Years after being previewed by a concept car and following a relentless teaser campaign, we finally saw the final production rebirth of a legend. It revived a name we hadn’t seen on a new car for the best part of two decades, and expectations were high. And for many, those lofty expectations weren’t quite met.
I’m not talking about the A90 Toyota GR Supra. Nope, I’m referring to the hybrid Honda NSX, a car with which Toyota’s new sports car can draw many parallels. It’s another Japanese performance machine resurrecting a badge that has an almost terrifying level of adoration attached to it, and which has arrived after a similarly lengthy gestation period. On paper, nothing about it stands out as extraordinary, so is this going to be another NSX moment?
After finally driving it, we’d have to say no, but not because it does anything that tears up the rule book.
What we should note from the off is that it does, despite sharing a platform and engine, drive quite differently to the BMW Z4. Which is a good thing. While the BMW feels ponderous and less-than willing to change direction quickly, the much more rigid Supra hides its weight brilliantly. It tips the scales at a relatively porky 1570kg, but you’d swear it’s a couple of hundred kilos less.
In fact, it turns in rather beautifully, a surprisingly active rear end - so long as you’ve switched to ESP Sport - making the car feel all pointy. It’s actually quite feisty, the meaty mid-range of that B58 inline-six often overpowering the 275mm-wide Michelin Pilot Supersports out back.
Damping is, on the whole, very good, letting the Supra shrug off ill-placed yumps on corner entry, and you don’t feel like you’re about to be spat off into a barrier. In Sport mode the low-speed ride isn’t the smoothest, but that’s about our only complaint.
The steering is very 2019, by which we mean it’s all fast and darty off-centre, but a little light and not exactly feelsome. We can live with it. The 335bhp engine, though? Perhaps not.
The whole inspiration behind the Supra project was BMW’s inline-six. The car’s chief engineer Tetsuya Tada took the idea of a joint relationship with Munich as a ‘sign’ that the new Supra should happen, BMW being the only mainstream company making high-performance straight-sixes.
The trouble is, the B58 is weirdly lacking in character. It has neither the boosty attitude of its 1M-powering N54 ancestor, nor the outright aggression of the S55 found in the M stuff. You never really want to rev it out, as at anything over 5000rpm it feels strained and almost breathless. Most of the time you’ll end up keeping it in the mid-range.
Yes, it’s a turbocharged inline-six, nicely matching the engine configuration of the fabled, nay, worshipped MkIV Supra, but it’s far from a remarkable engine. It’s a shame Toyota didn’t at least engineer some pops and bangs on the upshifts to add some drama.
On the subject of the gearbox, it’s a similar story to the engine. The quiet and efficient eight-speed ZF torque converter is perfectly adequate for the job, but nothing memorable. It’s a little reluctant on down-shifts too. A manual was never on the cards, but a snappier DCT - for both the Z4 and the Supra - would have been more befitting.
Despite all this, the Supra is a perfectly worthy, nicely sorted sports car. It’s just that it isn’t mind-blowing, even if you take the unreasonable expectations that come with the name out of the equation.
For many, that’ll be just fine, so long as they’re happy with the cabin being rather titchy. It’s a distinctive-looking coupe that’s just a little bit spicy to drive while still being approachable. When making such a car right now is so unfashionable, you can’t help but be pleased it’s here.
You could instead look at it as a solid starting point. Tada-san told us that a GRMN version has to happen, which for anyone not quite taken by the base GR Supra should be good news. Let’s just hope they stuff the S55 into it…