Two decades after its original production ceased, a new old sports car re-emerged 18 months ago. Few consumers noticed the Toyota Supra.
Less than 3,000 of the 2020 fifth-generation offering, a collaboration between the Japanese automaker and BMW, sold. The revised 2021 edition offers promise for a new wave of buyers interested in the luxury sports car first unveiled in 1978.
A full year of sales will more than double the estimated 3,000 purchases from the vehicle’s initial six months back on the market in 2019. It’s encouraging considering the final year of the Supra’s initial tenure in the United States in 1999 resulted in only 24 sales.
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Toyota Supra gets second chance
The Supra was all the rage in the early 1980s. It was marketed with the Celica, its former less-expensive sibling, as “It’s The Right Stuff.” And there was its motto: “Oh, What A Feeling.”
The Supra was the Import Car of the Year by MotorTrend Magazine, then in its prominence. More than 34,000 Supras were purchased in 1982, the car’s best yearly tally.
For 2021, Toyota has expanded the sports car. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo with 255 horsepower is new. It joins the 3.0-liter, six-cylinder, which gets a boost of 47 horsepower to 382. The more powerful Supra has revised steering, suspension and differential tuning.
Both trims have eight-speed automatic transmissions and both are quick. The 3.0-liter option accelerates from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds; the 2.0-liter completes the standard in 4.7 seconds. Gas mileage averages are 25 miles per gallon in city driving, 32 mph on the highway.
Sportiness reigns in both choices, thanks to the collaboration with Bavarian Motor Works. The Supras share much of their chassis and powertrains with the BMW Z4. The competitors’ overall looks make them twins.
With its rakish exterior styling, the Supra defines sports car boldness. It features a double-bubble roof and sharp-angled taillights. The exterior paint quality and color choices, including Niro Yellow, attract attention.
And since the Supra wasn’t around much last year, the 2021 model gets plenty of public reaction. Thumbs up and approving smiles are frequent. And there’s a common inquiry: “I didn’t know they still made a Supra.”
Sports cars are also known for their comfort shortcomings. The Supra’s interior is cramped. Entering the vehicle requires basic yoga skills. Exiting requires contortion, followed by an extended unfurling.
The Supra drives with all that’s right with sports cars’ best traits. Steering is nimble, maneuvering through traffic an exercise in automotive confidence. Accelerating at freeway speeds is deceivingly smooth, with miles per hour limits surpassed in chunks with little effort.
Toyota Supra: rough ride
City driving is less enjoyable. Every road bump encountered jolts the car. A cup of coffee positioned securely in a cupholder and with its top secure will still spill through the lid openings. The ride ain’t smooth.
Sports cars aren’t cargo friendly. But for its segment, the Supra holds more than expected. The hatchback angle is well-designed for space efficiency. When the foldable interior lid is detached, there’s access to a pass-through to the front seats.
Toyota keeps abreast of current technology, with the Supra sufficiently equipped. The 8.8-inch navigation, sound system and infotainment screen provide strong support. But the command dial is positioned awkwardly on the center console near two cupholders, also misplaced.
Key safety, comfort and convenience features include: Dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with garage door opener, full-color head-up display, cruise control, hill start assist control and a rearview camera with parking aid lines.
The revised Toyota Supra is vying for a share of the market controlled by BMW, Jaguar and Porsche. All are more expensive and have devoted followers.
Well-equipped, the newcomer costs slightly more than $48,000. The price is right, but the Supra has a long, bumpy road ahead.
Article Last Updated: December 29, 2020.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.