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It almost feels as if the new Supra should be a classic already, such has been the length of this fifth-generation model’s gestation.
In the end, it took a strategic partnership between Toyota and BMW to get it over the line – and if you’re taking the cynical view, you can replace the phrase ‘strategic partnership’ with ‘badge engineering’.
While the spec sheet follows the lead of every Supra back to 1978 – front-mounted straight-six, rear-wheel drive – under the coupé bodywork the new Supra is essentially the same as the latest BMW Z4.
Not that you’d know it from the outside, because it looks every millimetre a Toyota. Sharp, aggressive and distinctive, it blends clear hints of its A80 Supra predecessor – without appearing retro – with cues from the FT-HS concept car from the 2007 New York Auto Show (did I mention it’s been a long time coming?).
Inside, the Munich memories are quickly revived by the familiar switchgear and general architecture, but there’s a different ambience from the close-fitting ‘double-bubble’ roof.
And while a Z4 has a bit of a reputation as a softer choice than the likes of the Porsche Boxster, the Supra feels a more focused, harder machine. The ride is firm – and fairly noisy – but find a challenging route and it’s hugely involving. And, on wet autumnal roads at least, it’s extremely lively.
The tail skips around at the slightest provocation, but rarely causes a scare because you’re so far back it feels as if you’re sitting over the rear wheels and there’s plenty of communication through your backside.
Sadly, there’s rather less chit-chat from the rather anodyne steering. It’s quick enough, and nicely weighted, but lacks any conclusive feedback and isn’t aided by the bulky (BMW) wheel – whose gearshift paddles also take some finding.
Not that there are any complaints about the superb eight-speed automatic ’box they operate; flicking down a ratio transforms the character of the muscular turbocharged 3-litre straight-six, from torquey lugger to highly strung screamer, with wonderfully linear power delivery right up to the 7000rpm redline.
It’s quickly apparent that it really doesn’t matter if this is a BMW in a fancy suit. Badge engineering is one of the great traditions of the classic world, and this reskin results in something pretty special.
Driving home on a favourite road on a dark evening, peering through the shallow ’screen down the long, plunging nose, with the borrowed Bavarian bits inside hidden by the dark, it occurs that this Supra is a car that follows in the great tradition of hardcore Japanese GTs such as the 240Z and Toyota’s own 2000GT. Sportier and more exciting than a traditional gran turismo, yet also practical and usable.
In short, the Supra was well worth the wait.
Images: Max Edleston
- Engine 2998cc turbo ‘six’; 335bhp @ 6500rpm; 369lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
- Transmission eight-speed auto, RWD
- 0-62mph 4.3 secs
- Top speed 155mph (limited)
- Mpg 34.4
- Price £54,000