The 2023 Toyota Supra has big shoes to fill. Few other sports cars are as revered as the 2JZ Supra, and it was already a monumental undertaking even before it was announced Toyota would partner with BMW for this new iteration. So did they deliver? We find out...
When it was first announced that the latest generation of Toyota’s heralded Supra performance car would employ a BMW powertrain, purists and enthusiasts didn’t know exactly how to feel.
For most people, it felt like sacrilege of the highest order and making the new Supra feel ‘less superior’ than the iconic models before it. Once that initial outcry subsided, it started to become clear why Toyota decided to partner with BMW for this project.
There’s no denying the fact that BMW is the king of high-powered straight-six engines, so who better to ask as a powertrain partner than the Bavarians? The partnership came about because Toyota no longer has a performance-based six-cylinder engine in its stable that would fit the Supra’s chassis profile. The decision was made to use the Z4’s turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine that produces 250kW and 500Nm of torque.
What about the almighty 2JZ engine? Well, it would never pass current emission standards, so creating a new version of that wouldn’t be feasible at all. Online chatter mooted the possibility of using the Lexus RC F and its V8 engine that is already in production, as opposed to using another brand’s engine and components – perhaps – but changing the Supra engine to anything other than a straight-six engine would have been even more controversial. The Japanese brand did its best to keep the fundamental DNA of the car largely intact.
People asked, Toyota answered
When the Supra, in its current form, first launched in SA in 2019, it came exclusively with an automatic transmission, but such was the overwhelming feedback from customers for a manual transmission that Toyota made it happen. As of 10 May 2023, the GR Supra is available with a six-speed manual transmission.
According to Toyota, the integration of the manual transmission wasn’t a simple process. The BMW ZF-derived manual transmission was engineered and tuned specifically for use with the straight-six engine that now makes more power – from 250kW to 285kW. The engineering team had to modify numerous mechanical components to make everything work in unison with the new layout. And for those wondering if you can take the Supra to BMW for repairs, Toyota confirmed that that would not be possible as the Supra is their product.
On the inside, there’s no getting around the fact that the interior is very BMW-like, with the dashboard layout and signature gear level the obvious standouts. In the same vein, the previous generation A90 didn’t have the best interior, looking more like a fighter pilot cockpit with its semi-circle layout, so the German-looking interior is a vast improvement once you look past the Germany vs. Japan banter.
Not to be overlooked, the Supra also boasts a good array of standard features like LED headlights, reverse camera, navigation, heads up display, a 12-speaker system, wireless charging and seat heaters. Driver support systems consist of ABS brakes, stability control, Front and Rear Park Distance Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert with Brake Assist, Hill Assist Control, Active Cornering Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Alert and a Tyre Pressure Monitor.
Driving the legend
We were eager to feel how the clutch would respond in the much heavier chassis compared to the GR Corolla. Because the clutch has a little bit of play before it engages, there’s no inclination that pulling away too hard or soft would result in jerking. You tap on the accelerator, and it revs up immediately with no delay whatsoever, which is what you want in a performance car.
Out on the track, the car picked up speed at a moment’s notice and felt more planted than the Corolla. The Supra has a distinctive indent on the roof that aids with aerodynamics and keeps the chassis planted to the ground.
The steering is precise, and gear shifts are slightly tight but make up for it with directness. In addition, the shorter ratios of the manual transmission allow for the turbocharger to stay in boost often.
While the Supra was never going to sell in bucketloads every month, it is selling in line with Toyota's expectations. While many will still have their opinions on the BMW partnership, people are starting to accept the car. Would they rather have it come out as an EV instead?
In the 2023 Toyota GR Supra, the Japanese automaker has delivered a fun, fast and fashionable sports car that lives up to the heritage of the 2JZ Supra that came before.
Pricing and aftersales
GR Supra Manual - R1 488 400
GR Supra Automatic – R1 524 400
A five-services/100 000km service plan is provided, as well as a three-year/100 000km mechanical warranty. Customers can also purchase extended service plans via their Toyota dealer.