The Toyota Supra has always been an enigma in the minds of performance enthusiasts. While the BMW-based iteration we know now is a far cry from the heyday models that defined the 1990s, it’s still a potent performance entry. This is due to the Supra managing to create a perfect blend of world-class performance hardware and distinctly Toyota design. But are these two pillars still enough to help the Supra stave off threats from traditional sports car rivals and internal competition from BMW?
Style Still Remains A Supra Strong Suit
The 2022 Toyota Supra (2023 models are just now beginning to roll out to dealerships) is based on the BMW Z4 roadster, but you would be forgiven if you don;t realize it right away with our tester’s exterior styling serving as a dynamic example of Toyota design. The front fascia still looks like a futuristic show car, and the lack of a Supra convertible model (despite clamoring for it from some fans) allowed Toyota to go all in when designing the coupe body that’s mounted above the Z4’s platform. Unlike some of its rivals, this slick styling also carries over to the base 2,0-liter model, with these four-cylinder models not losing too much of their visceral identity in their attempts to woo budget enthusiasts. A slick set of 19-inch wheels help fill the Supra’s wheel arches and also comes with sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires.
the @toyota #toyotasupra simplifies the entry of addresses with the #voicefunction in it’s #bmwsourced #idrivesystem #veryhelpful when your on the move and need to find a #location #quickly #fyp #toyota #bmw #technology #navigation #navigationsystem #sportscars♬ original sound – Carl Malek
That said, Toyota’s edge might be short-lived, especially in the face of growing competition. The Nissan Z, for example, is benefitting from an extensive redesign that saw it transform from an aging relic into a fairly modern sports car that is not only making good use of its carryover platform but also manages to have styling that does a far better job channeling its heritage. The Ford Mustang is also going to be receiving a major update for 2023 and is rumored to receive styling that will allow it to embrace its global identity better. This styling will allow the iconic pony car to embrace a more global identity while also putting pressure on the Supra to lure in buyers that might otherwise stray to Ford dealers.
BMW Luxury Adds Depth To Driver-Focused Cockpit
Slip inside the Supra’s cabin, and you will be greeted with an interior that’s largely copied and pasted from BMW. The core look here heavily resembles the Z4 and it even comes with a BMW-sourced i-Drive system. That roughly translates into a driver-friendly control layout with many buttons and switches within easy reach of the driver. Our tester’s vivid red leather seats were very comfortable for front seat occupants. The thrones provided a good amount of support in the turns while also embracing a low seating position. Buyers looking to haul backseat passengers are encouraged to either leave them at home or use the family CUV since the Supra axes them for more trunk space and a location to store the subwoofers.
Visibility in the Supra is hampered by massive blindspots in the rear, which can make some passing maneuvers a hassle. That’s in stark contrast with its BMW twin, which solves that problem by simply folding its roof down. The bubble top roof in the Supra helps improve headroom for taller occupants, but the sharply angled roof and the small rear windows all conspire to make the Supra feel not at home in the hustle and bustle of the urban commute.
Sharp Corners Bring Clarity To Supra Driving Experience
Thankfully, urban commuting is only a small slice of any given day, and we eventually found time to take the Supra to some of the winding switchbacks and corners that exist in rural Metro Detroit. It’s here where the Supra feels truly in its element, with the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six in our tester good for 382 hp. No all-wheel drive is available, but that’s fine since the lighter weight allows the Supra to have impressive handling behavior. In fact, we would actually take the Supra over its cousin the BMW Z4, since you don’t have to deal with some of the flawed dynamics that come with the addition of the convertible top.
The addition of the all-new Hairpin+ mode to the driving mode roster further sharpens the Supra’s handling behavior, and it does make a difference in certain driving situations. The mode allows additional rear wheel spin on one of the tires, and while this isn’t quite as precise as a formal four-wheel steering system, it’s still enough to help the Supra have better cornering behavior, especially on ultra sharp corners with the Supra doing a better job of telling the driver when its time to back off while also embracing its limits more confidently.
A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic was mated to our car, but loyalists looking for a return to tradition will be happy to know that the Supra 3.0 can be equipped with an optional six-speed manual gearbox. As far as which transmission to go for, it ultimately depends on what your preferences are. The manual is the no-brainer option if you’re looking for maximum involvement. But if you’re looking for more day-to-day usability, especially if you travel through urban transit hubs on your way to work and back, then the eight-speed automatic will get the nod.
Pricing for the 2023 Supra is reflective not only of the source material but also the segment that the Supra competes in with the base 2.0-liter model starting at $43,540 which puts it in the lower end of the segment. Move up to a 3.0 liter equipped example like our tester and be prepared to pay $52,500 for a base spec 3.0 while the Premium variant begins at $55,650. There’s also the $58,345 A91-MT variant, but it’s a one-year-only exclusive, and allocations are rapidly being spoken for.
This pricing is on the higher end of the segment, but the main issue that dogs the Supra is that for roughly the same amount of money, there are more powerful rivals. The Ford Mustang is on the cusp of a major update, but until dealers get the seventh generation Mustang in stock, buyers will still get the current gen model to buy. A GT Premium coupe model is cheaper than the Supra, and it comes with a more powerful 5.0 liter V8 that pitches the turbochargers for a pure, naturally aspirated sound. Another potent rival is actually from within the ranks with the Subaru BRZ/Toyota GR86 offering handling and track readiness that’s on par with the Supras, but for less money even though you are stuck with Subaru’s flat-four engine, which is still lacking a bit in low-end torque.
However, if your willing to put the pricing side of the equation aside when you visit your local Toyota dealership, the 2023 Supra is still an enviable enthusiast machine. While the family connections to BMW are glaringly obvious, the fun that it produces is an entirely unique experience, and it easily lives up to the hype, especially when the Supra is allowed to stretch its legs in familiar territory.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.