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2020 Toyota Supra: Supra returns to U.S. after a 21-year hiatus [First Look]

2020 Toyota Supra 47 g.JPG
2020 Toyota Supra (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

The biggest complaints fanboys have about the all-new 2020 Toyota Supra surround the partnership with BMW.

Namely, it looks too much like the Z4, and the interior is too BMW.

Frankly, I’ve said some of these things myself.

But after a day behind the wheel and a little added insight from conversations with Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada, I see the Supra in a whole new light.

When Toyota started to think about bringing back the Supra in 2012, the first thing it realized is the vehicle had to have an inline 6-cylinder engine.

Toyota doesn’t have one of those. BMW does – and it’s a darn good one.

A lot of automakers do collaborations to reduce costs or to benefit from technology. Toyota has previously shared its hybrid technology with other automakers, and it’s benefited from engine collaborations in the past.

So, the Supra uses BMW’s inline 6-cylinder engine, the Z4 and Supra have similar underpinnings, both vehicles are built on the same line in Austria, and the interiors have an eerie similarity.

But, the Z4 is only a convertible, and the Supra is only a coupe.

Tada compared the Z4/Supra relationship to that of the Porsche Boxster/Cayman relationship.

He said people ask all the time which vehicle is better: the Z4 or the Supra. His answer is the question is irrelevant. He added, you wouldn’t ask if the Boxster or Cayman is better.

The point: They are standalone vehicles that complement each other.

And the interior everyone’s complaining about? Look closer.

The air is distinctly BMW, but when you put them side-by-side, they look more different than they do the same. In fact, Tada said 90 percent of the interior parts are different.

But, yeah, they took advantage of the BMW telematics – and that includes the addition of wireless Apple CarPlay.

Tada said if they didn’t do this, it would have delayed the introduction of the Supra by two to three years. Plus, when you think about budget, he only had so much money to spend, and he said he’d rather spend it on tuning than interior trappings.

The Supra is a damn fine vehicle with stunning good looks and amazing handling.

And I say that after several laps around one of the most technical tracks I’ve ever driven.

The beauty of the new Supra is it can tackle the track like a boss, but then easily convert into a comfortable cruiser with pleasant on-road manners and 14-way power adjustable seats.

The inline 6 in the Supra delivers 335 horsepower and 365 pound feet of torque.

Yes, this is about 50 horsepower less than the Z4. But Tada said they did that on purpose because adding more horsepower wouldn’t really change track lap times that much – especially since 100 percent of the torque kicks in at about 1,600 rpm.

The zero-to-60-mph time is 4.1 seconds (0.2 seconds slower than the Z4), and the top speed is 155 mph.

For most drivers, this is plenty fast and plenty fun.

There are only two drive modes in the Supra: Normal and Sport. The immediate difference between the two is the exhaust sound. As soon as you switch to Sport, the exhaust is loud. Additionally, the suspension, steering and throttle response all tighten up to give a more sporting ride.

On the track, this translated to the ability to take hairpin turns at a faster clip and faster acceleration out of the corners. On the streets, it simply adds a smile to your face when you pass a car or hit a twisty bit of road.

I liked the Supra. A lot. Toyota did a bang-up job with it, and the fact that it will cost about $10K less than a comparably equipped Z4 is another win.

That being said, I do have a few small points of contention.

The first is the pass through from cabin to the trunk. I’d love to see a screen or divider here, because it’s really easy to see if you have anything stored in your trunk by peering in through the windshield. Living in a city, it’s always on my mind that I don’t want to give anyone a reason to break into my car, and this pass through doesn’t help.

Another trunk complaint is lack of an exterior trunk release. If you are bringing groceries to your car, you must open the driver’s door and hit an interior release to open the trunk. That’s awkward and inconvenient.

Finally, and this is my biggest complaint: No manual transmission. I understand that less than 1 percent of the world can drive a stick shift, but this is such a specialty enthusiast-driven car, I’m shocked it’s not available. Don’t get me wrong, the 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters is really nice, but still.

Supra will be available in two “grades” as Toyota likes to call them. All the performance features are standard across the board, but the trappings change slightly between the two models.

3.0 ($49,990): This trim will have gray painted brake calipers, alcantara and leather seating surfaces, a 6.5-inch display screen and a 10-speaker audio system.

3.0 Premium ($53,990): This trim adds the 8.8-inch display screen, navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay, red brake calipers and full leather seats.

For 2020, Supra will also have 1,499 Launch Edition models available, and they’ll have extra features such as red-capped side mirrors, matte black wheels and red leather interior. It will be priced at $55,250.

One of the best things about the new Supra is, even if you trick it out completely, it’ll still cost under $60k.

Supra will be in dealers starting July 22.

The Bottom Line:

Sure, the Z4 and Supra share some parts. But the design and development of the two vehicles are vastly different. You can’t help but compare the two, but I think it’s better to look at the vehicles as complementary rather than competitive.

A lot of people look askance at the BMW/Toyota partnership, but if this collaboration means that the Supra hits the streets 2 to 3 years earlier than it otherwise would have, I’m all in.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Toyota covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.