After seemingly the longest gestation period since the new Honda NSX, the return of the legendary Toyota Supra is set for early 2019. What is with Japanese manufacturers and these long teased-out development periods? Too many concept cars, not enough substance. By the time the NSX went on sale, the car enthusiast public was already bored with it. If I were Toyota I’d hide the new Supra until it’s ready for public consumption, otherwise risking it to the same fate.
Over-saturation risks didn’t stop Toyota from recently allowing motoring journalists to have a go in heavily camouflaged test mules. The early impressions are good: the chassis code A90 Supra is lithe and agile, with adequate power to give Porsche 718 owners and potential buyers a serious second thought. Co-developed in conjunction with the new BMW Z4 - because nobody makes money building sports cars these days unless you’re from Zuffenhausen, the A90 may share an inordinate amount of parts with the German car, but it reads to me the driving dynamics will be disparate and unique.
The new Supra will be pure sports car.
Except in the transmission department. Sharing the same BMW turbocharged straight-six power-plant with the Z4, the A90 Supra is expected to have horsepower figures in the upper 300s. I think that level of engine power does not warrant the necessity to pair it with an automatic transmission. A high-strung Porsche GT car absolutely demands a dual-clutch PDK gearbox for the full experience; the same can’t be said for a car with an estimated 0-60 time in the mid 4’s.
I’m far from an automatic gearbox hater - the ZF 8-speed going into the new Supra is one of the best ever made: in the appropriate setting they are superior to stick-shifts. The A90 is not one of those settings. The car really needs a manual gearbox, especially if it were to ever get my business. For all the talk of honoring tradition, how Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada made sure the A90 would feature turbo inline-six engine and rear-wheel drive just like Supras of old, the one glaring omission in the nostalgia fest is the six-speed manual.
It’s not as if BMW haven’t got a manual gearbox from which Toyota can easily use: there’s perfectly fine units currently doing service in the M240i, M2, M3, and M4. It’d take relatively zero engineering muscle to implement any those six-speeds into the A90 Supra.
Rumors has it that Toyota will indeed produce a manual-spec Supra sometime after initial launch. I certainly hope it’s true: not only would I not buy one without a manual gearbox, the return of the legend isn’t complete without it.