Toyota’s Supra 6-Speed
Love is blue…
Can we agree? Warming up to Toyota’s new Supra has taken awhile, but then, with the number seen on the streets and – not incidentally – populating local Cars and Coffees, familiarity breeds respect and, eventually, what passes for affection. So, while I still find the Supra overdone both in its front fascia and rear detailing, I’m at peace with the overall shape, and have grown to increasingly enjoy its vibe. And while both its inline six with automatic and, more recently, the available 4-cylinder (again with automatic) have been well received, nothing in the Toyota lineup – or, for that matter, anyone’s lineup – quite matches the allure of a BMW-sourced straight six with a 6-speed manual trans. It is, in a word, ‘trans-formative’.
First revealed in 2019, this new Supra generated more than its share of controversy, virtually from the git-go. Built on a platform shared with BMW, and utilizing a BMW drivetrain and European production, Supra enthusiasts – the size of which vastly outpaces the number of actual Supras – were outraged by the shared platform and, perhaps most blasphemous, the reliance on a BMW powertrain. Of course, few of the outraged were in the industry; instead, they were outside looking in.
Of course, so am I. From the outside I loved the Supra proportion, which – at least in its subtext – evoked Jag’s iconic E-Type or Dodge Viper. Of course, the Supra lacked the maturity of the Jaguar’s surface treatment and the mass (visual heft) of the Dodge. Athough – as mentioned – there’s a lot going on in its architecture, the air intakes, both real and suggested, now land with a soft thud rather than a loud bang, especially when clothed in our test example’s Stratosphere blue. A color other than red or black offers an interesting alternative to a shape that is so obviously of-this-century; a variation of metallic blue goes back at least as far as your grandfather’s Oldsmobile.
Inside, what those suffering from claustrophobia might hope would comprise a cabin is, in a very real sense, no more than a cockpit. Once inside (watch your head – we’re talking a roofline of but 51 inches!) you’ll find shoulder room more generous than my Miata, and enough legroom for those stretching over six feet, but in the black leather of our test Supra the darkness (or more accurately, absence of light) can overwhelm; it’s almost a cocoon. Forward visibility (over the Radio Shack-like instrumentation) is unrestricted, and the backup cam helps in, well…backing up, but you’ll want to stay ahead of traffic rather than becoming enmeshed in traffic; in traffic you can not only hit someone else, you can run up against your deductible.
Fortunately, with the ample assist (382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque) of a twin-turbocharged straight six connected to this new 6-speed manual, staying ahead of traffic will be supremely easy. The team at Car and Driver magazine found 60 in only 3.9 seconds, while getting from 0-100 in just 9.6. Both numbers are slightly slower than the Supra’s auto, but those preferring the driving engagement of a manual could care less. And this is one of the better manuals, with precise engagement is mated to an oh-so-progressive clutch. When spooling up the turbocharged six I think I heard Handel’s Messiah, while refueling the Supra with premium unleaded – at almost $6/gallon in California – recalled the Grim Reaper.
This platform is, without any doubt whatsoever, one of the most recreational automobiles I’ve had the opportunity to drive, a list that – over too many years – has included mid-engined Ferraris, Lotus Turbo Esprits, various 911s (including, for a short time, my own), Corvettes old(ish) and new, and both the six and 4-cylinder Supras with automatics. I still think there’s a great case to be made for the four-banger Supra, but would hope-to-Handel someone at Toyota could spec it with the same 6-speed manual box.
And this: The test Supra was our ride to the Burbank Airport. Removing its cargo cover opened the storage area to two big suitcases, a carry-on and a computer bag. In contrast, our Miata would have handled (maybe) the carry-on and computer bag, while the two big suitcases would have needed to be shipped. Looking to do the Grand Tour? You could do worse than the new Supra.
Rumor suggests BMW won’t build a next-gen Z4, and given the partnership one wonders if Toyota would go it alone. But given Toyota’s strengthened alignment with Mazda, and Mazda’s new inline, turbocharged six, perhaps there’s a chance Toyota could go to bed with Mazda, building a next-gen Supra and (perhaps?) a more grown-up Miata.
Together, let us pray.