Japan’s iconic sports car returns after nearly two decades

If there is a car that is included on almost every list of “greatest enthusiasts car,” it’s the Toyota Supra. The little two-door sports car was originally bolted together as a response to the Z cars coming from competitor Datsun (and later Nissan), but it eventually grew into a special machine with a cult-like following. Now after years of rumor, speculation and dreaming, it looks like the Supra is set to return. With Toyota having launched the FT-1 concept in 2014 and with sporty prototypes spotted on the road since 2016, the next-generation coupe turned from rumor to reality in 2018, when Toyota released the first official teaser. The public debut is also set to take place at the Geneva Motor Show in March.

The story of the Supra may start in 1978, but it was in 1987, with the introduction of the first turbocharged model, that it began to truly build its performance legacy. This third-generation Supra was fitted with more than a powerful engine. It featured adjustable suspension and brake systems that helped make it great around a racetrack as well. It became a cult icon in the auto enthusiast world, and everyone has been clamoring for a new model since the old one was pulled from U.S. showrooms in the late 1990s.

But we heard nothing but rumors until September 2016, when the first prototypes hit public roads. The camouflaged cars offered strong hints that Toyota is using a familiar design with some FT-1 cues. We also got more and more reports that the new Supra will share underpinnings and engines with the next-generation BMW Z4, as part of a collaboration between the two companies. But information remained slim until recently, when a couple of leaks brought more data into the spotlight. The Supra is just a month away from showing itself in the metal, and we gathered all the existing information in the speculative review below. Check it out and make sure you stay tuned for updates.

Updated 02/20/2018: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Toyota Supra out for a new testing session. As you can see the car starts dropping some of its camouflage, so we can now have a better look at the front bumper and the rear fenders.

Continue reading to learn more about the Toyota Supra.

Spy Shots

February 20, 2018 - Toyota Supra starts dropping camouflage

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2019 Toyota Supra
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October 24, 2017 – Little Change, Lots of Hope

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New Taillights…that’s all it is. As you can see from this latest round of photos, the engineers over at Toyota have apparently been sleeping on the job. In more than a month, they have changed next to nothing on the outside of the upcoming sports car. It still sports the new LED headlights we saw last time, while the rest of the body has gone untouched with the exception of the rear lights, which are now official LED production units. They feature a rounded triangle layout in the corners that lead into a single strip of LEDs that shoot inward toward each other. Whether or not this strips actually connect and extend across the bottom of the rear deck remains unseen, but it certainly appears that way.

On a side note, the chances are that Toyota spent the all this time perfecting the things under the skin and tweaking various parts of the chassis, engine, and transmission. Are we close to production ready? I think so. I bet we’ll see it makes its big debut in Tokyo in the next few days, but I could be wrong. All of the exterior panels are decoys that have been riveted to the real body underneath, so it’s quite likely that the new Supra is all ready to go now that it has all of its exterior lights. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens.

August 9. 2017 – Toyota Supra Sports Some New Headlights

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March 17, 2017 - Toyota Supra caught up close and personal

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2019 Toyota Supra Exterior Spyshots
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January 24, 2017 - Toyota Supra caught testing once again

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2019 Toyota Supra Exterior Spyshots
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September 7, 2016 - First testing session

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2019 Toyota Supra Exterior Spyshots
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Exterior

Buckle Up Folks: The New Toyota Supra Is Coming to Geneva, And It's Hot!
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Toyota's first teaser photo gives us a good look at some of the rear end

Although it’s been more than a year since the first prototypes hit public roads, the upcoming Supra has yet to drop any camouflage. Sure, the body received many updates in 2017, but Toyota isn’t in any rush to remove the swirly wrap. All the padding and mystery is still there as of February 2018, but there’s plenty of details to look at, starting with the headlights. If you look closely, you’ll notice that they are full LED units — that means there are no halogen bulbs, no HIDs, and no-nonsense. They even look stylish, with three upper and lower LED units and a headlamp assembly that’s recessed into the nose just a little bit. Of course, the LED units won’t be standard equipment, but the range-topping model will definitely get them at no extra cost.

I’m not too keen on the gap to the top and outside, but I have a feeling that will probably be remedied prior to the car actually going into production. You’ll also notice the LED running light that makes its way from the upper outside corner downward before pulling a near-90-degree turn to shoot across the bottom of the light assembly. When the camo comes off, I think we’ll find this to be very attractive and somewhat unique. Furthermore, one has to point out that it’s refreshing to see such small headlight units that don’t wrap around the corners in a ridiculous fashion — that’s almost as bad as these cars with massive fake vents in the corners.

2019 Toyota Supra Exterior Spyshots
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The massive rear haunches give it a muscular look, as does the swept-up decklid

Drawing inspiration from the FT-1 Concept, the major changes in our rendering are based on how the car might look like if it reaches production, coupled with the tiny details we managed to gather from the spy shots. Dropping the ultra fancy Formula 1-style nose from the FT1 at the front, which is admittedly awesome but unfortunately doesn’t seem like something that could go beyond the concept stage, the rendering features a toned-down split-intake and slender headlamps based on the GT86’s.

Moving to the back, it’s pretty challenging to picture the production model since the test car is so heavily camouflaged. However, we can see the actual production taillights, which are really thin and placed at the corners of the fascia. Also using LED technology, they seem to be somewhat based on the fourth-generation model. The shape is similar, although more modern on the new Supra, but we can also see round light clusters, just like on the car that got discontinued in 2002.

Thankfully, Toyota’s first teaser photo gives us a good look at some of the rear end details. The massive rear haunches give it a muscular look, as does the swept-up decklid. The sloping rear window reminds me of the previous-generation Supra. While the test cars have just a spoiler, the teaser shot shows a massive wing atop the trunklid. The big discrepancy is probably due to the fact that the Supra will be made available in various trim levels. The base model will probably have just a spoiler, while the sportier, range-topping version will have the big, race-inspired wing.

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Toyota may be saving the big wing for a more hardcore version, likely to wear a "GRMN" badge

Rumors suggest that Toyota may be saving the wing for a more hardcore version, likely to wear a "GRMN" badge. Every popular sports car eventually gets a more hardcore version nowadays, so I don’t see why Toyota would pass on that opportunity. Finally, the teaser gives us a good glimpse at the roof, which features a double bubble configuration. Inspired by vintage sports cars, it gives it a classic sports car look that sets it apart from other vehicles in this niche.

All told, we have reached a point where we no longer expect the next-gen Supra to borrow too many features from the gorgeous FT-1 concept, but that’s not to say that the production model will lack the sportiness that the nameplate became famous for. I think it’s pretty clear that the new Supra will be based on the styling language of the GT 86, but showcase a more aggressive stance and a grand tourer-like profile.

Interior

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If the exterior is any indication, the interior too should be unique to this car

If the exterior is any indication, the interior too should be unique to this car, although we may see a handful of details from other Toyotas find their way inside the cabin. Although our paparazzi managed to get some shots of the Supra’s cabin, the massive amount of camouflage prevents us from getting a good glimpse of what’s in store. What’s more, the instrument cluster and steering wheel, basically the very few features that are visible, might not be in their final, production-ready stage.

However, there are a few hints to consider. For starters, it appears that the instrument cluster is analog and not as modern as you’d expect in a car like this. But this could mean that either the final display isn’t yet ready or that the base model will come with an analog cluster, and a digital unit will be available. The steering wheel isn’t particularly exciting to look at, and it doesn’t have a flat bottom, but it does have some chrome and aluminum-look touches. We can also see some of the clean center stack and the A/C vents on top. The latter are rectangular and seem a bit old-fashioned, but they could work with the rest of the layout. Arguably the most important feature we can see is the big infotainment display placed on top of the dash. This is a significant departure from the Toyota norm and could mean that the Japanese firm is doing some out-of-the-box thinking for the Supra.

The rest remains a mystery at this point, but don’t expect the production car to be as racy as the FT-1 on the inside. Toyota needs to focus on convenience and luxury in order to enable the Supra to compete with the likes of the Acura NSX and offer leather upholstery, contrast stitching, and aluminum trim, at least in the more expensive models. These will probably be combined with sports seats and pedals, a bespoke instrument cluster with a performance-specific display, and Toyota’s latest technology and safety features.

Drivetrain

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Three of the engines developed for the next-gen BMW Z4 will find their way into the Supra

If I had a penny for every rumor regarding the Supra’s drivetrain lineup, I’d be able to fill up my car’s gas tank a few times. Yup, there’s been a lot of street talk going around, and I’ve read quite a few scenarios in recent years, from turbocharged four-cylinder engines and the V-10 from the Lexus LFA to a hybrid drivetrain. With the LFA long discontinued, a small-displacement gasoline engine is the more probable choice. A hybrid is also very likely given the current market trends, but it wouldn’t be surprising for Toyota to offer both.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about a V-6 hybrid system. This scenario is backed by the first spy video of the car, in which the roar of a V-6 and the whirring sound of an electric motor can be heard when the driver steps on the gas pedal. The system will likely be similar to what is currently offered in some Lexus models, but retuned for a sportier response. Estimated output is of at least 400 horsepower. But a sole drivetrain with more than 400 horses isn’t what Toyota needs right now. The Supra has to be powerful, but the Japanese firm also needs a less potent, more affordable option.

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The range-topping model could get a six-cylinder engine with 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque

This is where the gasoline engines shared with the upcoming Z4 come in. A factory document that surfaced the web last year said that three of the engines developed for the Z4 will find their way into the Supra. First on the list was a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. This unit is already familiar in the BMW lineup, being used in cars like the 3 Series and 4 Series. The unit cranks out 181 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque in these cars, and although these figures will change for the Supra, I expect a similar output.

Next up is a more powerful version of the same four-banger. Rated at 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet in current Bimmers, the 2.0-liter unit will provide a sportier version of the Supra. This model could also be the base offering in the United States, as the less powerful 2.0-liter isn’t available on this side of the pond. This model could be called the GR Sport, whereas the one above will be named the GR.

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As far as transmissions go, word has it that the Supra will get an automatic only

Finally, there’s the engine that BMW calls the 40i on its models. This is a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter inline-six that cranks out a solid 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque in existing models and could get a similar output in the upcoming Z4. The Supra using this engine is tipped to be called the GRMN. This information is backed by a new leak that surfaced the web in February 2018, adding that the engine is capable of producing an extra 37 pound-feet during periods of overboost. That’s a pretty exciting rating for the modern Supra!

As far as transmissions go, word has it that the Supra will get an automatic only. This will probably leave many manual enthusiasts disappointed, but an automatic gearbox will provide the best performance and will help the coupe return the best fuel economy figures yet. The upcoming Supra is said to tip the scales at 3,298 pounds, some 650 pounds heavier than the lightest Toyota 86 model.

Prices

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Pricing for the new Supra is rumored to begin from nearly $40,000 in the United States. This sticker would make it considerably more affordable than the previous model in its final years on the market, but the higher performance and the hybrid versions will probably cost more than $50,000.

As far as production goes, word has it that the new sports car will be built by Magna Steyr in Austria. Production will be capped at around 60,000 units per year. The first Supras will roll out sometime in 2018 for the 2019 model year.

Competitors

Believe it or not, but finding a head-on competitor for the Supra isn’t as easy as it sounds. And that’s because at the time of this writing there aren’t any proper sports cars in this segment and, more importantly, in this price bracket. But let’s have a look at some of the alternatives.

BMW Z4

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Since the Z4 and the Supra are build on the same scalable platforms, it’s only natural to consider them rivals. However, there’s a big chance that they won’t be. Although they will share some engines, the Supra will be a coupe only, while the Z4 will be convertible. So we already have two significantly different cars. What’s more, BMW and Toyota have probably reached some sort of gentleman agreement that will prevent the Supra and Z4 from stepping on their toes in the same niche. So expect them to have different equipment lines as well as different pricing. Of course, with both likely to get trims that span between $35,000 to in excess of $50,000, some versions are likely to overlap, but both companies will be looking to aim their cars at different types of customers. But in essence, if you want a drop-top with similar performance, the Z4 is a good option. Assuming you’re not a Supra enthusiast, that is!

Read our speculative review of the upcoming 2018 BMW Z4.

Acura NSX

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The NSX and Supra are radically different cars. Not only the NSX competes in a different niche in terms of pricing, but it also has a different drivetrain layout, with the gasoline engine mounted behind the seats. However, there is one thing that makes them similar. Much like the Supra, the NSX returned to the market after a little more than a decade. And it’s a completely different vehicle too, now using a combustion engine and no fewer than three electric motors to move about. The gas unit is a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6, while two of the three electric motors spin the front wheels. The hybrid combo sends 573 horsepower to all four wheels, while the V-6 alone generates a whopping 406 pound-feet of torque. Sprinting from 0 to 60 mph takes around 3.5 seconds, while top speed is rated at more than 180 mph. The big issue with the NSX, when compared to the Supra, is that it retails from $156,000.

Read our full story on the 2017 Acura NSX.

Next-Generation Nissan Z

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While the current 370Z is a bit too long in the tooth for the upcoming Supra, a next-gen model would be the perfect competitor. However, while Nissan is definitely planning to build one, the Z nameplate is shrouded in mystery. While some rumors say that Nissan is looking to place it higher in the market just so it can compete with the Supra, other voices claim that the Japanese firm is actually aiming to provide a more affordable alternative. With the range-topping GT-R likely to be significantly more expensive in the new generation, a slightly pricier Nissan Z makes a lot of sense. On the flipside, there’s a scenario in which Nissan turns the Z into a crossover, so the Supra’s traditional rival may no longer exist in a few years. But as long as no specific plans have been confirmed, we can hope that Nissan is actually a working on a rival for the Toyota Supra.

Read our full review on the next-generation 2019 Nissan Z.

Conclusion

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When it comes to exciting news, a new-generation Toyota Supra is as good as it gets. Sure, the Japanese firm is still mum on the project, but the new Supra is definitely underway with so many test cars spotted on public roads. And with high-revving prototypes seen on the Nurburgring recently, a higher performance version is in the books as well. Supra fans have been clamoring about a new sports car ever since Toyota discontinued the fourth-gen car in 2002 and they’re finally getting it. If this isn’t great news, I don’t know what is. And the fact that it will be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in just a month makes things that much more exciting.

  • Leave it
    • * Might not be as powerful as we expect
    • * Could be expensive in top trim

References

1993 - 1998 Toyota Supra High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 1993-1998 Toyota Supra.

2014 Toyota FT-1 Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2014 Toyota FT-1 Concept.

2018 BMW Z4 Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our full speculative review on the next-generation BMW Z4.

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Read more Geneva Motor Show news.

Brief Toyota Supra History

First Generation

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Aimed at customers looking for a larger, more comfortable car, the first-gen Supra was offered with three engines

The first-generation Supra was launched in April 1978, and unlike its predecessors, it was heavily based on the Celica liftback. Aimed at customers looking for a larger, more comfortable car, the first-gen Supra was offered with three inline-six engines until production ended in 1981. All three were naturally aspirated, and transmission options included a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. The 2.0-liter unit generated 123 horsepower, while the larger, 2.6-liter engine was rated at 110 horses.

The Supra was first exported outside Japan in January 1979. In August 1980, less than a year until production was stopped, the Supra received a 2.8-liter inline-six that cranked out 116 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Unlike the 2.0-liter version, this one was sold in the U.S. too.

Read our full story on the first-generation Toyota Supra.

Second Generation

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The second-generation model went into production in late 1981 with a new exterior and a revised engine lineup

The second-generation model went into production in late 1981 with a new exterior and a revised engine lineup. Still built around the Celica’s platform, the second-gen Supra was launched with new versions of the 2.0- and 2.8-liter inline-six engines. The former was rated at 125 horsepower, while the latter developed between 145 and 174 horsepower, depending on the market where it was sold.

Toyota made various changes to the car until 1986, with all engines gaining more oomph throughout the years. By the time production came to an end, the 2.0-liter was good for up to 160 horsepower, while the 2.8-liter version generated up to 178 horses. Various variants of the previous five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions were offered.

Check out our full review of the second-generation Supra.

Third Generation

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In 1987, Toyota launched the first turbocharged model

The Supra was once again redesigned in 1986, gaining a more modern appearance and upgraded technology. More importantly, the Supra was no longer based on the Celica. Another big change was the switch to front-wheel drive. In 1987, Toyota launched the first turbocharged model, an event associated with the Supra name becoming an international legend.

A version of the old 2.0-liter inline-six engine was kept in production with 160 horsepower, but the twin-turbo version that followed in 1987 delivered an impressive 205 horses. The 2.8-liter was replaced with a 3.0-liter engine, rated at 200 horsepower and naturally aspirated trim and 230 horses with forced induction. In 1990, a third engine was launched. This was the legendary 1JZ-GTE, a twin-turbo, 2.5-liter inline-six rated at a whopping 276 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of twist. All engine options were available with five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions.

Read our full story on the third-generation Toyota Supra.

Fourth Generation

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The final and probably most celebrated Supra arrived into dealerships in 1993

The final and probably most celebrated Supra arrived into dealerships in 1993. Redesigned by Isao Tsuzuki, it looked modern but incorporated some cues from Toyota’s first grand touring sports car, the Toyota 2000GT. Equipped with modern tech and a brand-new engine, the iconic 2JZ-GTE, the fourth-gen supra was also the first Toyota vehicle to include a passenger airbag as standard.

The new 3.0-liter inline-six came with 220 horsepower and 210 pound-feet on tap, but Toyota also offered a twin-turbo version with 276 horses and 318 pound-feet of twist. For the export markets, Toyota upgraded the Supra turbo’s engine with smaller, steel-wheeled turbochargers and bigger fuel injectors, which increased the power output to an impressive 320 horsepower and 315 pound-feet in the U.S. and 326 horses and 325 pound-feet in Europe.

The fourth-gen Supra was sold in the United States until 1998 when it was retired due to declining sales

The turbocharged variant needed only 4.6 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start and just 13.1 seconds to complete the quarter mile (at 109 mph). The car was tested to reach over 177 mph, but customer cars were restricted to 112 mph in Japan and 155 mph in North America and Europe. A new six-speed manual was introduced alongside the usual five-speed manual and four-speed automatic.

The fourth-gen Supra was sold in the United States until 1998 when it was retired due to declining sales. Production continued in Japan until August 2002, when restrictive emissions standard forced Toyota to put an end to the fourth-gen car and the Supra nameplate altogether.

Check out our full review of the fourth-generation Supra.

Update History

Updated 03/16/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Toyota Supra hanging out somewhere at a station gas. Of course, this was the perfect opportunity to take some nice pictures of the upcoming coupe.

Updated 2/3/2014: We have just created several new renderings of the anticipated Supra.

Updated 1/14/2014: Toyota revealed its FT-1 concept in Detroit yesterday that we all agree is obviously a preview of what will eventually be a concept version of the next-generation Supra.

Updated 07/03/2012: A few days ago BMW and Toyota signed an agreement for co-developing a new sports car. And now, Automotive News is reporting that the next generation Toyota Supra could be built using the BMW 6-series architecture: "Anything is possible. The key factor is that the products of both companies retain their own individual character, despite jointly developed technologies."

Updated 01/24/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Toyota Supra out for a new testing session, this time during cold winter conditions.

Updated 12/13/2011: MotorTrend has offered new details on the new generation Supra set to be released in 2015. It seems that the car is being tested with a 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid system generating over 400 hp. It has also been rumored that the car will feature a design close to the FT-HS concept revealed at the 2007 Detroit show.

Updated 12/05/2011: The return of the Supra name has been denied and confirmed by Toyota so many times, it’s equivalent to watching a tennis ball endlessly shooting over the net - back and forth, back and forth. Now, however, that game may finally be coming to a close. During the official debut of the GT 86, Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada, said there was room for a three-tier sports car line-up in the Toyota range, with one car sitting below the 86 and one above it: "Right now the 86 will be a mid-size sports car. I would like to have one smaller and one larger. One would probably be a Supra follower. Nothing has been decided yet. It would [be] like a Supra successor.

We’ll see how long this story rides before Toyota throws another game into the set.

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