subscriber, it’s the Martini-liveried stunner that graces your cover, and one that sent journalists, enthusiasts, racers and celebrities into a frenzy: Porsche’s reborn 935.
A modern day Moby Dick might be about as relevant as protecting a non-existent local industry by retaining the Luxury Car Tax, but there’s no denying the impact it made when it appeared, in full, on the German brand’s website and social channels. A feat achieved without a single ‘teaser image’.
Unlike the fantastical and unattainable Porsche, however, what the Supra has going for it is its accessibility. Sure, it will cost twice as much as an 86/BRZ, but even at circa-$75K (we think … like engine outputs and other technical details, Toyota is being frustratingly tight-lipped on pricing) Toyota’s fifth-gen icon is tantalisingly within reach, or at the very least, not totally unfeasible.
Then there’s the appeal of its fundamentals: rear-drive, 3.0-litre inline six, around 250kW and a kerb weight target of 1500kg. Little wonder it’s captured the imagination of enthusiasts, especially those of the console generation. Here’s hoping the buzz doesn’t evaporate by the time it arrives Down Under, finally, at the end of 2019.
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