What drivers want

Published September 3, 2021, 11:00 AM

by Eric R. Tipan

2020 Toyota GR Supra 3.0L AT

It’s hard to disguise the ‘wow’ factor around the Supra, regardless of the generation. Its reputation for having the best handling, great engine, and terrific design make even grown men gasp.

The rear spoiler of the A80 (fourth-gen) was the feature that grabbed the world’s attention but for those who knew a thing or two about cars, it was its 2JZ-GTE engine that really made it special. It (maybe) helped a little bit that it was the late Paul Walker’s car in ‘The Fast and the Furious’ but it seems to me like that cameo made the movie more legit.

This latest model, called the GR Supra, totally raises the stakes, which makes the agonizing 17-year wait absolutely worth it. Toyota took all their learnings from Gazoo Racing (GR) and even the 86 to get what drivers want in a sports car.

The design doesn’t attempt to be modest. In fact, the entire exterior is outrageously aggressive with its arrow-shaped body, oversized air ducts, diffusers (front, side, and rear), rear fender air scoops, and that duck-tail of a rear spoiler. Just one look at the body and the word ‘speed’ quickly comes to mind.

Compared to the cabin of the A80, this one’s layout is more passenger friendly. It isn’t race- or driver-centric at all and the 8.8-inch colored touchscreen in the middle is angled dead center (so the two passengers have the same viewing angle). It’s so sedate in fact that the 86 – with its red stitching, carbon-fiber-type panel, chunky controls and levers – comes out looking sportier.

With a very low roof, getting in is a task in itself. If you’re holding stuff in your hands or have bags on you, dump them first in the passenger seat or the trunk because you’re going to need to prop yourself up in order to take a seat gracefully.

If you’ve never been in a Formula car, let me tell you, this is pretty close. The race seat cups the body tightly in place and the highly adjustable column puts the steering wheel at just the right distance and angle so the whole feel is like you’re one and connected with the car. With little ground clearance, you’re positioned like a racecar driver so there’s very little bend on your knees and your leg is stretched out to the throttle.

What’s most obvious inside is the tremendous space constraint. Aside from two cupholders by the center tunnel, there’s very little space for stuff like gadgets, cables, docs, etc. You can toss bigger stuff over on the tonneau right behind you or dump them in the trunk before getting in.

That initial roar of the 3.0L twin-scroll turbo engine after I clicked the Start button is the legit throaty kind that can only come from a (straight) six-cylinder but fortunately, not the type that’s going to wake up the neighborhood.

Managing all of its 335-Hp and 500-Nm of torque is the highly advanced ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic that can shift within 200 milliseconds and can even, driver and track contingent, shift non-sequentially –from eighth to second – if the situation calls for it.

With so much power, the tail tends to slip out just a tiny bit every time I floor it, but thank goodness for traction control as it gets brought right back in.

Feedback is excellent from all fronts. Steering isn’t too light but it’s very tight so each calculated input is precise making it so agile regardless of speed. Throttle response is smooth in Normal driving mode but added pressure obviously delivers more forceful acceleration.

What makes it feel like a proper sports car is the Sport mode as it moves the shift point at just above 3,000 RPM and gives the redline a 1,000 RPM more. It’s more hyper here and is highly sensitive, so just a nudge on the steering wheel or accelerator and it takes off, which is why I love how it gets huge brakes: ventilated discs with a four-piston fixed caliper in front and a one-piston floating caliper in the rear.

One of its best attributes is its turning capability. Its low center of gravity and near 50/50 weight distribution allows it to corner smoothly with absolutely no body roll. The only thing my innards, along with loose items in the cabin (face shields, bags, etc.), had to deal with was the G-force generated.

While it does have the modern niceties like an all-LED lighting setup, soft-touch dashboard, Alcantara seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and USB, it still doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

But in a car like this, who cares about device integration. This P4.990 million machine is about fulfilling a man’s (or woman’s) deep-seated love for speed and it does it over and above (like its namesake) expectations. It has refined power very few sports cars can match, but more importantly, provides a drive that’s absolutely pure and clean. That, ladies and gents, is what drivers want from a car.

 
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