I attended the Washington Auto Show a few weeks ago, for the fourth year in a row. For me, going to the auto show is like being a kid in a candy store, except all the candy I want costs at least $50k. My unfulfilled garage dreams aside, it’s a great way to spend a few hours. This year in particular was exciting for me because of the debut of the new Toyota Supra and Shelby GT500. Everything else was pretty much just a bonus in addition to seeing those two vehicles in person.
The newest Supra has generated a lot of buzz for the fact that there hasn’t been a Supra since 1998, but also because the last iteration of the Supra is regarded as one of the legends (I’m trying to avoid using the word iconic here, for fear of seeming unoriginal) of the 1990s sports car scene and Japanese sports cars in general, and like any new iteration of something with such a strong fan base, there’s been a lot of skepticism. I like to think that MKIV Supra owners/purists were a little bit spoiled with the combination of styling, power, and reliability that car provided for its time frame but I understand some of the criticisms of the new version – more on that in a little bit.
The legendary status of the MKIV Supra (1993-1998) has been confirmed recently with some of the crazy auction prices they’ve been going for. For folks into the import sport compact scene, the Supra was one of those cars you dreamed of owning, comparable only to the Skyline GTR, which was never made available in the United States. Even many of the folks who are exclusively into American muscle have a healthy respect for the MKIV Supra if only for the number of hearts it broke on highway roll races across the country. The use of a MKIV Supra in the first Fast and the Furious movie undoubtedly helped the car reach an even wider audience.
Rumors of a new Supra have been floating around for years and when Toyota finally announced they’d officially be bringing it back, a lot of people got understandably excited, myself included. When the final design was confirmed, it left a fair amount of folks disappointed. I didn’t have a strong opinion but I thought it looked promising and reserved final judgement until I could see one in person. After seeing the Renaissance Red 2.0 (not sure what happened to 1.0) Supra on display at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, I can say that I am a fan of the styling. The curves are much easier to appreciate in person than in any photos I had seen previously. In particular, I really enjoy the slope from the roof to the “ducktail” style spoiler that you can see here:
While the looks impressed me in person, I still have two major complaints about the new Supra, based on all the available information. I understand that a lot of the Toyota purists are upset about the Supra sharing a drivetrain with BMW, since Toyota currently doesn’t produce an inline six cylinder engine, but BMW does make some pretty impressive vehicles. I think folks should reserve their criticism of the drivetrain until the vehicle is available and being tested in the real world. My first complaint, or I suppose I should call it more of a concern, is that the Supra is only going to have 330 horsepower. That’s only 10 more horsepower than the MKIV Supra in stock form and while I understand that horsepower isn’t everything, there are a few great performing cars with significantly more power you can buy for less than the starting MSRP (this is part B of my first complaint) on the new Supra – Camaro SS 1LE, Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 or for close to that price – Corvette, Shelby GT350. Some folks would argue that these cars aren’t necessarily targeting the same customers but personally I’d have a hard time paying $50k or more for the 330 HP Supra knowing I could get some of those cars for the same price or less. This all being said, I was actually pleasantly surprised that the price on the new Supra was “only” $50k, given the astronomical prices on other Japanese super cars like the modern Nissan GTR (starts at $99k) and Acura NSX (starts at $157k).
My second complaint is that as of yet, there don’t appear to be any plans for an available manual transmission in the new Supra. I get that (unfortunately) this is the way the market is moving, at least in the U.S. but there are plenty of incredible cars still available with a manual transmission (Mustang, Camaro, Challenger, Corvette, various iterations of the 911, the Boxster and Cayman, etc.). I do have hope that Toyota can be pressured into bringing a manual option sort of like Porsche was with the 911 GT3. Again, much like part B of my first complaint, I’d have a hard time selecting a 330 HP, automatic Supra over a 455 HP manual Corvette or even a Porsche Cayman with less power but proven handling and an available manual (if I could fit my 6’5” frame into the Cayman of course).
I have more thoughts (and pics) to come in part 2 but I’m impatiently waiting for the production car to go on sale so journalists and new buyers can test the performance and share first hand perspectives. To be continued in part 2…