The Supra. Over the last 20 years, perhaps no other car has achieved a cult-like legendary status through a movie franchise. The Fast & Furious series and the fourth generation, A80 Supra go hand-in-hand like the much clichéd wine and cheese - or perhaps more fittingly, a well tuned engine and its accompanying NOS system.
Above left: The famous railway crossing scene from the original Fast & Furious film. Above right: The fourth-gen Supra’s fabled status was confirmed during the tribute to the late Paul Walker at the end of Fast & Furious 7.
These movies made the Supra a poster boy for the stereotypical modified, ‘boy-racer’ car and in the process transformed it into a symbol for the culture of individuality, freedom and rebellion that the franchise espoused. One only has to look at the current stock of Supras for sale to see that the vast majority have been modified in some form.
Of course, the movies weren’t the only reason why the Supra was a popular boy-racer car. One of the most important factors with the car itself was the twin-turbocharged 2JZ engine. Utilising an iron block and an over-engineered, stronger than normal crankshaft, it proved to be easily capable of more power in the hands of tuners without significantly affecting reliability. In fact, the hero-status of the 2JZ engine rivalled that of the Supra itself, to the extent that ‘2JZ engine swaps’, where the engines of other cars are swapped with a 2JZ from the fourth-gen Supra, are now commonplace in the aftermarket scene.
Above: The super-tough 2JZ engine from the A80 Supra - easily capable of more power than that produced from the factory
Perhaps the other helpful factor for the fourth-gen Supra was the extremely driver focused interior, which acted as a statement of intent. The centre console and all controls were tilted heavily towards the driver, with the front passenger being a clear second-class occupant in the vehicle. Despite this model having token rear seats, anyone driving a Supra knew that this was the most selfish of vehicles.
Above: The interior of the fourth-gen Supra. As evident from the picture, all controls (including the radio and A/C) were arranged in a swooping arc around the driver. Little thought was given to the ergonomics for other occupants, and this marked the Supra out as a car for enthusiasts.
Put together, what did all of this mean? The Supra was the car for boy-racers, tuners and the aftermarket scene, and it was unashamedly so. In a society with increasingly restrictive laws around speeding and modifying cars, the Supra carved itself out as an icon for those who were not afraid to express themselves and to be known as an enthusiast. The Supra wasn’t a crowd-pleaser - it was divisive and all the better for it.
The new Supra
Almost 25 years after its predecessor, the new, fifth-generation ‘A90’ Supra presents itself as an evolution of its predecessor to cater for a new generation of enthusiasts.
It’s clear from the outset that the new Supra gets its fundamental proportions spot-on. The typical RWD sports car silhouette of a long bonnet and dash-to-axle ratio, coupled with a short rear deck, is present and correct. In turn, this provides a great base to build up the rest of the Supra’s design.
In a nutshell, the Supra’s styling is best described as voluptuous. The muscular, heavily flared rear haunches shift the visual focus of the car backwards to emphasise the power contained within, and give the impression of a car ready to pounce. The tail, with its huge, blacked-out diffuser and ducktail rear spoiler, appear to be more concept than production and work with the rear haunches to create a very aggressive rear profile. A neat touch is the reversing light integrated into the diffuser, which resembles an F1-style brake light.
Above: The blacked out diffuser, arching ducktail spoiler and horizontally arranged tail-lamps combine with the rear haunches to give the Supra a wide, aggressive stance. Note also the similarities in the reversing lamp with an F1 car (see right image).
As evident from the images above, another neat touch is the wraparound design of the new Supra’s glasshouse. Not only does this recall classic cars such as Toyota’s own 2000GT and the Lancia Stratos, it resembles the visor of a racing helmet and hints further at the car’s sporty intentions.
The styling themes that create the muscular haunches and aggressive rear stance continue at the front with the oversized air dams. These intakes combine with the slim headlamps and sculpted, tapering nose to create a bellicose, if slightly fussy, predator face. Above, attention to detail is again demonstrated with the Peugeot RCZ style double-bubble roof, which has the distinction of not only being a relatively unique styling feature, but also reduces vehicle drag and maximises occupant headroom.
Above left to right: The new Supra, BMW’s older 2-Series coupé, and BMW’s new Z4 and 3-Series. Note the similarities in the infotainment, gear-shifter and HVAC and media controls between the Supra and the 2-Series. Meanwhile, the new Z4 and 3-Series utilise BMW’s current Operating System 7.0 for infotainment and the latest BMW design for their A/C and media controls.
Also - that red leather looks damn nice!
The interior is perhaps the part of the new Supra where its BMW roots are the most immediately obvious (the car shares its basic platform, engines and drivetrain with the new BMW Z4). Utilising hand-me-down BMW components, the Supra appears to run BMW’s superseded iDrive 6 infotainment system and shares its gear-selector, HVAC and media controls with the older 2-Series. Nevertheless, these parts are still substantially better than the rubbish infotainment systems and controls on other Toyotas, and means that the Supra (somewhat surprisingly given its sports focus) has the best infotainment system in the Toyota range.
I especially like the Supra’s instrument cluster. Appearing to be a hybrid analogue-digital panel, it combines a central tachometer as its focus (a traditional sports car characteristic), with the modern conveniences offered by a digital display.
Truth be told, the aggressively sculpted styling of the new Supra means that it’s never going to be a timeless, classically elegant sports car in the way the Porsche Cayman, Alfa Romeo 4C and Alpine A110 are.
But it doesn’t have to be. The Supra isn’t a petite, lithe European coupé. It’s a Japanese muscle car. More Mundine than Messi. Japanese car design of late has been following its own aggressive beat, and is all the better for it - models such as the LFA, LC and the LS from Toyota’s sister brand, Lexus, attest to that. And ultimately, who in their right mind would want Toyota to make a replica Porsche 911 when, left to their own devices, Toyota designers can produce something as brilliant as the Lexus LC?
Perhaps a more relevant question is whether the new Supra could feature in a future instalment of the Fast & Furious series. And, for me at least, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. The new Supra is simultaneously a homage to its fabled predecessor, and gives a new generation of enthusiasts and boy-racers something to crave. Its story is yet to be told, but it’s clear that the legend is reborn.