Gazoo Racing goes from strength to strength – the A90 Supra is where it all began

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, 15 May 2022 / Loading comments

Key considerations

  • Available for £42,000
  • 3.0-litre straight-six turbo, rear-wheel drive
  • Won’t blow your pants off driver excitement wise
  • Reliability and values high, choice of cars on the used market low
  • Cabin is perhaps too BMW-ish but works well
  • Rides well though and stands out through rarity

Could a giant car company ever forget to replace a car? GT86 chief engineer Tetsuya Tada has been quoted as saying that Toyota president Akio Toyoda told him, in 2012, to create a new Supra as soon as possible. The previous model, Tada’s now highly sought-after Gran Turismo-ruling gen-four A80, had disappeared from the Toyota range a decade earlier. Could it possibly be that somebody high up in the firm had actually forgotten to follow it up?

Stranger things have happened. The official line on the long wait is that Toyota wanted to see how the GT86 would get on, and it does seem that Toyota had made applications to re-register the Supra name back in 2010. Whatever the truth might be about the Supra’s tardy replacement, there’s no doubt that Tada jumped straight into action on his boss’s orders and somehow got a shapely FT-1 concept ready in time for the Detroit show in January 2014.

Details were scant. Pretty much all we were told was that it was front-engined and rear-driven. There was no confirmation that the FT-1 would be turned into a production model, but nobody was massively surprised in 2016 when the Supra name was re-registered again in Europe. The press began to speculate on a 2018 release date. In fact, although it did make a disguised appearance at Goodwood in 2018, the A90 Supra wasn’t officially launched as a production car until the 2019 Detroit show, where it was hailed as the first global GR model to be built by Toyota Gazoo Racing.

Toyota had wanted a brawny inline six under the bonnet to do justice to the memory of the 2JZ-engined A80, but they didn’t have one on the shelves and there was no way they were going to spend the fortunes required to develop a new unit that would have very limited (if any) applications elsewhere. BMW had a 3.0-litre twin-scroll single turbo six they were using in their Z4 platform, along with an eight-speed auto which, when fitted to the new Supra, would produce 340hp and 368lb ft and deliver a 0-60 time in the low four-second bracket – but why would Toyota get in bed with BMW?

Because they had previous history. The two auto giants had already worked together on the Z4 and on other projects relating to hydrogen fuel cells, electrification and lightweight materials. So a deal was done, not only on the platform and drivetrain but also on much of the electronics and cabin. The A90 Supra and the new Z4 would be built alongside each other on the Magna Steyr line in Austria.

In the UK there were two main specs for the 3.0 Supra: the regular GR Supra at £53,000, and the £1,300 more expensive GR Supra Pro which included leather upholstery, wireless phone charging, a head-up display, better sound system and a few other bits and bobs. This Pro model made up the vast majority of the Supras sold in Britain.

There were ‘Edition’ cars too, such as the A90 Edition of 2019 which came in Storm Grey matt paint, matt black alloys and a red and black interior. This 3.0 was limited to 90 cars in Europe, of which (we think) 24 came to the UK. In the late summer of 2021, the 3.0 Jarama Race Track Edition in Horizon Blue with forged matt black alloys was released. 90 of those were built for Europe, with 30 coming in the UK.

A new entry level Supra came to the UK in early 2021. That was powered by a 2.0 turbocharged four, again supplied by BMW and as used in cars like the 330i.  So as not to make it seem like too much of a poor relation to the 3.0 which wasn’t exactly setting the sales charts on fire in the UK (fewer than 300 of them had sold here in 2020), the 2.0 had the same standard fit adaptive damping and electronically controlled active rear diff as the 3.0. It had 18-inch wheels instead of the 19s on the 3.0. Although they called it a ‘Pro’ it didn’t actually have any of the 3.0 Pro’s headline features mentioned in the previous paragraph.

The turbocharged 2.0 did have 255hp in the UK though, which was a relief because in some markets it didn’t even reach 200hp. Prices for the 100kg lighter 2.0 started from £46k, with a Fuji Speedway Edition in metallic white with a red and black interior and forged matt black 19in alloys at £47,400. 200 of these Fujis came to Europe, 45 of them to the UK.

The high-power 3.0 GR is the Supra we’ll be focusing on in our guide. It was part of the growing GR (Gazoo Racing) sub-brand that currently includes the GR Yaris and, very soon now, the feverishly-awaited £30k GR86 – all of which were sold in the UK within 90 minutes of their announcement.

In April this year (2022), three years after launch, Toyota announced a six-speed manual gearbox for the 3.0. It was designed specifically for the 3.0 so wasn’t available for the 2.0. As in the GR Yaris, this manual box (which reduced the car’s overall weight by 40kg) had an Intelligent Manual Transmission mode to optimise torque at the moment of clutch engagement when upshifting. The final drive on this new-for-’22 Supra manual was shortened for a sportier feel and the centre console was slightly redesigned to accommodate it. All new-for-’22 Supras had their dampers retuned at this time, and firmer rubber was used for the ARB bushes at both ends of the car.

Not many GR Supras have been sold in the UK so the number of them running around on the used market right now is also low. Your choice will rarely extend to more than 25 cars. If you are desperate to get into one but have a limited budget and a taste for the unknown the odd repaired car does pop up from time to time. We saw a 2021 two-owner Cat S 3.0 Pro with 5,000 miles up for under £37,000. If that’s a risk too far, the next most affordable option will be a 2.0. These start at about £40k. The trouble with that from the 2.0’s point of view is that the entry price for a used 3.0 isn’t much higher at £42k, and surely there’s no competition when it comes to choosing the Supra with the strongest heritage.

We’ll be taking a squint at what’s available on PH Classifieds at the end of this piece. In the meantime, let’s look at the GR Supra attributes that might make you want one – and the stuff that might make you not want one.

SPECIFICATION | TOYOTA GR SUPRA (2019-on)

Engine: 2,998cc, turbo straight six
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000-6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],600-4,500rpm
0-62mph (secs): 4.3
Top speed (mph): 155 (limited)
Weight (kg): 1,570
MPG (official combined): 32.7
CO2 (g/km): 170
Wheels (in): 19
Tyres: 255/35 (f), 275/35 (r)
On sale: 2019 – now
Price new: from £53,000 (£54,300 Pro)
Price now: from £42,000

Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.


ENGINE AND GEARBOX

The GR’s single-turbo B58 3.0 straight six engine might not have had the fire and brimstone personality of the twin-turbo six used in BMW’s M2 Competition, but the upside of the B58 was its tremendous flexibility, which was arguably more appropriate if you were looking for classic GT attributes. Most of the GR Supra’s peak thrust was available over a near-5,000rpm plateau starting at 1,600rpm. Drama-seeking drivers regretted the fact that the limiter on the launch control didn’t allow you to dial up anything over 2,000rpm, but once you were up and rolling the sound was pretty good, albeit with a bit of a leg-up from the sound augmentation electronics. The engine is not what you’d call a revver, though.

The 3.0’s official 0-62 time was 4.3sec. One of the big US mags got the 0-60 time of a 2019 car down to 3.7sec by giving themselves a one-foot rolling start. Another US mag put an early car on a dyno and reportedly found an extra 10hp and 40lb ft over Toyota’s advertised amounts. Some UK tuners were seeing 370hp on stock cars, and Litchfield reported hitting 420hp with a remap alone and the potential for more with an exhaust. This could either mean that all 3.0 Supras were more powerful than advertised, which would be great and another accidental (?) homage to the 2JZ-engined A80s which had a similar reputation for understatement, or that certain specific cars were more powerful than advertised. We won’t be commenting either way.

The well-proven ZF 8HP torque converter automatic that would again be familiar to BMW owners wasn’t the sharpest tool in the transmission box, with occasionally jolty downshifts, but it did work well with the GR Supra’s active diff to deliver great traction.

Very little goes wrong mechanically, and Toyota has traditionally always been keen to nip any issues in the bud via recalls. There was one of these for cars built between April 2019 and June 2021 to sort out an engine management software problem that could damage the oil or vacuum pumps.

On servicing, Supras had access to the same packages as other Toyotas. An intermediate service was around £375, a main around £600, and you could spread the costs by paying small monthly amounts. With the Relax scheme Toyota’s three-year new car warranty could be extended in 12-month blocks until your Supra was 10 years or 100,000 miles old.   

CHASSIS

The Supra sat on the same platform as BMW’s current (2018-on) G29 Z4. Toyota reckoned that its new coupe was more rigid than the legendary LFA and that it had somehow had a lower centre of gravity than the flat-four engined GT86. Our data supplier quotes the weight as 1,570kg but independent UK testers measured it at 1,500kg. The claimed front/rear weight distribution was 50/50. Lots of development time was put in at the Nürburgring.

All pretty good qualifications for a purposeful sporting vehicle, you’d have to say, and more than enough to be able to put on one side Toyota’s other claim of having achieved the so-called ‘golden ratio’ of 1.55 between the Supra’s shorter-than-the-GT86 wheelbase and wide track. As it turned out however it was the ride quality that impressed the most on first acquaintance. As mentioned earlier, the steel-coiled 3.0 Supra had two-mode adaptive dampers as standard. These were nicely matched to the car, delivering a smooth ride in Normal and tightening up body control in Sport. Driving hard on more pressing roads brought the big engine’s frontal location into increasingly sharp focus – the 2.0 was noticeably pointier, and the 3.0’s steering felt weighty in Sport mode – but the 3.0’s willingness to indulge in some mild tail-out fun on slimy surfaces was a point in its favour.

As a bonus it was an easy town drive thanks to its compact turning circle and battery of parking aids, but caning it hard down a mountain pass might expose some deficiencies in braking feel and chassis control. Interestingly, last August (2021) BMW North America issued a recall on 50,000 cars to rectify a lack of braking issue that could be caused by a software glitch. Of those 50,000, just over 13,000 were A90 Supras, i.e., not BMWs at all. That must have been a fun few weeks in US BMW dealerships. We don’t know if a similar shout was made by BMW UK.

Shuddering through the wheel at motorway speeds has been noticed. This was usually traced back to unbalanced or misaligned wheels. Some Supras made in a very small window between mid-March and early April 2019 were fitted with incorrectly specced steering tie rods that could suffer from vibration-related damage. Again a recall was put out to fix that.

BODYWORK

Some took the view that the graceful FT-1 concept made the production gen-five Supra look a bit stubby. Others were OK with that, remembering how stubby the gen-four had been and noting with approval the new car’s similarity to the A80 in terms of its front end lighting treatment.

Visuals are always a matter of opinion of course, as are the perceived merits or demerits of the shallow glasshouse, viz cosiness and not great visibility. One thing that those who have seen an A90 are more likely to agree on is that it’s one of those cars that looks more impressive in the flesh than it does in pictures. Even if you didn’t get on with the overall appearance of the ‘Condensed Extreme’ design language, the complicated lines and details of the sculpted body were meat and drink to tech nerds. The double-bubble roof was another nice point of distinction, although it was achieved at the cost of Toyota not being able to offer the sunroof that some might have liked to help relieve the cocoon-like ambience of the cabin.

There were reports of faulty paint on some cars with white bubbles or spots on the clear coat. Some dealers advised the application of localised heat to the affected areas but we’re not sure how successful that was. 

There was an issue with the welding of fuel tanks on cars built between June and October 2019. Tap the registration number of any car you’re looking at into Toyota’s online recall check to make sure that this work has been done.

INTERIOR

For some, the obvious presence of BMW items in a Toyota icon (like the 8.8-inch infotainment screen and gear selector) was a bit galling, though some efforts were made to Toyota-ise the Supra by altering graphics and the like. Leaving marque preference aside there was very little to complain about.

The modern iDrive system worked as well as it did in any BMW and better than Toyota’s own offering would have done, ditto the gear selector. Toyota’s main instrument binnacle was arguably superior to BMW’s and overall the equipment level was well in line with the price: cruise, climate, sat-nav, reversing camera, digital radio, Apple CarPlay (a first for Toyota) and a 10-speaker audio (upgraded to a 12-speaker JBL setup in the Pro) were all standard. 

The seats were more than comfortable enough to tackle big slabs of continental touring with 400 miles easily achievable between tank fills, while the 290-litre boot space was sufficient for the luggage needs of all but the most profligate of passengers. The absence of a bulkhead between the boot and the passenger space did allow more external noise to make its way into the cabin however, and if you wound the windows down at any sort of speed you would suffer some fairly serious ear drumming/buffeting. Something to do with the shape of the rear glass apparently. You can buy anti-buffeting kits to improve it. 

PH VERDICT

Will BMW’s S58 twin-turbo M3 engine ever find its way into the Supra? It’s been talked about and largely discounted, but it’s a tantalising thought about what could have happened with the new Supra. As it stands with the softer B58 engine it straddles a slightly awkward space between grand touring and sportiness. It’s bigger and heavier than rivals like the Porsche Cayman and Alpine A110 and the BMW DNA is perhaps a little too keen to show itself in the cabin, preventing the Supra from carving out a personality of its own.

Still, despite the slightly ambivalent launch reviews A90 Supra values are holding up well. A good bit of that will be down to the unsurprising fact that there is little to worry about in terms of the Toyota ownership proposition. Nothing really goes wrong and it’s easy to check that recall work has been done without having to rifle through reams of paperwork: it’s all online.

Your biggest headache is going to be choice. The small number of cars sold means you won’t have much. Almost all of the used GR Supras on sale in the UK are Pro spec cars that have done under 10,000 miles. The 28,000-mile 2020-registered 3.0 Pro that we saw outside PH Classifieds at £42,000 was very much the exception. To see the effect of mileage on prices we can make a useful comparison between that car and the most affordable 3.0 Pro on PH Classifieds at the time of writing. That too was a 2020 3.0 Pro, but the 15,000 fewer miles it had covered relative to the £42k car added £3,000 to its price. 

What’s the price difference between used 3.0 and 2.0 Supras? In simple terms, £45k will get you a 10,000-mile 3.0 or a 1,000-mile 2.0. The 255hp 2.0 is less than a second slower through the 0-62mph run than the 3.0 and will be plenty quick enough for most people in the real world but, well, it’s not a straight six is it.

At the top of the price tree on PH Classifieds was this 2019 A90 Edition, one of the 24 reportedly brought into the UK.  With just 5,500 miles done it was up at a fiver short of £55,000, which is a lot of fives. For that sort of money you can buy a regular 2022 3.0 Pro with under a thousand miles on it, so the value of an ’19 A90 Edition will depend on the premium you want to place on rarity and how much you like the admittedly very nice paint job. ’21 Jarama Race Track Editions typically come in at about £52k-£53k. There were no ’20 Fuji Speedway cars on sale in the UK when we were putting this guide together.


Search for a used Toyota Supra

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