In an Age Where Performance Vehicles Are Getting Larger, Sometimes It’s Better to Enjoy Life on a Smaller Scale!
Today’s performance enthusiasts have an abundance of options available to them including family-sized SUVs and sedans laying down power and acceleration numbers that rival supercars from a decade ago, but sadly, traditional sports coupes appear to be a dying breed. Following the recent death of the Nissan 370Z (a new Z is coming next year, though), the option for sporty two-seaters is limited. The newest to the segment is the 2021 Toyota GR Supra, which competes directly against the Audi TT, BMW Z4 and Porsche 718 Cayman, and these cars are bookended by the low-cost Mazda Miata and the mid-engine C8 Corvette.
To see how Toyota’s new kid on the block performs among these two-seaters, I was able to spend a week driving the 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0.
Return of an Icon
The original Toyota Supra was introduced 40 years ago, and it was based on the rear-wheel-drive Celica. The Supra became a sports car icon in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until the car’s starring role in 2001’s The Fast and the Furious that the Supra saw its peak popularity. Today, some fourth-generation Supras (A80) are commanding six-figure prices, and the movie car from the original film recently sold for $550,000 at auction!
Global production of the Supra ended in 2002, but U.S. buyers said goodbye to this car in 1998. Despite being teased for almost a decade through various concept vehicles, the Supra nameplate didn’t make its return until 2020. The fifth-generation Toyota Supra was co-developed with BMW using the platform and drivetrain of the BMW Z4 convertible.
The overall design of the new Supra came from the 2014 Toyota FT-1 concept vehicle, and the swoopy lines carried over quite well for the production design. There isn’t a flat line to be found on the 2021 Toyota GR Supra including the double-bubble roof, the massively arched rear fenders, and the duckbill rear spoiler. An abundance of fake vents is about the only downside of this coupe’s design, and that was evident by how much attention this car attracted wherever it was parked.
This tester was painted in Tungsten (silver) with two-tone wheels and red brake calipers, but you can get the Supra in flashy colors like Renaissance Red, Nitro Yellow, and Refraction (blue). The only criticism I have for the Supra’s design (even with all of the fake vents) is the low-cut door openings, which make it a challenge for taller occupants to get into the car.
While Toyota took charge in the exterior design of the Supra, the influence of the shared development with BMW is obvious inside this sporty coupe. Everything inside this Supra (including the shape of the key fob) looks like it was carried over from a BMW, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Toyota has made no effort to hide the origins of this car, and the luxurious, high-tech interior provides ample opportunity for the Supra to play in the same sandbox as its Porsche and Audi rivals thanks to stitched leather, premium quality touchpoints, and attractive carbon fiber trim on the center console.
The leather-wrapped sport bucket seats are extremely comfortable yet surprisingly supportive during cornering. Despite the tight headroom getting into and out of the Supra, the stylish double-bubble roof affords plenty of headroom for taller passengers once they’re inside. Adding to the luxurious experience, the Supra 3.0 Premium trim level also gets standard features such as an 8.8-inch touchscreen navigation system, a 12-speaker JBL sound system, full-color head-up display, and a wireless smartphone charging tray. The two-passenger seating configuration leaves plenty of space for cargo in the back with a covered compartment that can accommodate 10.2 cubic feet worth of gear, which is enough space for a set of golf clubs or a couple weekend suitcases.
They say the early bird gets the worm, but patient Supra buyers were rewarded with an extra 47 horsepower! After debuting with just a single engine for 2020, the 2021 Toyota GR Supra has two powertrain options. The base model is now the Supra 2.0 powered by a 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-four rated at 255 hp and 29 lb-ft of torque, and the Supra 3.0 uses a more powerful version of the previous base engine, a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six. This engine now produces 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque, which is an increase of 47 hp and 3 lb-ft compared to the 2020 model year. That extra power is a huge win for sports car lovers, but the new Supra is just the latest example of a modern sports car that is not offered with a manual transmission. The only transmission available is an eight-speed automatic, which benefits from paddle shifters and a sport mode to appease true driving enthusiasts.
By definition, sports cars, above all else, should be fun to drive, and the new Supra excels in this regard. The added power allows the 2021 Toyota GR Supra to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, which is 0.2 seconds quicker than the 2020 model year, and the retuned chassis and suspension makes the 2021 model a better corner carver. One of the best parts about driving a sports car is lowering the windows to enjoy the exhaust note, but doing so in this Supra results in excessive wind buffeting that makes it sound like a helicopter is hovering overhead. This being our sole complaint about driving this car, the 2021 Toyota GR Supra is otherwise a prototypical example of what a modern sports car should be.
The introduction of the new four-cylinder engine allows the 2021 Toyota Supra to undercut the starting price of the 2020 model. Whereas the first-year Supra started at $49,990, the base price for a 2021 Toyota GR Supra is just $43,090, which is far less than the $49,800 Audi TT Coupe and the $60,500 Porsche 718 Cayman. Upgrading to the Supra 3.0 Premium with its added content raises the base price to $54,590, and this optioned-up tester had a bottom-line price of $56,760. Considering the amount of style, luxury and performance this Supra has, that’s a really good price point.
While driving the new Supra, it’s not lost on me that Toyota’s two sportiest vehicles (the Supra and 86) were both co-developed with other companies (BMW and Subaru, respectively), but this product strategy results in a pair of Toyota-badged cars that enthusiasts have been yearning for. My week spent with the 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Premium proved that even with a few minor flaws, the new Supra is an extremely cool car to cruise around in on these hot summer nights!
Lifelong automotive enthusiast with a soft spot for offroading. Wrencher turned writer, but I still love to tinker on just about anything with an engine. Dream car: tie between a ‘71 Hemi ‘Cuda and a ’91 GMC Syclone. #GirlDad #SaveTheManuals