Toyota is serious about building cars that appeal to the heart, not just the mind. It’s bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic models, in a bid to rekindle ties with its performance past and once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms. We thought we’d see it at the Tokyo Auto Show but the event closed its doors, with no sign of a Toyota coupe anywhere. We then speculated it would make its global debut in January at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, but one of the company’s top executives recently admitted the car isn’t ready for primetime yet.
Similarly, official details about the born-again Supra are few and far between; the name hasn’t even been confirmed yet. It could revive the Celica nameplate, for example, or go by a completely different name. We’ve examined the numerous leaks, spy shots, and rumors to single out the relevant and credible information about the Japanese brand’s hotly anticipated coupe. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
It’s no secret that the sports car segment is declining all over the globe, so it’s increasingly difficult for companies to justify spending money on new entrants. That is why Toyota teamed up with Subaru to design the 86. The Supra will share its platform with a BMW roadster envisioned as a replacement for the Z4. We have often spotted prototypes testing with other BMW models, which suggests the German brand is in charge of fine-tuning the Toyota’s chassis to ensure it falls in line with its “ultimate driving machine” ethos.
The Supra and BMW’s next drop-top will use the same basic architecture, which relies on carbon fiber to keep weight in check, but they will look completely different. For starters, the Supra will only be offered as a coupe while the roadster won’t spawn a hardtop model. Brand-specific sheet metal will ensure the Supra looks like a Toyota and the Z4 like a BMW. Fear not, enthusiasts, this won’t be another case of indolent badge-engineering.
They won’t drive alike, either. “As far as the design is concerned, it will be absolutely unique. Not only in terms of design but how they drive and how they handle,” promised Marc Werner, the head of BMW’s Australian division, in an interview with website CarAdvice. To us, his comments all but confirm the reports that claim the Z4 and the Supra won’t use the same engine, but there’s an interesting twist to the plot.
What will it look like?
The Supra nameplate made its debut in 1978, and it was used on four generations of coupes until the final example was produced in 2002. Toyota could easily go retro, the heritage is certainly there to back it up, but it won’t. It prefers looking toward the future.
The next Supra gets a sleek, modern look loosely inspired by the well-received FT-1 concept — pictured above — introduced at the 2014 edition of the Detroit Auto Show, according to Motor Authority. Its front end is characterized by a long hood, horizontal headlights, and a bumper with large air dams, though they aren’t as pronounced as the concept’s, which features a Formula 1-like nose cone.
The roofline peaks right above the driver and gently slopes down into a ducktail spoiler, a styling cue that gives it a fastback-like look. Some prototypes have a double-bubble roof panel similar to the concept’s but it might be the camouflage that creates that illusion, not the sheet metal itself. Like the original Supra, the upcoming model features a hatchback that enhances practicality. It’s supposed to be a sports car you can live with every day, not merely a track toy that sits in the garage during the week.
Strictly a two-seater, the Supra offers a driver-oriented center console, a fully configurable digital instrument cluster, and a high-resolution screen on top of the dashboard. The gear selector looks like it comes straight from the BMW parts bin.
What’s under the hood?
At launch, the Supra will most likely offer an evolution of the new V6 engine that debuted almost a year ago in the 2018 Lexus LS. It will use a pair of turbochargers to generate 400 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque in its most basic configuration. Rear-wheel drive will come standard, though transmission options remain unconfirmed. Some rumors claim the model will be automatic-only, while others assert a manual transmission will be offered in some markets, but not all.
Enthusiasts who want even more power will need to go hybrid. Sources familiar with Toyota’s plans told Autocar the Supra’s second powertrain will be a gasoline-electric hybrid built around a turbocharged four-cylinder engine borrowed from BMW and powerful electric motors that draw electricity from endurance racing-inspired supercapacitors. Again, the hybrid powertrain might be automatic-only. It’s a bad time to be a fan of stick shifts, especially in the United States.
“If we can have a World Endurance Championship racing car with hybrid technology, it can happen on a road car,” Johan van Zyl, the president of Toyota’s European division, told British magazine Auto Express.
What will its rivals be?
One of the Supra’s main rivals will be the Nissan 370Z. It’s one of the older coupes on the market, so it might be out of production by the time the Supra lands, but Nissan has previously confirmed a successor is in the works. The company instructed its designers to take their time, however. It’s not a priority because, like we said, the coupe segment is declining, and Nissan wants to be absolutely certain it builds a true Z car.
Beyond the Z, Toyota will position its upcoming coupe in the same segment as the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, two of the most popular sports cars on the market. It will also face competition from the BMW 4 Series, the Cadillac ATS Coupe, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, and the Audi A5 Coupe. Of course, it’s inevitable that the Supra will face some competition from the Z4 it shares its DNA with. Looking further ahead, we hear Alfa Romeo will enter the segment sooner or later with a two-door variant of the sexy Giulia.
When will I be able to buy one?
Again, nothing is set in stone at this point. Toyota told Motor Trend the car isn’t ready yet, so don’t expect to see it break cover at the Detroit Auto Show. An introduction in Geneva, Switzerland or New York looks increasingly likely, but Toyota could also choose to unveil it at an Apple-style stand-alone event to make sure its born-again coupe is the center of attention that day. Either way, we expect to see it in the first half of next year, so the first examples will likely arrive in time for the 2019 model year.
Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung reports that contract manufacturer Magna Steyr will build both the Z4 and the Supra in its Graz, Austria, facility, alongside the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Combined production will be limited to approximately 60,000 units annually.
Update: Added new information based on the latest spy shots, rumors, and reports.