Toyota has gone to great lengths to fit the latest Supra with three pedals. Was it worth the effort?
By Stephen_Dobie / Tuesday, 7 June 2022 / Loading comments
You’ll be no stranger to Gazoo Racing by now. It’s still in its relative infancy as a full-strength Toyota sub-brand, and yet it’s a household name among our sort of folk already. Thank a constant stream of hits for that; no sooner had GR Yaris hysteria calmed down and the GR86 turned up, bowling critics clean over and selling out in a near instant.
Getting your hands on either is currently tough task, then, but good news awaits if your budget isn’t exactly capped. Swimming upstream with the blind determination of spawning salmon, Toyota has launched a manually shifted GR Supra. And this is no token gesture using a bunch of unused gearboxes dusted off from a forgotten parts shelf. An entirely unique transmission has been crafted (albeit with existing Toyota and ZF components) in lieu of grovelling to BMW for something that’ll latch onto the 340hp 3.0-litre straight-six already supplied by Munich. Surprising, given the new M2 is widely expected to get a manual option. There are currently no plans for the lighter, smarter handling Supra 2.0 to get a stick-shift.
I’m not complaining, though. Toyota launched the Supra 3.0 MT at Seville’s Circuito Monteblanco alongside the GR86 that Nic reviewed a couple of weeks back. I’ve little doubt we’ll both reminisce about the day we drove two brand-new, manual-transmission, rear-driven sports cars – from the same carmaker, on the same day – in hushed disbelief. Even Toyota engineers freely used the phrase ‘the last of the last’ when discussing the pair as they chat over coffees in the paddock. It was a privileged occasion.
There’s no escaping the fact the Supra is getting on for twice the price of the GR86 and – I doubt this constitutes a spoiler – it’s not getting on for twice the car. But it’s a wholly different proposition to its dinkier sibling, and I just adore the diversity of the circa-sixty-grand sports car market right now. Alpine A110, Porsche 718, Lotus Emira, BMW M2, Jaguar F-Type, Audi TT RS… they’re all a unique take on putting 300-odd horsepower through a squat little coupe.
Perhaps the Supra’s big USP amongst that lot remains its looks. Even three years on from its first appearance it’s a truly arresting object that could kid the casual observer its worth twice its asking price. Slip inside, ogling its muscular rear arches in the side mirrors and its voluptuous bonnet up front, and you might even kid yourself. Sparking its tried and trusted six-cylinder engine into life doesn’t dispel the myth.
A manual gearbox had apparently been lingering in the engineers’ minds, and it’s the feedback of both press and customers that’s convinced them – and more crucially, the people who dish out their budgets – to actually bring one to fruition. Life under Toyota president Akio Toyoda sounds a lot of fun, an enthusiast at the very top meaning passion projects come to life, and to hell with the profit margins. Why else would the GR Yaris have a bespoke body shell? And the Corolla now come as two-seat hardcore hot hatch? Sure, Toyota makes its millions on high-selling hybrid white goods. But it’s nice to see it develop a bunch of performance cars where financial sense isn’t a constraint on character.
Bringing three pedals to the Supra isn’t just to win the hearts of a few luddites; it also shaves weight from the Supra, chiefly 17 kilos. Or a full 38kg if you also have lightweight fabric seats rather than electrically adjustable leather items. They also drop your hips a centimetre lower, too, gifting taller drivers some vital headroom and giving shorties like me an even more satisfying driving position. Overall weight distribution remains a perfect 50/50.
One place the weight saving has slowed is in the gear knob where, once again, Toyota’s ‘fun over financials’ ethos is brought vividly to life, the engineers swelling its weight from 68 to 200 grams to make sure the shift action is as gratifying as possible. It also sits in a different position to the auto’s gear selector to give plentiful clearance from the climate controls as you punch from second to third. All told, it feels a lot more natural than the manual shifter found in the middle of a tiny handful of Jaguar F-Types. Your wrist and elbow feel exactly where they should be – a small but significant detail.
Toyota has also fitted its ‘iMT’ rev-matching software; it’s found in the Yaris but not the GR86 (a cost-saving issue, apparently) and it’s very good. You can turn it off too, of course, but via a sub-menu rather than a simple button. And I was never unduly offended by its assistance. It’s always meticulously judged in its blips of throttle and, I’ll be honest, does a better job than my own size nines usually do. The shift action itself is satisfying too, if not perfect. A couple of my changes up to third were a little ponderous on my part, wondering if I’d somehow found fifth instead (I never had), but I think I’ll reserve full judgement until I’ve driven for longer than half a dozen quick laps of one of Monteblanco’s less dramatic layouts. But fair play to the engineers, the knob is indeed wonderfully weighted.
It’s not been a swift job tuning the Supra to accept a stick-shift, with the limited-slip differential tweaked and the traction control retuned to account for clumsy clutch inputs. And the introduction of a manual comes with a little mid-life tickle for the Supra as a whole, with retuned shocks and steering and a more intelligent stability control system that’s designed to allow for a little more freedom when the car senses uphill hairpins. Something that we’ve no chance of finding on a flat race circuit, of course, where paring the systems back is the order of the day anyway.
Whether it’s partially down to the harder core vibe of the new seats and the extra interaction of the gearbox, I can’t fully say, but this is categorically a better Supra, with alert, precise steering that allows you to really commit with the front end, the rear axle moving progressively behind it. Ultimately, 38kg hardly represents a fad diet, and so this still feels a stocky car under brakes at the end of Monteblanco’s pit straight. But there’s agility in the corners and – crucially – fun. It’s not as outright playful as its more rambunctious GR86 sibling, but it still invites mischief.
“Progressiveness and predictability at the limit is a GR family character,” says engineer – and Toyota Master Driver – Herwig Daenens. “We want to have informative cars. You can have ‘grip grip grip’ easily but if the grip then suddenly falls off, you’ll just be scaring your customers away.” He says this while sliding around the manual Supra – yes, masterfully – with me perched in the passenger seat.
Toyota expects to sell about a third of Europe’s new Supras with a manual gearbox, and in the UK it saves you £1,500 over a comparative auto. Most UK buyers will go for the cheaper spec that brings the lightweight fabric seats. Personally, I love their vibe – the Supra feels more focused with them before you’ve even set off – although it’s possible you might not think them befitting of a £53k GT. Clearly the sales team think so. Upgrading to the leather of Pro trim is a chunky £2,500 step up.
However you spec it, though, the stick-shift is a no-brainer on for me. It’s 0.3sec slower to 62mph than the auto, but I’ve kept that little nugget until now because I’m hoping it’s as unimportant to you as it is to me. This car represents so much more. Gazoo promises it’ll stay committed to sports cars whatever form they take (likely electrification) but if – in Toyota’s own words – the car you see here is among the last of its kind, it would be churlish not to specify it at its most focused. If your heart’s set on a GR Supra, I heartily recommend you make it this one.
Specification | 2022 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 MT
Engine: 2,998cc, straight-six turbo
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 340 @ 5,000-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369 @ 1,600-4,500rpm
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
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