The Toyota Supra initially came out as a variant of the Celica, but in 1986 for the A70 generation, it became a completely different model altogether. By 1993, when the A80 generation came out, the Supra reached cult status globally, especially when it graced the scenes of the first installment of The Fast and The Furious. Its inline-6 was its main ingredient, which had the engine code 2JZ-GE or 2JZ-GTE in the case of the twin-turbo version. Fast forward today and we now have the A90 generation 2021 Toyota GR Supra. More importantly, it’s no secret that it’s basically a BMW Z4 M40i in Toyota drag. The question now is, does it even matter?
From a design standpoint, the Toyota GR Supra definitely looks striking. It clearly draws a lot of inspiration from the FT-1 concept from a few years back. Some aren’t a fan of the fake vents and the busy styling. For me though, I find it more interesting than the Z4. The long hood, short wheelbase, and multi-decked rear make the GR Supra seem more sculpted than its German sibling. It also looks sportier too, with its coupe body style and a structure that’s more rigid than the Lexus LFA.
Speaking of that structure, it’s basically BMW’s Cluster Architecture (CLAR) that’s also used in the Z4, 5 Series, 3 Series, among other BMWs. That makes the GR Supra feel more German than Japanese from how everything works. From the satisfying door thud, the interior chimes, and the hood latch that needs to be pulled twice, there’s no denying that this is a coupe version of the Z4 wearing Toyota’s design language.
The same principle applies to the interior. While Toyota designed the digital gauges, the rest of the cabin is purely BMW. Materials are top-notch in most places, from the use of soft-touch plastics, carbon fiber trim, and solid doors. If you’ve sat in a BMW before, you’ll immediately feel right at home. From the wiper stalks, the intuitive iDrive 6 infotainment system, and the satisfyingly damped switchgear, this is an interior that feels completely different from any Toyota I’ve driven. Mind you, this is not a complaint for me, since BMW interiors are always a good thing.
I do have a few minor complaints though. As expected, BMW makes excellent driving positions in their vehicles, and the GR Supra is no exception. Visibility, however, isn’t that great. At the front, it’s actually quite good, especially since you can see the edge of the hood so you know where to position the car. Rear quarter visiblity, on the other hand, is atrocious. The thick rear pillars make it had to look over your shoulder when crossing intersections or changing lanes. In addition, while there is a reverse camera, there are no parking sensors at all. Lastly, while iDrive 6 is one of my favorite infotainment systems, the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a missed opportunity. On the upside, at least there’s a 12-speaker JBL audio system, which sounds exceptionally good.
Despite being a hunkered-down sports car with just two seats, you’d be surprised how practical this car is. Trunk space is at 290 liters, which is enough for a weekend trip. There’s no partition from the trunk to the cabin, however. In addition, there are enough cupholders to satisfy the two occupants, which isn’t really the case in other sports cars.
Of course, you’re here listening to this review to find out how the 2020 Toyota GR Supra drives, and let me tell you that I really took this sports car out on a daily basis. From grocery runs all the way to spirited drives out of town, there was never a day I did not use this car. Under its hood is a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 that produces 335 hp and 500 Nm of torque, and yes, it’s the same B58 engine that’s also used in the Z4 M40i. Do note that only Japan, North America, Thailand, and Australia receive the power upgrades, while the rest of the world still continues on with this engine tune.
Toyota says that Gazoo Racing did their own tuning for this engine, but from what I felt, the way it sounds and performs is almost unaltered from other BMWs that I’ve driven with this engine. One thing that I prefer in this car over the Z4 M40i though is its exhaust note. Compared to its German sibling, this car’s exhaust has more pops and crackles in Sport mode, making it more pleasing to the ears while barrelling down a winding road, or just simply disturbing the peace in your village.
But it’s not just the exhaust note. The engine itself really sounds deliciously good. In addition, despite being a single turbo with two scrolls, there’s rarely a moment of turbo lag. It really feels like a torquey naturally-aspirated engine that also happens to be smooth. The 8-speed automatic transmission manufactured by ZF is obviously from BMW’s parts bin but it’s one of the best transmissions in the industry. Shifts are fast, smooth, and cooperative with the paddle shifters. As a matter of fact, it even rev matches like a proper sports car should.
And then there’s the handling. With a near 50:50 perfect weight distribution, this is one of the best-handling sports cars that I’ve ever driven. The steering is communicative and responsive, even more so on Sport mode. As a matter of fact, it’s so responsive in Sport mode, it’s easy to change its direction when doing minute corrections on the highway, so leave it in Comfort mode if you aren’t going through twisties. The grip is also good, and it can even enter a progressive oversteer when you really provoke it to do so. It’s a very accessible sports car that even beginner and intermediate drivers can fully exploit.
Those drive modes don’t just affect steering and throttle responses, though. The GR Supra is also fitted with adaptive suspension, which can stiffen or soften depending on the mode. Regardless of the drive mode, the suspension can be individually configured in the settings menu. While the ride is firm, it’s never uncomfortable. Refinement is also pretty good. While there’s a bit more road noise relative to other BMW products, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) suppression is just right. After all, if you’re too isolated from outside noises, you feel more disconnected from the driving experience.
Journalists rarely talk about brake feel, and in the 2021 Toyota GR Supra, they feel great. The pedal feel is firm, and there’s plenty of stopping power from the Brembo brakes (they’re brandless OEMs for BMW), which are four pistons at the front and two pistons at the rear. Even after hammering this car down a long set of twisties, there are barely any signs of brake fade.
Lastly, fuel economy isn’t a key topic when it comes to sports cars, but for over a week’s worth of use with the 2021 Toyota GR Supra, I was amazed that my fuel economy hovered around 9 to 9.4 km/l. Let that sink in for a moment. A 335-hp sports car with this much performance and capability has the same fuel economy as a 2019 Toyota Vios 1.5 G MT and a 2018 Toyota Hilux Conquest 4×4 that I reviewed a few years ago.
Back to my original question, does it even matter that the GR Supra is basically a Z4 with Toyota’s supposedly own tuning? Personally, not at all. The 2021 Toyota GR Supra is a fantastic sports car–one of the finest I’ve driven in recent years that doesn’t wear a Porsche badge. Toyota argues that they partnered with BMW because sports cars don’t sell in large numbers, therefore the high R&D costs to develop a low-volume vehicle simply aren’t worth it. Ironically, this is coming from a company that developed the Lexus LFA, a low-volume supercar that never recuperated its development costs when all 500 units were sold worldwide.
For those who are loyal to the Supra saga, the Z4-based GR Supra may seem to be an excuse for Toyota to simply revive the nameplate. On the other hand, there are car enthusiasts who are more than willing to look past the nostalgia and just simply want a sports car that offers an absolutely sublime driving experience. If you’re one of these people, the 2021 Toyota GR Supra is worth every penny and emotion.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.