Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: November 16, 2020
Rather than resting on their laurels, Toyota has already begun improving their iconic two-door sports car and have introduced a host of upgrades for the 2021 model year, internally codenamed the A91 (2020 was the A90). There are now two distinct models: 2.0 and 3.0. The 2.0 features a turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.0 utilizes a 3.0-litre straight-six that’s been beefed up from 335 hp and 365 lb-ft up to 382 hp and 368 lb-ft. That’s a 47 hp and 3 lb-ft increase thanks to a new dual-branch exhaust manifold and a new piston designed to reduce the engine’s compression ratio. The maximum torque curve has shifted from 1,600 - 4,500 rpm to 1,800 - 5,000 rpm, meaning it will take a slight hit to low-end kick, but extend its upper rpm reach. 0-100 km/h should come in around four seconds.
They revised the chassis for 2021 by adding lightweight aluminum braces, front and rear bump stops, and a different damper tune. Toyota further re-tuned the steering, 8-speed automatic transmission, adaptive suspension, differential, and stability control to make it more stable and quicker around corners.
We also have this A91 Edition, a limited trim model dressed up in a distinctive shade of Refraction, a blue that eerily reminds us of Ultra Blue from the Jaguar SVR palette. A darker black paint called Nocturnal is also available. The A91 Edition adds a carbon fibre lip spoiler and mirror caps, black 19-inch wheels, and black stripes running along the C-pillar that look like they belong more on a Dodge Challenger than they do a Japanese sports car. We’re not sure why our test vehicle didn’t come with the special edition’s rear spoiler, hence it being missing in our photographs. The interior is lined with Alcantara and leather with blue contrast stitching, and it also comes with exclusive key gloves and a unique trunk mat. Toyota will produce 1,000 of these limited models, and will cost $68,890, just $1,200 more than the Supra 3.0 Premium.
A91 Edition or not, we have begun to fall in love with the Supra’s body style with its ducktail spoiler, double-bubble roof, and long hooded proportions. It isn’t polarizing or offensive, and it took us a while to warm up to its soft design, but it is distinctive and catches the attention of eyes and ears wherever its rubber meets the road. There’s virtually no way of distinguishing the 2.0 from the 3.0 models other than by looking at its wheels: 18-inch for the 2.0, and 19s for the 3.0. The myriad of fake vents have received a fair amount of flak from the enthusiast community but aftermarket support and rumoured performance variants should temporarily keep the pitchforks at bay.
And it’s because Supra is such a nostalgic and emotion-evoking name that enthusiasts take it so seriously. Now that it borrows BMW ammunition, you could argue that it is no longer a purebred Japanese coupe with a durable, tunable, and unstoppable 2JZ engine. But keep in mind that without BMW, this new Supra probably would not exist. In this modern day and age where SUVs and trucks rule the road, and subsequently the accountants, low-volume sports cars are hardly financially viable.
Historically, Supras have only used inline-sixes as well, an engine specification which is lacking in the current Toyota arsenal. Think about how much money it would cost for Toyota to design, develop, test, and certify a brand-new bespoke inline-six engine, gearbox, and an entire chassis just for a sports car that would barely cause an uptick in profits when compared to the cash-cow RAV4. This would require a vast pool of money, and perhaps even a new factory for manufacturing - hardly a sensible talking point at the annual corporate retreat. Outsourcing it is, and who else has a history of building some of the sweetest, smoothest, and most powerful inline-sixes that rev up to the stratosphere? That’s right, BMW. Add in their reputable build quality, premium materials, and tunability, and you have a recipe to shine. And since when was having a BMW engine a bad thing?
That said, I can’t detect the power difference between the A91 Supra and the outgoing A90, frankly because they both feel the same in terms of straight line acceleration, and they both feel way over 380 horsepower. My personal butt dyno pegs it at about 400 hp, but at the crank. And the delivery of said power is relentless. It’s got that typical BMW flat torque band, where the low, mid, and high ranges push out silly torque, and subsequently silly speed. The straight-six revs up so freely and without much inertial resistance, a characteristic that sometimes makes me forget I’m driving a Supra, and instead a BMW M2 or M4. Once the tires hook up, the Supra never seems to stop accelerating, all in one fluid and polished motion. Any more torque, and I don’t think the chassis or tires could keep up.
The 8-speed is just as smooth as any BMW, but not when manually shifting. The Supra will lurch forward on manual hard upshifts in first and second gear, which can unsettle the rear end. Otherwise, it remains gentle when left to its own devices. It also took a fair amount of time to warm up to its nervous rear end, which isn’t as grounded or as planted as I would like. It’s sure-footed one moment and twitchy in the next, especially when managing bumps and undulations at higher speeds - I don’t want to say it’s bump steer because I’m not 100% sure, but it definitely kicks around when heavily disturbed. Could also be the cold Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. They don’t seem to enjoy Canadian single digit weather. Overall, it’s tough to gain an overhead feeling of confidence when driving the Supra hard, and I don’t think I’ve built up enough trust in the car, even after a few days and 200 kms. The ride can get pretty firm too when Sport mode is selected, but in Comfort mode, the Supra remains spectacularly composed and comfortable as a daily cruiser. Quiet and isolated cabin too with little tire or wind noise disturbing occupants.
But you really want to roll down those windows. The Supra’s exhaust is exciting, emitting those classic BMW pops and bangs when letting off the throttle in both mid and high RPMs. Where BMW exhausts harbour more bass and low-range vocals, the Supra lives in the mid-range with slightly higher and sharper pitches in tone, and sounds less synthetic and mechanical. The differences are subtle, but have a listen to our Exhaust Notes video to hear them for yourself.
The Supra utilizes last-generation BMW bits, kind of like how Aston Martin uses Mercedes’ outgoing tech. So it’s all familiar territory, from the thin-rimmed steering wheel, seat controls, to the seat memory buttons. That’s not a terrible thing, with layers of carbon fibre panelling gracing the oddly shaped center console. We’re not sure why it is passenger-focused rather than driver-focused. It’s the opposite of the F-Type. There’s a large wall divide that blocks the driver from reaching into the center stack, making it tricky to reach the storage cubby above.
The digital gauges in the Supra have been surprisingly well executed, with a large tachometer that appears deceivingly analog perched right in the center like a Porsche 911. The 8.8-inch infotainment screen from BMW is possibly the best interior bit that Toyota has borrowed, and is far superior to their in-house units found in the RAV4 and Camry. User-friendly with simple, clean menus, the unit is very functional and able to be controlled by both touchscreen and rotary dial. It retains BMW’s signature eight-shortcut buttons hovering over the dash as well. Still, the Supra’s touchscreen is awkwardly sitting on the dashboard, and angled in a way that sunshine heavily washes out the graphics.
Ingress is hampered by that low roof line, and I’ve learned to actively duck my head each time to avoid a migraine, but the same goes for exiting the vehicle. Furthermore, the window portals are tiny bunker-like slits that you can barely stick your head out of, kind of like a Chevrolet Camaro. The Supra could really use that concept targa roof, and even though outward visibility isn’t terrible, the cabin feels undeniably small and cramped.
Rear-drive performance cars under the six-figure mark are a dime a dozen. There are even fewer on tap below $70,000. This Supra rings true to the enthusiast, and exemplifies a blindingly quick and accessible benchmark within reasonable monetary reach. It’s not as affordable as a Honda Civic Type R or Mini JCW GP, but the Supra justifies living in the bigger leagues with its wonderful exhaust tune, bountiful powerband, and crisp steering. While we can’t exactly detect the minor upgrades for the A91, and the nervous rear end still holds us back, we can declare that it still lives up to the Supra name despite borrowing Germanic parts. Let’s just appreciate the fact that it even exists at all.
Model: 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 A91 Edition
Paint Type: Refraction
Base Price: $67,690
Price as Tested: $68,890
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,381 / 1,854 / 1,293
Curb weight (kg): 1,542
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline-six
Horsepower: 382 hp @ 5,800 - 6,500 rpm
Torque: 368 lb-ft @ 1,800 - 5,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.6 / 8.0 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.3
Tires: 255/35R19 front; 275/35R19 rear; Michelin Pilot Super Sport