The Supra was born from the emergence of the Toyota Celica in 1970. In 1978, efforts to go against Datsun’s (Nissan) Z-car birthed the Celica XX. It featured a newer version of the famous in-line six-cylinder M engine seen in Toyota’s revolutionary 2000 GT.
Toyota's legendary 2000 GT.
Although known in Japan as the Celica XX, the international market knew the car as the Toyota Celica Supra. During development, the brand sought help from Lotus Cars in the engineering side in exchange for components for Lotus’ Excel.
From above: A 1981 Toyota Celica Supra and the A60 Supra.
During this production, the Celica Supra began with the A40/A50 first generation that ran from 1978 to 1981, followed on with the A60 successor from 1982 to 1986 that was sportier in looks.
But it wasn’t until the A70 that Toyota split the Celica and Supra into separate model lines, with the former converted to front wheel drive, while the Supra maintained its rear-wheel platform.
Despite the third generation Supra A70 setting off to a slow start, in 1987 the brand included a turbocharger into the last M series engine with the designation 7M-GTE that produced 230 hp. It was at this moment that the Supra nameplate added on a Turbo which further boosted popularity thanks to the power and position in the late 1980s.
Towards the end of the A70’s model line, at the turn of the 1990s, the third generation Supra went on to be the best of what it could be – by having Toyota’s all new flagship straight-six engine that brought together a whole new following, the 1JZ. At its peak, the A70 Supra bowed out with a 2.5 Twin Turbo R model that produced 276 hp.
1993 saw the launch of the successor, the A80 fourth generation Supra. Developed under the guidance by Isao Tsuzuki, chief engineer who also worked on the first Celica and the MR2, the A80 design moved away from the boxier shape of yesteryears Supras and was more aerodynamically efficient than ever – shaving off 100 kg in weight to the A70. Despite the ever growing fanbase for the Supra, Toyota did not realise that the A80’s beating heart would go on to be a legend.
Nestled in the bonnet of the A80 is an engine that enthusiasts rave on till today, the 3.0-litre 2JZ straight-six that was offered in either naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged flavours with power figures between 220 hp and 326 hp.
But of both engine versions, the turbocharged 2JZ-GTE engine is the one with the glowing reputation. The reason behind its high praise is due to the fact that Toyota over-engineered the engine with robust materials that included cast iron, forged steel, and aluminium. This allowed tuners and enthusiasts to significantly up the power output by almost three times without the need to do significant engine work; and up to almost 10 times for those that did modify the engines.
Credit: Universal Pictures
Yet, the Supra’s reputation only took superstardom in popular culture when it became the centrepiece in the 2001 film, The Fast and the Furious. The film provided a deeper look into the world of aftermarket tuned cars with a focus on the Japanese sports car market. In one of the most popular scenes, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) drag races and leaves behind a Ferrari F355 Spider with a modified Supra A80.
Akio Toyoda, President Toyota Motor Corporation, and Dr Norbert Reithofer, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.
Since Toyota stopped production of the A80 in 2002, there was no word on the next generation Supra until in June 2012, when news broke of a finalised agreement between the brand’s partnership with BMW on a future sports car.
Then in less than two years, Toyota showcased the FT-1 Concept at the 2014 Detroit Motor Show. While there was not much detail to go around, except for confirmation that it would be a combustion only engine without a hybrid powertrain, further spotting of the vehicle under heavy disguise testing at the Nürburgring and a debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed just last year has come down to the final reveal just early this week.
Almost seven years have passed since the BMW-Toyota partnership and things have come down to this. Thanks to the partnership, we now know that the A90 Supra shares quite a lot in common with BMW’s latest 2018 G29 Z4, but what does the new Supra offer and what’s different with the Z4? Read on to find out.
- Now that the camouflage is out, it is hard not to notice the lines that’s inspired from the A80. In the words from Toyota, “The 2020 Supra embodies its rich lineage at first glance, with a design that shows a particular kinship with the fourth-generation Supra built from 1993 to 2002, as well as the landmark 1967 Toyota 2000 GT. The resemblance is more than skin deep: the new-generation Supra also shares with those notable models the common traits of a short wheelbase, sophisticated chassis, and high-performance inline-six-cylinder engine.”
- While unofficial, it is widely mentioned that the Supra will also be available in a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine from BMW with 194 hp and 255 hp variants.
- Specification numbers will make fans happy. The Supra has a 3.0-litre straight-six twin-scroll turbo engine producing 335 hp and 495 Nm of torque paired to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission sending power to the rear wheels. Century sprint time is estimated to be 4.1-seconds electronically limited to 250 km/h. This makes the new Supra the fastest Toyota to date.
- Despite sharing the same platform development with BMW, where the Supra differs is in the design which included wind tunnel testing and the final tuning of the powertrain and transmission to suit the Supra’s purpose.
- Toyota Gazoo Racing had a specific vision in the development, with the focus of having high structural rigidity, low centre of gravity, 50:50 weight distribution and neutral cornering balance.
- For performance driving enthusiasts, the Supra will have an active differential that uses and electric motor and multi-plate clutches to control lateral torque. The active differential precisely controls torque distribution between the rear wheels, with stepless variable locking from zero to 100 per cent. The differential can control torque distribution between the rear wheels when cornering under both acceleration and braking, enabling greater momentum through a corner. The active differential is also effective at ensuring neutral handling by reducing both understeer and oversteer.
- Adaptive Variable Suspension is standard and instantly adjusts damping force in response to driver input and road conditions. There are two suspension settings available – Normal and Sport.
- The overall dimensions of the Supra is longer than the Toyota GT86, however the wheelbase is shorter and has a lower centre of gravity compared to the smaller sibling.
- The A90’s chief engineer is Tetsuya Tada, the gentleman who was also responsible for working on the GT86 and in his portfolio, was also part of the Daihatsu Passo development. During Tada’s time in Toyota, he’s also had the guidance from Isao Tsuzuki, the chief engineer for the A80.
- The new Supra will be under Toyota’s motorsports division called Gazoo Racing with a GRMN (Gazoo Racing tuned by Meisters of the Nürburgring) version rumoured to be in the works.
- Thanks to the co-development with BMW, the Supra has an almost identical interior treatment to the German manufacturer. A look into the cabin layout and parts will be uncannily similar, including the gear shifter, iDrive system with controller and climate controls amongst others.
- The Supra will be assembled at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria alongside BMW’s Z4.
Want to have a closer look at the Supra's other half? Click here for BMW's Z4!
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