How’s this for covering all the angles? Joining the Toyota GR Yaris on track at Hampton Downs for a media day last month was the 2021 Supra, circulating back-to-back with a 2020 model so we could see how just how the times were changing for Toyota’s coupe.
At the end of the day, we took the 2021 model away to spend some time on real-world roads.
So what’s changed? There’s a 35kW power bump to 285kW, which completely coincidentally takes the Toyota upwards to match the BMW Z4 on which it’s based. It’s thanks to a revised exhaust manifold and new pistons. There are also substantial new aluminum strut braces under the bonnet.
From the outside, there’s not much to see: a “Supra” logo on the front brake calipers and the option of a striking new matte colour called Phantom Grey (as seen here). But it all costs $1000 less than last year’s model.
Invest that $1000 back in again and you can have the Supra Limited Edition with a unique Horizon Blue finish, black and blue leather interior and special wheels (yes, that’s the blue car you also see here). But Toyota NZ only has two of those, so good luck.
Why make a major engine upgrade just a year after launch? Toyota says it’s part of its promise to “continually evolve” the Supra through its life cycle, but releasing the car with less power than the Z4 to start with must be at least partly a political thing (it’s BMW’s powertrain and platform after all).
Regular tweaks are also a crafty way to combat the single biggest problem with niche coupes for any company: there’s a burst of buyer enthusiasm when they’re new, then interest drops away very quickly because everybody who wants one has got one. So just as we’ve all stopped talking Supra, more power puts the spotlight back on.
Driving new and old back-to-back on track puts the emphasis on the extra shove. Especially when the sky has erupted and the circuit is slippery. It’s a lively rear-drive coupe, this, and the combination of improved low-end torque and more top-end power certainly gets your attention. There’s a compliance to the chassis that makes Supra excitingly seat-of-the-pants at times.
It’s just as engaging on the road at more sensible speeds. The previous iteration had a reputation for pivoting around the rear axle and dishing out the odd… moment. I can’t speak to that because I’ve never driven it at legal speeds on public roads (first world problem), but I’d have to say I rather like the way this one squats down at the rear under power and twerks a bit through bumpy corners. It might be a 285kW hard-top powerhouse, but on the right road it feels a lot more sports car than grand tourer.
You can’t argue with these upgrades when the price has also dropped by $1000. And the Supra is still a handy $37,310 less than the Z4 roadster with the same 285kW.
TOYOTA GR SUPRA
ENGINE: 3.0 turbo petrol inline six-cylinder
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, RWD
0-100KM/H: 4.1 seconds