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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A bright orange 2024 Toyota GR Supra is shown driving.

The Toyota GR Supra: Real Deal or Pretender?

I love to celebrate a good anniversary, don’t you? It was such a shame that the A90 Supra was released just a hair too late to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Toyota Celica Supra, introduced in 1979, but at least next year provides the chance to celebrate 45 years of Supra! What was then a stylish, luxury trim at the top of the small sports car’s lineup soon evolved into a standalone model, often serving as a halo car for Toyota’s latest technology. In the 1990s, it elevated itself to world-class status as the A80 Supra—known to most of us as the MkIV—whose handling and speed could go toe-to-toe with the Testarossa. Gone for nearly two decades, the Supra name was reintroduced with the A90 in 2020, and expectations could not have been higher.

With 20 years for The Fast and the Furious to work nostalgic magic on our collective view of the indestructible 2JZ-GTE-powered A80, disappointment was inevitable, but certain missteps made things worse. Toyota let down the target audience—racing enthusiasts—by omitting a manual transmission and by essentially reskinning a BMW Z4 rather than developing their own sports car platform for the A90. Since then, however, Toyota has worked diligently to upgrade the car so much that the 2024 Toyota GR Supra bears the A91 designation, and they’ve made it every bit the RWD sports car we deserve in this age of enthusiast car decline.

What Do GR Supra and Obstler Schnapps Have in Common?

It’s true that the GR Supra is made in Austria, alongside the BMW Z4 upon which it’s based. Modern regulations, requirements, and expectations simply mean the costs of developing a sports car platform are untenable, so much so that even the largest automaker in the world couldn’t responsibly go it alone when they decided to revive the Supra name. The partnership with BMW gave Toyota a great platform and powertrain to work with and has allowed the sticker price of the GR Supra to fall well under the six-figure threshold, in keeping with its purpose as an accessible vehicle.

This is no cynical cop-out, either—the parts sourced from BMW include one of the best powertrains on the market, integrated with Toyota’s attention to quality and technology to create a car that’s been a Car and Driver Editor’s Choice since its release and a 10Best member three times. Toyota’s continuous improvements of the GR Supra have given it more power, better handling, and—finally—a manual transmission as a no-cost option. (Looking at you, Integra!) It might not be the A80 successor we dreamt of, but it’s still a great car that’s finally living up to its full potential—and with changing times, we can’t count on seeing a 50th Anniversary edition, so we’d better make the most of it.

The Beating Heart of the GR Supra

The A80 Supra was all about the engine. The sequentially turbocharged 2JZ-GTE is one of the most revered engines on the planet, having been so overbuilt that it could easily be modified to crack 700 hp! For the A90 GR Supra, one of Toyota’s core requirements to bring the name back was to fit it with an inline-six just the same way, even if it wasn’t going to be completely over-engineered. Not having a modern I-6 of their own to call upon, the BMW partnership offered Toyota the next best thing: the B58.

Last year, I examined what’s so great about the BMW B58 engine, which is popular enough that I learned its name just by watching my favorite YouTubers. BMW’s workhorse powerplant is turbocharged to make a rated 382 hp and 368 lb-ft (produced across a huge band of 1,800 to 5,000 RPM), and it shunts the 3,400-lb GR Supra to 60 mph in less than four seconds! Though this engine is still too new to classify it alongside all-time greats like the 2JZ, it, too, has earned a reputation for being highly tunable. (It does form the basis of the far more potent S58 M-engine, after all.) It’s also famously underrated; one owner has dyno-tested their stock GR Supra to see that it makes 394 hp and a whopping 410 lb-ft of torque at the wheels!

The black interior of a 2024 Toyota GR Supra is shown.

Stick-ler for Fun

Those are great numbers! But another transgression made the BMW-sourced engine less forgivable to enthusiasts back in 2020: the gearbox. The A90 GR Supra was released with a ZF 8HP (eight-speed automatic) transmission, capable of shifting gears in 200 milliseconds and performing non-sequential shifts as large as from 8th to 2nd when needed. Widely praised for its performance across many applications, this specific transmission is shared with the BMW 2- and 3-Series; that’s excellent pedigree, but the Supra really only exists for driving enthusiasts, and the absence of a manual option was a major letdown.

Fortunately, the 2023 GR Supra resolved that glaring flaw by introducing a ZF S6-53 GS6L50TZ six-speed manual as a no-cost option on all 3.0L GR Supras. This transmission came from the European-spec BMW Z4, but Toyota has heavily modified it (including calibration to work with their iMT rev-matching technology) to make it one of the most entertaining shifters in the market. Don’t believe me? SavageGeese track-tested it against the current and prior BMW M2s, finding this transmission to be the best of the three by far—and TheStraightPipes liked it even more than the BMW M2 CS!

Speaking of the Intelligent Manual Transmission, the rev-matching system was designed to smooth the shifts in normal operation and to reduce shock under intense conditions. In practice, it allows revs to drop off unusually quickly for a rev matcher, but an upside—for those who prefer an analog experience—is that it can be easily disabled. Unlike in similar BMWs, where rev matching is tied to fully disabling traction control, Toyota allows the Sport mode to be customized with a hotkey to disable rev-matching; this enables the driver to toggle traction control and rev-matching independently from each other—a major plus for this powertrain!

Live for the Winding Road

One of the GR Supra’s primary selling points is that it is a track-developed vehicle, as implied by the GR badge. The stated mission of Toyota Gazoo Racing is to “build enthusiasm for all fans and customers by offering ever-better, motorsports-bred cars,” and you can bet that’s in the GR Supra’s DNA. The GR Supra is a road-suitable track car, not the other way around, and this is evidenced by the high-skill floor required to command its tail-happy powertrain with traction control turned off. Toyota supports GR Supra owners in exploring this performance and elevating their skills to make the most of it by including a one-year NASA membership with a free High-Performance Driving Experience training event with every unit, providing them a safe gateway to the world of track day driving.

There’s a lot of tech in this car to help keep things pointing in the right direction on-road, too, which is a hallmark of Supra design. It’s always been associated with state-of-the-art performance technology, which has consistently made Supra one of the most exciting cars on the market. Consider, for example, the 2024 GR Supra’s electronic rear LSD. Inputs including wheel and engine speed, yaw rate, brake pressure, throttle position, and steering angle factor into an equation that can set the LSD anywhere from zero to 100% locked at any given moment. One of the ways this manifests is through the special feature “Hairpin+,” which allows for a greater-than-usual difference in wheel speed while executing uphill hairpin turns—preventing understeer and supporting a faster, more exciting switchback experience, demonstrating just one of the ways that Toyota has put “fun” first with this car.

A bright orange 2024 Toyota GR Supra is shown driving through a city at night.

Something to Celebrate

2024 marks the 45th anniversary of the Supra’s original introduction, and there is no promise the model will see a 50th; this could be the last chance we get to celebrate a round-number birthday for this car—something that Toyota is doing by replacing 2023’s A91MT Edition with a limited 45th Anniversary Special Edition at the top of the trim lineup. This special car is limited to only 900 units in the US (starting at around $64,400 USD) and 45 in Canada (starting at $80,000 CAD, which is quite the favorable exchange rate). Based on the loaded-up 3.0 Premium trim, it’s likely to become quite a long-term investment as the popular image of this car evolves.

In addition to everything you can already get in a “regular” GR Supra, the 45th Anniversary Special Edition adds a bunch of style points and one performance point to recall the iconic A80 Supra that starred in The Fast and the Furious. This performance point is a manually adjustable rear spoiler, lifted three inches off the hatch lid, which provides an as-of-yet unspecified amount of downforce for better cornering while conceding just a little bit of ground to the nostalgia fiends longing for the A80’s monster eight-inch wing. The rest is all style, from the matte black wheels and calipers to the black side graphic with a cutout Supra logo rising along the car’s contours to the new Mikan Blast deep orange paint.

Half of them come in Absolute Zero white livery instead, which is fine, but I bet Mikan Blast will be the more desirable option long-term. As attainable ICE sports cars with manual transmissions become even rarer, this nimble car—in such a dramatic, limited format—will be sure to command great attention in time, making it a worthy celebration of the Supra name.

Toyota’s Supra-Star

While it might not match the A80’s driver-focused athleticism or legendary status, dollar-for-dollar, the A91 easily makes its case as a car worthy of the Supra name, well-equipped with high-quality materials, advanced technology, and a wide array of comfort and safety features.

The 2024 Toyota GR Supra celebrates more than 45 years since the Supra line was introduced. It also celebrates that we’ve even had these last five years with the GR Supra and that Toyota’s position has enabled a partnership to produce one of the decade’s great sports cars—because when judged on its own merits, outside of the impossible shadow of the A80, “one of the best” is exactly what this car is. So here’s to five more years of the GR Supra!

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