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Toyota Supra (2019) early drive review

  • Evocative name returns to Toyota's range
  • Rear-wheel drive, straight-six engine - and BMW tech?
  • New model aims to take on Porsche and Alpine
  • Evocative name returns to Toyota's range
  • Rear-wheel drive, straight-six engine - and BMW tech?
  • New model aims to take on Porsche and Alpine

Toyota's range for the past couple of decades could generously be described as being focused on practicality. In other words, rather different to the era of the Celica, Supra and MR2; the GT86 a small glimpse of what can happen when the Japanese giant's engineers are allowed to be creative.

Now there's a truly legendary name returning. The Toyota Supra has been shown, hinted at and teased well in advance of a 2019 launch - something this significant would have been hard to keep secret, after all - and we've driven it in preproduction form.

Part of the reason this Supra would be hard to keep quiet is the technology sharing. The original models shared platforms and engines with other Toyotas; the 2019 Supra has more in common with BMW...

BMW and Toyota - shared, not based on?

2019 Toyota Supra - front - camo wrap

It's fair to say that the Supra - and the BMW Z4 it is closely related to - are a shared platform, albeit one that is dominated by BMW technology thanks to the 3.0-litre straight six engine, much of the suspension and a substantial amount of the electronics and driver environment. Given how many cars are a collection of technlogies from third-party suppliers, this shouldn't dissuade serious Toyota fans.

The differences are rather significant, too - the Toyota Supra is a fixed-roof coupe, with a short wheelbase and sharp, responsive steering. We've only seen the disguised prototype; the styling looks to follow the same direction as the GT86, with elements of the latest Lexus and Toyota design language adorning the double-bubble roofed coupe profile.

Of more importance, the body has improved rigidity over its BMW counterpart, surpassing the figures for even the carbonfibre Lexus LF-A.

How does the 2019 Toyota Supra drive?

Are you expecting something akin to a Toyota GT86, but faster? In classic terms, the Supra began as a luxury Celica with a larger engine, after all.

It didn't end as that, though - and although Toyota have resurrected a name, they've left the past well alone otherwise, making the 2019 Supra both revolutionary and evolutionary in approach.

Revolutionary, because the technology underneath is science fiction compared to the last Supra; evolutionary, because the famous A80 of 1993 - 2002 had already moved from luxurious GT to a harder-edged, high performance ethos.

Toyota Supra: straight-six return

2019 Toyota Supra - rear

Supra fans will at least raise a smile at the 3.0-litre straight-six - twin-turbocharged, 24-valves, it's as true to the Supra's DNA as you could wish for; it's actually a BMW unit.

The rest of the drivetrain follows suit, with a variable-ratio active differential, eight-speed gearbox and adaptive suspension. Toyota's setup is bespoke, and the front anti-roll bar geometry, suspension tuning and crucially, steering, are all developed specifically for the Supra.

Toyota have retained many of the GT86's most appealing elements in the Supra. Set well back in the wheelbase, the front-engine layout doesn't result in a nose heavy attitude; rather, the Supra responds with alacrity, turning on its axis at the driver's command. Flick through the gears with the (BMW-sourced) paddle shifters, and the impressive torque available ensures there's little that the Toyota will be unable to overtake - or challenge on the track.

Setting the Supra for the track

For trackday heroics, the stability control can be switched in a smilar manner to the GT86 too - a short press for less intrusive intervention, or a long press to disable entirely. Left to pure physics, the Supra's chassis is well balanced and controllable. and promises a rewarding experience for skilled drivers - though we'd recommend keeping it switched on for wet tracks.

Exact figures are yet to be released, but we expect around 350hp and 540Nm, based on the M240i's specifications. Again, until January 2019 and the official release of production details, the performance is anticipated to be around 4.0 seconds 0-62mph, and limited top speed around 160mph.

Behind the wheel, low-slung and supportive seats fit within a sophisticated interior that meets the expectations set by an (estimated) £50,000 asking price. Headroom and visibility are particularly good, while refinement is a notch above that of the GT86 too.

Toyota Supra drive modes

2019 Toyota Supra pre-production - profile

Two drive modes are offered, which adapt throttle response and damping. On the road the Supra proves impressively competent, in part due to the comparatively small 19-inch wheels that allow the standard Michelins to play a part in absorbtion as well as grip; it's entirely resonable to use the Supra as a long-distance tourer, despite the hard-edged ambition and uncompromising rivals Toyota has in their sites.

On the track, the Supra is simply devastatingly good - engaging, sharp and minutely adjustable with constant feedback, the impression that Toyota have captured the essence and talent of the GT86 and scaled it up to giant-killing proportions is inescapable.

Production examples of the Toyota Supra will be available in 2019, and we'll be among the first to drive it. If you can't wait until then, though - this pre-production drive is a convincing argument to at least wait before ordering that Porsche Cayman or Alpine A110.

2019 Toyota Supra - rear - driving

2019 Toyota Supra specifications

  • New price: £50,000 
  • Engine: 2,998cc twin-turbo straight-six petrol, 350bhp, 570Nm 
  • Transmission: Eight-speed paddleshift automatic, rear-wheel drive, e-differential 
  • Performance: 4.0sec 0-62mph, 160mph

2019 Toyota Supra double bubble roof

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