By David Thome – Special to ADAMM– Automobile Dealers Association of Metro Milwaukee.
Toyota took the Supra out of mothballs in 2020 to public and critical acclaim, but the Japanese automaker’s engineers nonetheless decided their performance coupe could benefit from a few tweaks for 2021.
The Toyota Supra performance coupe was re-introduced
in 2020 and tweaked again for 2021.
First, they cranked up the horses in the 3-liter twin-turbo inline six-cylinder engine from 335 to 382. Then, they moved to keep those horses on task by retuning the chassis, making some changes to the electric power steering, adaptive variable suspension, electronic stability control and active differential programing and adding front and rear bumpstops and aluminum braces that increase lateral rigidity.
“The end goal of these not-insignificant changes,” Motor Trend writer Christian Seabaugh says, “was to increase roll resistance and improve cornering stability.”
Those changes, says David Volpano, new car sales manager for Wilde Toyota of West Allis, are also why the Supra is among the fastest available cars off the line, in most accounts going from zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds.
“It’s all about traction,” Volpano says. “It’s about knowing the power of the car and getting perfect balance to put that power onto the road.”
Car and Driver says it coaxed its test-Supra to 60 in 3.7 seconds, “putting it in the big leagues” with a handful of sluggers, including the Porsche Cayman GTS and BMW M2 Competition.”
It’s a lot of excitement for a car that wasn’t even on the market until a little over a year ago.
Supra’s roots go back to 1979, though, when it made its debut with a 110-hp 2.6-liter inline-six that could take it from zero to 60 in 11.2 seconds. A few years later, Car and Driver says, the Supra “matured into a real sports car” due to driving dynamics upgrades that led the magazine to name it to its 10 Best Cars lists for 1983 and ’84.
The ’86½ and ’87 models, though, cemented Supra’s legendary status with a 200-hp in-line six and a 30-hp turbocharged boost that could get you to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. In 1993, a totally redesigned Supra, the Mark 4, sported “swoopy styling that looks like no other Toyota that came before it”—and clearly served as a starting point for the reboot. That car not only cracked the zero-to-60 six-second barrier, but also came close to cracking five-seconds by achieving 60 mph in 5.2 seconds.
And yet, within a few years, sales flagged. Supra’s hiatus began after the ’98 model year ended.
After a couple of prototypes came and went, the Supra finally emerged from hibernation in 2020. Calling the new model a “thrilling to drive paparazzi attention getter,” it was a Motor Trend Car of Year finalist.
Editors said it sounded great, handled tidily on smooth surfaces, was “refreshingly simple to drive” and “needed its driver like a proper sports car should.” They also called it out for its starting price at just less than $50,000.
The buying public liked it, too.
“The name is iconic,” says Max Bennett, internet sale rep for Russ Darrow Toyota of West Bend. “The old Supras go for crazy amounts of money. The new ones are for people who want the latest everything.”
Valpano says that the new Supra is building a following among those who may have owned one—or aspired to own one—during its original run while also drawing in younger buyers who more acquainted with Supras from the “Fast and Furious” movies that were favored by tuners who repurposed them as autocross, drag-racing and drifting machines.
Since the reboot, Toyota has decided to broaden Supra’s fan base by adding a fourth model to the lineup for 2021 that comes with a 2-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder, 255 hp engine that costs $5,000 less than last year’s base model. The Supra 2.0 starts at $43,985, the 3.0 at $51,985, 3.0 Premium at $55,485 and top-of-the-line A91 Edition at $55,790.
In its review, Autotrader.com says the A91, which has the BMW-sourced 3-liter turbocharged inline-6, “is incredibly powerful,” with “neck-snapping full-throttle acceleration” and “shines during spirited driving.”
The highly praised BMW eight-speed automatic transmission is standard on all four trim levels, but paddle shifters on the steering wheel let drivers take control. “Like many good sports cars,” Autotrader’s editors say, “the 2021 Toyota Supra is a joy to drive on a back-country road.”
While you might not expect too many people living in southeastern Wisconsin would want to use a Supra as an everyday car, Car and Driver says that the new suspension “is forgiving enough to drive daily,” and Volpano says some of his store customers have state that they intend to do just that.
[Editor’s note: These stories are provided to Wisconsin Hot Rod Radio by the journalists at the Automobile Dealers Association of Metro Milwaukee without monetary compensation.]