AMID persistent questions if the all-new A90 Toyota Supra really deserves to be Toyota’s flagship sportscar, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that the A90 is anything but a proper sportscar.
Two years prior, on the winding roads of Spain, and on the Circuito de Jerez Grand Prix track, the A90 prototype I drove was impressive: effortlessly fast in a straight line, quick around the track, comfortable on roads better suited to small hot hatches and rally replicas like the Subaru STI and Mitsubishi Evo, and highly refined. Truly, the A90 was designed from the ground-up to meet the demands of today’s very discerning enthusiasts.
Built atop the BMW Z4’s G29 platform, assembled in Graz, Austria by Magna-Steyr alongside its BMW kin, the A90 Supra shares no DNA with any other Toyota. But its small compact layout, focused sports-car dimensions and general shape hark back to Toyota’s first-ever sports car, the 2000GT which broke cover at the 1965 Tokyo Motor Show. The A90 Supra uses suppliers like Brembo for its front brakes and Bilstein for its suspension which are revered names in European motorsports. Engineers also spent considerable time polishing the Supra’s dynamics in Europe’s hallowed racetracks to truly bring it to world-class levels, with Toyota openly admitting they bench-marked it against another true and focused sports car, the Porsche Cayman.
It’s gotten smaller in size compared to the A80 Supra, which was previously a 2+2 sporting GT. Pop the hood and gone is the venerable 2JZ family of engines. Taking its place is BMW’s B58, an inline-six turbo engine similar in layout to the 2JZ that produces a healthy 340hp and 500 Newton-Meters of torque. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic from ZF.
Pop the doors open and it’s a comfortable yet very snug fit: big guys will take a strain on their knees getting in, and the low roof makes it even more difficult. But once inside, everything feels good, within easy reach and intuitive. Seats are supportive and firm, as befits a sportscar, visibility in front is good, but rear view is small, making the rear camera very useful in tight parking lots.
To be honest, it feels very BMW-ish inside. The multimedia system is straight out a BMW iDrive, but that isn’t a bad thing. A 12-speaker JBL sound system is standard on our local units, and despite the small exterior and cabin, there’s a surprisingly large amount of cargo space available. My wife and I were able to fit a weekend’s worth of luggage and some shopping in the surprisingly cavernous trunk, and there’s a hidden parcel shelf behind the rear seats where you can stow your valuables out of plain sight. This is also houses what looks to be the subwoofer.
The A90 Supra enjoys a perfect 50:50 weight distribution front to back. More importantly, it also has what Toyota calls the golden ratio of 1.55, meaning the wheelbase is 1.55 times longer than its track width. This gives the A90 amazing agility even on tight technical tracks, yet the massive 19 inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, measuring 245/40R19 and 275/35R19 respectively, give amazing stability on fast sweepers. A few times, the tail stepped out a bit on me driving up to Tagaytay as I was relishing the experience of attacking my favorite mountain pass, but rather than some sphincter tightening moments, the A90 stepped back in line amicably and forward progress was unhindered. Crucially, the A90 Supra’s B58 engine is placed well within the front axle and the firewall of the engine bay, reducing yaw and providing exceptional front-end grip. The A80’s venerable 2JZ was slung well past the front axle, making it feel very nose heavy, and dulling the steering response noticeably, as well as adding effort and heft.
The ZF 8-speed automatic should be credited for the Supra’s secret recipe for success: it gives instantaneous and punchy shifts in SPORT Mode, allowing it to accelerate to 100km/h from rest in a scant 4 seconds or less, and all the way to a limited 250km/h top speed. But settle into normal mode, cruise at a legal 100km/h, and keep the revs low, and the Supra has the potential to deliver an amazing 20km/liter. I doubt if other sportscars can match that kind of fuel efficiency.
Did I enjoy the Supra? Hell yes! I enjoyed it so much, I begged Toyota for a few more days with it which they gladly relented to. It’s such a huge departure from my own Prima Donna A80 Supra, which requires a lot of patience and concentration to drive, when it’s not actually in a shop somewhere for repairs or maintenance. The A90 is easy, fast, fun and effortless. While a lot of us may argue that older cars like my A80 are more satisfying to drive and newer cars require less skill, the truth is, you’ll drive the A90 so much more often, thereby enjoying it more often. If you can live with the low ride height and the strain on your knees getting in and out, the A90 would make for an excellent everyday car. And it is infinitely tuneable as well, with local tuners like Speedworks Engineering achieving a monumental 700+ horsepower already from the B58 engine, together with some choice modifications of course.
Forget your biases and misconceptions, the A90 Supra deserves its name, and the right to be king of Toyota’s model line-up.
PHOTOS BY MIKKO DAVID/Shot on location at the CW Home Depot in Pasig
A car enthusiast through and through, Botchi Santos believes that different people have different needs. He tries to find the best car for a specific audience, and spruces things up by delving into car culture, helping make the local car community vibrant and enjoyable for all. His passion for motoring is built around a belief that cars are among the top three life purchases.