2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 review: Punchier pint-sizer


There’s no subtlety with this kind of paint job… or body panels, for that matter.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

If you bought a 2020 Toyota Supra, I’m sorry, but you got the shaft. Toyota has rolled out a whole host of updates to its halo sports car just one year after its debut, and having driven both, I can assure you, the 2021 Supra is demonstrably better, even though some old flaws remain.

Like

  • More readily available power
  • Concept-car looks
  • BMW tech onboard

Don’t Like

  • Window-down wind buffeting
  • Aggressive lane-keep assist
  • Ugly steering wheel

The 2020 Supra was an absolute hoot on the road, but its output figures lagged behind the sprightlier variant of the BMW Z4 with which this Toyota shares a chassis. That’s been remedied for 2021, with the 3.0-liter turbocharged I6 under the hood now producing 382 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque, improvements of 47 and 3, respectively. The 2020 Supra was still plenty quick, but now, it feels even more worthy of the badge, as torque piles up quicker, making it easier than before to shoot gaps on the highway or power out of a turn. And yes, it still sounds as sweet as before.

Speaking of backroad antics, there are other upgrades hidden under the body, too. For 2021, Toyota has added new aluminum strut tower braces, revised the adaptive suspension tuning and swapped out the bump stops, plus they’ve further tweaked programming for the rear differential, stability control and power steering. Again, the results are pretty obvious from the first corner entry. Whether in Normal or Sport mode, the 2021 Supra has less body roll than before. Don’t get me wrong, the Supra’s diminutive wheelbase means there’s still plenty of twitch to be had, especially when rolling onto the accelerator when exiting turns, but it’s a bit more manageable. If the stability control needs to intervene, it does so in a smooth manner that doesn’t upset the car’s balance or the driver’s attention. Adding more speed feels less dramatic than it used to.

Given the improvements in performance, I find fewer reasons to push the giant Sport button on the Supra’s center console in spirited driving. It acts like every other Sport mode button, tightening up the suspension, steering and throttle response, but it’s not really necessary. There’s still plenty of gas-pedal punch in Normal mode, and the suspension’s slightly softer tuning means my mediocre Michigan road experience isn’t overly harsh. The Supra’s eight-speed automatic transmission is unchanged, which is fine, because it’s great. Shifts are smooth at any speed, in any mode, and the paddles behind the wheel offer cog-swaps on the quick. There is still no manual transmission available.

Rough pavement still creates a whole host of tire noise, but on the highway, the clamor makes way for some appreciable peace and quiet (for a purpose-built sports car). Wind buffeting is still atrocious with the windows at any position other than fully closed, but it’ll take a redesign to iron out that kink.

The sole downside to adding power is losing fuel economy, but the Supra doesn’t take too big of a hit in that department. The 2020 model was rated at 24 miles per gallon city and 31 mpg highway, and the 2021 now earns ratings of 22 and 30, respectively. I can regularly creep north to 32 or 33 on the highway with a light foot, but yeah, city economy is… not great.

Then again, it’s very clear that the Supra is a dedicated tool and less of an everyday family machine. There’s no back seat and the hatchback offers up a just-okay amount of space, 10.2 cubic feet to be precise, enough for groceries or weekender bags for two and that’s about it. There’s also a paltry amount of cabin storage, with microscopic door-panel pockets and an exposed armrest cubby big enough for a whopping two sets of keys and a face mask. Glove compartment? Hopefully they’re not extra large.

The rest of the 2021 Supra’s interior is unchanged. The steering wheel is still oddly bulbous and ugly, like the 964-generation Porsche 911‘s, and anyone who’s owned a BMW within the last five to 10 years will immediately recognize all of the switchgear. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The interior feels appropriate for the price, with plenty of soft touch points and the right amount of physical switchgear. Honestly, it’s probably good that Toyota decided not to take its own route, switch-wise, because BMW’s are definitely more satisfying to use. The seats are the right amount of supportive, with ample side bolstering that isn’t too constrictive. Visibility remains limited, with somewhat-large blind spots over the haunches.

Curves, curves, curves.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

The word “haunches” will echo through your head as a Supra owner because the rear three-quarter angle is easily the car’s best. From there, my eyes get a heapin’ helpin’ of bulbous rear fender, which leads to a smattering of interesting creases and one seriously pronounced duckbill spoiler. It’s far more interesting than the BMW Z4, and it doesn’t stray too far from Toyota’s FT-1 concept of yore, which likely explains why everyone gawks at the Supra. The front’s a little funky, but it still works, because it’s unlike anything else on the road. Especially if it’s painted in my tester’s $425 cornea-scorching Nitro Yellow.

One BMW carryover I’ll be glad to praise all day is the Supra’s in-car technology. For a straight-up sports car, there’s a good amount of creature comforts tucked away in the wiring. Toyota’s Entune is nowhere to be seen; instead, the 8.8-inch screen on the dashboard (now standard across the lineup) runs BMW’s iDrive infotainment. I think it’s a good system, with a straightforward menu structure and simple access through both the dial on the center console and the touchscreen itself. Wireless Apple CarPlay is available, but Android Auto won’t make its way to the 2021 Supra, which is a letdown. Charging happens by way of the wireless pad under the climate control, or the nearby USB port, meaning there’s a way to juice up devices for each passenger simultaneously.

Relying on BMW’s infotainment tech isn’t a bad thing at all.


Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Some sports cars are content to eschew active safety systems almost entirely, but that’s not really Toyota’s modus operandi. All Supras come standard with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist, while an optional $1,195 package on Premium and A91 trims opens up adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and parking sensors. Everything works well together — except for the lane-keep assist, which is way too aggressive and can disrupt highway cruising more than aid it.

The 2021 Toyota Supra’s got some decent competition in the compact premium sports car segment, but it’s aggressively priced, starting at $55,485 for my 3.0-liter tester’s Premium trim and landing at $57,145 with the driver assistance package. Its stablemate, the BMW Z4 M40i, carries a bit more brand cachet but is also more anonymously styled, and the two are now evenly matched on power. The Porsche 718 Cayman S is more refined, but its engine is less exciting to listen to and, like all Porsches, it can get entirely too expensive in a hurry. However, you can also get it with a manual transmission. If you want a Supra at a lower price, its 2.0-liter variant brings that window sticker down to $43,985.

Toyota’s Supra came out of the gates swinging, but there’s always room for improvement. Throwing a number of underbody upgrades at the car, in addition to a dollop of extra power, gives this 2021 Toyota Supra an even more compelling character that is immediately felt and appreciated.



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