When the cover came off the racy, sleek Toyota FT-1 concept at the 2014 Detroit auto show, the crowd went berserk. People were freaking out. Just as the ‘90s Japanese sports car market was catching on, here was Toyota spraying gasoline on it with an obvious Supra teaser. Now, five long years later, Toyota is back at the 2019 Detroit show with the real thing.
The 2020 Toyota Supra will be the first Supra in the U.S. since the famed Mk IV generation model went out of production for North America after 1998. And on paper this modern Supra shares a lot of basic traits with that hot ‘90s collectible, as well as a few design cues from the double-bubble 1967 2000 GT. Front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout. Turbocharged straight six. Aggressive looks with a familiar front diffuser and a cool duck-bill rear spoiler. Plus a more impressive performance envelope than any Toyota-badged sports car to date.
But there’s something decidedly different about this all-new Supra. Something German. The straight-six under the hood comes from BMW, which supplies the engine and co-developed the platform to use on its own Z4 roadster. The boosted 3.0-liter six makes 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque, employing variable valve timing and lift on both the intake and exhaust camshafts, as well as direct injection. Combined with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission the engine sends the Supra from 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds. Toyota boasts of a 50:50 weight balance for the Supra, an extremely rigid chassis (particularly at the rear subframe where there is generous bracing), and reduced unsprung weight thanks to aluminum suspension components.
And yes, pieces of the interior are from the Bimmer parts bin (gear-shift lever, infotainment screen and rotary dial, some switchgear). However, BMW and Toyota apparently parted ways fairly early on in the development process for the Z4 and the Supra, especially when it came to fine-tuning. In fact, company CEO Akio Toyoda tested the Supra on several race tracks, including the Nürburgring, to dial it in for maximum driving pleasure. The Supra’s development was shared between Toyota Gazoo Racing in Japan, Toyota North America, and Toyota Motor Europe.
Toyota expects the Supra will be used as a track-day toy now and again, so it needed to ensure that the car could hold its own on a road course. For improved stability and balance, the Supra has an active differential that can lock from 0-100 percent using an electric motor and multi-plate clutches to distribute torque between the rear wheels. An active damping system is standard, which constantly adjusts to road conditions and driver input and can be configured with either Normal or Sport settings by the driver. Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are compulsory, wrapped around forged 19-inch aluminum wheels that hide sizable brakes—13.7-inch rotors up front with four-piston Brembo calipers. Variable-ratio electric steering with variable assist is standard.
Inside there isn’t too much to get all wide-eyed about, aside from a set of fantastic-looking bucket seats with integrated headrests. Otherwise it’s a fairly sterile-looking combination of aluminum, piano black, carbon fiber, and leather. The base Supra with Alcantara trim will be billed the 3.0, while the ritzier 3.0 Premium will get heated leather. In keeping with Toyota’s goal to make the Supra a well-equipped GT car, keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding mirrors, and a fill suite of active safety features that includes blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are all standard.
Thanks in large part to the new architecture it rides on, the 2020 Toyota Supra weighs in at a very respectable 3400 pounds—that’s about 100 pounds lighter than the Mk. IV. Consider that the new model includes much more technology, 15 more hp, and 50 more lb-ft of torque, and there’s good cause to believe that this car will be the most hair-raising Toyota of all time. (No doubt the rear-drive Toyota 86 is a joy to drive, but come on, it’s slower than the Camry.) After many years without a truly groundbreaking sports car for Toyota to hang its hat on, we can’t wait to see what the Supra has in store.