Toyota Supra manual update review

Can a sports car deliver more fun while becoming slower? That’s a question Toyota attempts to answer with the updated GR Supra sports car.

The big change for 2023 is the option of a six-speed manual gearbox enthusiasts cried out for when the car launched with a slick eight-speed automatic.

It’s an option that doesn’t make scientific sense.

We tested the car in America, where the manual car’s claimed 4.2-second 0-100km/h time is slower than the auto’s 3.9 seconds. The automatic is also more efficient and its broader spread of ratios allows for a taller top gear that makes for quieter cruising at highway speed.

Both models cost the same money – $87,000 plus on-roads in GT trim, or $97,000 for the more luxurious GTS – but the manual misses out on clever tech such as active cruise control with a stop-start function, and low-speed emergency braking that can prevent you from bumping into things when parking.

To recap, the manual Supra is slower, comparatively inefficient and less clever than the auto. And yet, Toyota expects it to be a popular option. That’s because sports cars represent an emotional choice.

A manual transmission feels more engaging to drive than an automatic, forging a closer connection between car and driver.

Toyota started work on a manual Supra as soon as the original auto went on sale in 2019.

This “A90” generation shares key hardware with BMW. Developed in tandem with the latest Z4 convertible, the Supra is built in Europe to Toyota’s specifications using BMW hardware.

The turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine under the Supra’s long bonnet is not paired with a manual transmission in any current model, so Toyota adapted an existing transmission to fit the coupe.

Engineers didn’t like the rubbery-feeling shift action of BMW’s six-speed, so they worked to produce a more mechanical experience.

Modern BMW manuals can’t match the precision or feel of a Mazda MX-5 or Porsche Boxster and the Toyota’s shift feel lands somewhere in between. It’s more direct than the approximate BMW but doesn’t quite match the benchmark sports cars.

Other changes to the Supra include an updated infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and a 12-speaker JBL stereo.

Handling tweaks include retuned steering suspension intended to improve precision when cornering.

An active rear limited slip differential similar to that found in the BMW M3 joins the cause, along with software carefully tuned to match the new gearbox.

An automatic rev-matching system makes it easier to downshift at speed (purists can turn it off) and subtle massaging of the engine’s torque characteristics helps deliver smooth shifts.

Toyota’s software gurus also coded in an interesting “Hairpin+” mode that allows a degree of controlled wheel spin when climbing mountain switchbacks – purely for fun.

We tested the Supra at its American launch in Utah, where a track-only schedule offered an opportunity to stretch its legs. The in-line six-cylinder engine is a treasure.

Creamily smooth, the big motor revs freely while making a punchy 285kW and 500Nm. Strong torque makes for effortless progress, or if you’re inclined, you can use the punch to overwhelm the rear Michelins and smear the tyres across corner exits on circuits.

It feels more like a grand-tourer than a hard-edged track weapon, with somewhat fluffy steering that isn’t the last word in feel and feedback.

There’s less roll from retuned suspension, and a reworked traction control system is aimed toward folks who want to enjoy a powerful motor and rear-drive dynamics without spinning out of control.

The manual option doesn’t fundamentally change the way the Supra drives but it does add an extra layer of involvement that brings you closer to the action.

There’s no doubt traditional sports can fans will see it as a change for the better.


PRICE About $105,000 drive-away

ON SALE Late 2022

WARRANTY/SERVICE 5 years/unlimited km, $1925 for 5 years

ENGINE 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo, 285kW/500Nm

SAFETY 7 airbags, AEB, active cruise, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert

THIRST 7.7L/100km

CARGO 296 litres

SPARE Repair kit

Originally published as Why the updated Toyota Supra is a manual for success

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