I feel cheated for never getting a steer of the first iteration of the fifth-generation Toyota Supra, a car I’ve followed through its early generations, through the fabulous FT-1 concept unveiled at the 2014 Detroit motor show, and finally into production.
I probably shouldn’t be complaining, given we’re only around a year on from its market debut and Toyota has already seen fit to turn up the wick on its flagship sports car.
Nevertheless, the 2021 Toyota GR Supra is a legitimate sports car with head-turning appeal and proper track-honed credentials that promises to be a tad more resolved than its predecessor, even though nobody would know from looking at it.
It’s also one of those cars which looks better in the metal than photographs, although to me the FT-1 Concept is more appealing, especially from the front-three-quarter angle.
Homage has clearly been paid to more than just previous iterations of the Supra, there’s an entire line-up of Toyota sports cars which have influenced the design; from the collectable 2000GT of the ’60s to the likes of the Celica, MR2, and 86.
More power usually means more dollars, which is exactly the case for the 2021 Toyota GR Supra, but it’s minimal when you factor in the other engineering tweaks this car gains.
Toyota still offers a two-car range including the Supra GT priced from $87,126 before on-road costs, and the top-spec GTS from $97,126 before on-road costs.
That’s a rise of $2590 for both specifications over their 2020 counterparts, which is certainly not unreasonable.
I can hear cynics crying foul at such a high-priced Toyota, but they might want double-check the prices of its competitive set, which includes the likes of the Supra’s BMW Z4 M40i twin, which retails from $129,900 before on-road costs.
The real like-for-like competition for Supra will come from the upcoming Nissan Z car with its twin-turbo in-line-six under the bonnet.
Apart from the engine performance and suspension upgrades (significant as they are), both Supra variants get the usual array of creature comforts.
There is no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, or Toyota Connected Services, which is hard to understand, and will be tough for some to forgive.
You get dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, leather accented and powered sports seats, a 10-speaker audio system, adaptive cruise control, 8.0-inch infotainment with navigation and DAB+, wireless phone charging, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The range-topping Supra GTS grade gains 19-inch alloys, an excellent head-up display, an upgraded 12-speaker JBL sound system, sports pedals, as well as larger rear brakes.
Options are limited to the GTS, and include to matte grey paint ($2500) and Alcantara upholstery ($2500).
The upgraded GR Supra is available in a choice of seven colours including Fuji White, Suzuka Silva, Goodwood Grey, Monza Red, Silverstone Yellow, and Bathurst Black.
There’s no ANCAP or Euro NCAP safety rating for Toyota Supra, but the BMW Z4 with which it shares a platform achieved a 2019 five-star rating under Euro NCAP.
It scored 97 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, 91 per cent for vulnerable road users and 76 per cent for safety assist, of which applied to all Z4 variants.
The Supra gets an extensive suite of active safety features, including adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, a reversing camera, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert with rear-end collision warning.
You’ll need to watch yourself climbing into Supra’s cockpit for the first time, as the roofline is low – so low that I very nearly went down for the count.
You can’t fault the quality of the materials. There’s plenty of soft-touch surfaces, while contrast stitched leather, Alcantara seats, and real metal accents give off an air of quality and suggest the Supra has been well screwed together.
However, it’s still a bit underwhelming in what is a largely all-grey affair. Same goes for the partly digital driver’s instrument display, which comes across as an unsatisfying attempt to pay homage to the incomparable Lexus LFA.
In the Supra it looks cheap and plasticky. Shame, because a classier rendition would really lift the cockpit.
It’s a similar story with the wheel, which is trimmed in tactile leather and just is the right thickness. In comparison with the any of the performance variants from the German brands who seem to go out of the way to deliver a visually-stunning tiller, this one seems ordinary though.
The good news is the Alcantara/leather sports seats are excellent for their low-slung positioning and bolstered support. The side bolsters don’t look all that aggressive but paired with the sticky Alcantara inserts they’re very effective.
The beautifully-lacquered carbon-fibre inserts on the centre console are another visual treat, while the BMW-derived shifter and iDrive-style rotary controller will be instantly familiar to anyone who has spent time in the vehicle. Personally, I don’t mind it, but there’s not a lot of point to it given aptly-sized touchscreen directly above centre stack.
There’s no centre console box and not a lot of space for wallets and keys up front, but there are two cup holders and a single phone charging platform, which also locks the phone down should G-forces become an issue.
Boot space is better than you might expect, given its two-seater configuration, with ample room in the boot for soft bags.
For those who want the numbers, it amounts to 290 litres under the hatch, which isn’t bad for the segment and makes it entirely practical for daily duties.
The latest Supra debuted with the same ‘B58’ 3.0-litre single-scroll turbo, inline six-cylinder engine as the BMW Z4 M40i, but it made less power than the BMW.
The 2021 version rectifies those deficiencies by matching the Z4’s outputs of 285kW (up from 250kW) of power and 500Nm of torque between 1800-5000rpm.
It’s sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
Those upgrades have also improved Supra’s off-the-line performance, with zero-to-100km/h dropping to 4.1 seconds from 4.3 seconds, making it 0.1 seconds quicker than a base Porsche 911 Carrera.
I only ever rode shotgun in Paul Maric’s launch Supra, and while it certainly felt rapid, the updated version feels more eager under a committed right foot – not that it’s overwhelming or extremely noticeable.
You’ll inevitably run out of road before you exceed the upper limits of the torque band, but the new Supra pulls hard – and keeps on pulling. It didn’t take long before I was wishing for some closed road or a circuit, such as the pace this thing is capable of piling on.
Throttle sensitivity is near perfect, allowing for power to be meted out in precise increments making Supra a pleasure to daily around the burbs. Low-speed crawling in peak-hour is a breeze, especially in the default drive mode, but hit the large Sport button on the centre console and things immediately become more manic.
The Supra doesn’t get a dual-clutch transmission. Instead it comes with an eight-speed ZF automatic which is excellent, with well-timed shifts even in auto mode. You can choose to peddle this car manually via the paddle shifters, but trust me, in Sport the auto is about as good as it gets, banging down three gears in rapid succession as you come into a corner while standing hard on the brakes.
This is a very well-sorted sports car for 2021, and something you can feel from the moment you first turn it in. It’s the result of revisions to the chassis including updated programming for the adaptive dampers, active rear differential, stability control, and electronic power steering.
There’s also new front and rear bump stops, and additional structural rigidity provided by a pair of aluminium braces that tie the strut towers to the radiator support and boy, can you feel that when you’re having a crack in the twisties.
It’s agile and capable of quick changes in direction with nicely-weighted steering that isn’t so much as quick as it is direct. There’s a load of grip from the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, but you’ll need to be patient with the throttle coming out of those tighter corners or the power can overwhelm the rear axle.
In Normal mode the suspension offers compliance capable of soaking up all manner of bumps and coarse chip surfaces, but in Sport the transition to a harder, less forgiving ride is immediate.
It’s not bone-jarring but it’s definitely firmer, but with a level of compliance for the daily drive provided the traffic is flowing.
Sport also keeps the powertrain in a high-strung state, so you’ll best keep it locked in normal for runs to the supermarket and cafés, as there’s still plenty of go available underfoot when a quick lane change is required.
The brakes (vented but not cross-drilled) aren’t particularly large at 348mm (340mm rear) by today’s performance standards, and while they’re certainly effective, they lack the precision of some of its Euro rivals.
I’m also trying hard to like the sound effects of Supra’s inline-six, because there’s not a lot of charisma here, even in Sport. There are a few pops and bangs on lower gear downshifts, but the fact the noise is piped into the cabin and is a bit of a letdown.
Despite the shared platform it’s badged a Toyota, so it’s comparatively cheap to maintain.
Toyota offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and the first four service visits are capped at $385 each at 12 month/15,000km intervals.
And let’s not forget, Toyota’s ongoing success is heavily based on its enviable number of dealers throughout the entire country.
Regardless of the increased power output, Toyota claims the same 7.7L/100km fuel consumption for Supra on a combined cycle. Over the course of the week we actually achieved 8.5L/100km, which was pleasantly surprising.
Gazoo Racing has sharpened up the Supra and made it into the car it should have been from the very outset.
Besides the polarising front-end styling (subjective as that is), there aren’t many complaints.
It’s a bona-fide crowd-puller, quick enough, and well sorted dynamically, though it still falls short of the similarly-priced Alpine A110 as far as driver satisfaction goes and sheer ability to obliterate a series of corners on a twisty B-road.
While it’s comfortable enough to daily, the newest Supra lacks a cabin with any real pizazz, which is something you might expect for your $95,000.
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