2020 Toyota Supra does the nameplate proud

By Russ Heaps
Clanging Bell

(April 5, 2020) I was about as close to giddy as a cantankerous old veteran car guy can get when I was handed the keys for the all-new 2020 Toyota Supra with which I would spend the following week. Having owned a 1979 Supra back when it was still called a Celica Supra, and then driving several examples of the A70 and A80 generations in the 1980s and 1990s, I was stoked to get behind the wheel of the latest A90 generation. I wasn't disappointed.

Sure, I'd heard all the grousing about its guts being pulled from a BMW Z4, but I've learned to live with carmakers sharing platforms, engines and technology. It happens a lot. I got over it a long time ago. Toyota did have a hand in engineering Supra, which was a joint venture with the new BMW Z4. No one will accuse me of being a glass-is-half-full, the-sun-will-come-out-tomorrow sort of guy, but I refuse to allow a little parts sharing to ruin my experience with a car. Particularly when some of those parts have BMW etched into them.

I didn't get to drive the Supra as much as I would have liked. Primarily because anywhere I drove it, I had to spend 10 or 15 minutes talking about it to tire kickers and assorted passersby. I was stopped nearly every time I climbed in or out of it in public. What an attention grabber. Then again, it is the first new Supra I had seen in the wild. In my week with the Supra, it wasn't uncommon to glance in the rearview mirror to find the driver behind me with a cell phone balanced atop the steering wheel taking photos or shooting video of the Supra's distinctive backend. I had my photo snapped more that week than a homecoming queen.

Toyota offers the Supra in two grades: 3.0 ($50,945) and 3.0 Premium ($54,945). Prices include the $955 factory delivery charge. Generating the go in every Supra is a 335-hp 3.0-liter inline twin-turbo 6-cylinder engine developed by BMW. It delivers 365 lb-ft of peak torque. The only way to change the cogs is via an 8-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, also shared with the BMW Z4.

Correct: There is no manual transmission standard, optional or otherwise. Enthusiasts must come to grips with manual transmissions going the way of the VCR. Clear that hurdle and I challenge anyone to find more than a nit or two to pick with the new Supra. Government-estimated mileage is 24 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.

Although the powertrain and underpinnings of the Supra and Z4 were hatched from the same egg, these are quite different cars. Think of them as paternal, rather than fraternal twins. They look different, they exhibit unique driving characteristics and inspire different emotions. BMW always envisioned a convertible roadster when planning the Z4. Toyota never seriously considered the next-generation Supra as anything, but a two-seat hardtop coupe.

In the end, the Supra is as fetching as any two-seater on the road. The long snout and bobbed butt is classic Supra. I don't think to call it art overstates Supra's liquid exterior lines. Strolling around it for the first time is an exercise in holding your breath. After completing the journey, don't forget to exhale. It's easy to appreciate the throwback touches like the twin-bubble hardtop and small integrated rear spoiler.

Although the exteriors of the Supra and Z4 look nothing alike, the cabins are quite similar. Speaking as an older driver, I don't think just the over-50 crowd will find entering and exiting this car requires at least a bit of planning. Once inside, some would call the experience confining while others would frame it as cozy. In any case, it's more of a cockpit than a cabin. The seats are wonderfully supportive with generous side bolsters. All of the controls are easily within the driver's reach. Visibility out the back is restrictive, to say the least. Backing out of a driveway or a parking space in a busy lot is more adventure than some will treasure.

I didn't have the opportunity to put the Supra on a track, but most of us don't encounter tracklike conditions on our daily commute, anyway. However, I can tell you that in everyday driving, it responds with lightning quickness and corners without drama. It's tight as a roller skate with nearly a 50-50 distribution of weight. It's stable and predictable. There's a Sport mode, which further tightens things. It scampers from a standstill to 60 mph in less than four seconds. And, the exhaust note is symphonic.

Standard in every Supra are 19-in alloy wheels, auto on/off LED headlights with automatic high beams, LED daytime running lights and taillights, heated power-folding outboard mirrors, rain-sensing wipers,full power accessories, remote keyless entry, push-button start, 8.8-in LCD gauge cluster, Alcantara/leather seating, 14-way power-adjustable seats, carbon-fiber interior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, eight air bags, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 10-speaker audio system with satellite-radio capability, USB port and iPod connectivity. Also included with every Supra is ToyotaCare consisting of complimentary scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles.

Standard in the 3.0 Premium trim and optional in the 3.0 is an upgraded 12-speaker JBL audio system with an 8.8-in touchscreen, navigation and Apple CarPlay. Optional in both grades is a Driver Assist Package with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert and parking assist.

It's good to see Toyota once again offering a serious sports car. The 2020 Toyota Supra does the nameplate proud. Now, how about an updated MR2?