2020 Toyota Supra First Drive: The Perfect Daily-Driven Track Toy (Video)
Since the 2020 Toyota Supra was introduced earlier this year at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, there has been a ton of hype over the return of the legendary Japanese sports car nameplate. Some people are excited to see Toyota’s latest sports car creation with input from the Ultimate Driving Machine experts at BMW while others have been quick to discredit the car due to its German roots. However, after spending a day piloting the new Supra around the twisty roads of Northern Virginia and the tight turns of Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia, I’m left searching for things to dislike this collaboration between Toyota and BMW.
Upon sharing pictures of the cars being tested on Instagram last week, I found that some people don’t love the exterior design and frankly, there is nothing that can be done about that. If you don’t like how a car looks, that is your opinion and those views vary from one person to the next. The other negative comments that I saw focused on the idea that Toyota should have developed the modern Supra entirely on their own, but BMW’s involvement has helped to create the best Toyota sports car to date.
One of the key complaints with the 2020 Toyota Supra is the twin turbocharged inline-six engine that is sourced from BMW, offering 335 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. Some folks who haven’t driven the car insist that it has to be underpowered, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the 3,300-pound Supra, this quick-spooling turbocharged mill works with the 8-speed automatic transmission to blast from a stop to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds flat, with the Pilot Super Sport tires making those times pretty simple to see. In other words, you can launch this car hard and sprint to 60 in the low 4-second range over and over, making this car as quick on the street as the modern muscle cars.
While the new Supra isn’t the most powerful sports car on the market, I pushed this car hard on the road and even harder on the track, and the twin turbo I6 provides plenty of power for a car of this size. The Supra pulls hard on the low end, through the mid-range and on top, so calling it underpowered is nonsense.
Also, the exhaust system, which was designed by Toyota, is one of the best-sounding factory exhaust systems on the market today. While it has a nice tone in the standard drive mode, switching to Sport mode allows the system to crackle and pop unlike few factory systems I’ve experienced. The only stock car that I can think of which offers the audible bliss of the new Supra is the Jaguar F-Type, but the curvy Toyota takes it to the next level. When you lift off of the throttle at higher RPM, the excess fuel is dumped through into the exhaust system in a process that the company engineers acknowledge diminishes fuel economy, but that doesn’t matter one bit – the Supra sounds absolutely incredible.
Hitting the Track
Our on-road drive of the 2020 Toyota Supra took place on the roads of Virginia, where a speeding ticket can quickly score you a weekend in jail, so the company set our destination as Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. The Shenandoah Circuit allowed us a chance to push the new Supra to its limits in the safe confines of an intricate road course with a few short straights where we could get up into the triple-digit speeds.
I have been fortunate enough to test a long list of performance cars on the track over the past decade and in most cases, I tested with a professional racing instructor in the car with me. In some other cases, the instructor is in another car, monitoring your progress and providing tips as you go, whether they are riding shotgun or sharing the track. At the new Supra drive, we did a couple low-speed lead-and-follow laps behind a Camry pace car and after that, we were cut loose on the track without any further instruction.
We were instructed to head make three laps and head back into the pits so that other writers could get in the cars and take a turn, but over the course of the five hours at the track, many of my fellow journalists were doing something other than track testing. This allowed me to get a ton of seat time, first heading out in three-lap stints as instructed, but after speaking with the track officials, I was told that I could stay out for longer sessions, keeping an eye on pit road to make sure that cars were still lined up. When all of the cars were gone from pit road, I would head in and hand over the car to someone waiting.
This allowed me to not only get gobs of seat time in the new Supra, but it allowed me to replicate an average open track day at your local road course, except in most cases, I was on an otherwise empty track. This meant that I could push the car as hard as I wanted without any concern of traffic, with the rare situation where I ran down one of the other journalists on track.
As I got more seat time, I got more comfortable with both the track and the new Supra, and the new Toyota sports car inspired me to push it even harder. Between the Brembo brakes, the Michelin tires and the adaptive suspension, the Supra takes every turn in stride, confidently scooting through sweeping turns and effortlessly angling through tight turns. Toyota had set up a series of cones showing us where to brake, apex and track-out, but I found that those braking cones left plenty of room for error, but even when I drove in much further than the cones, the Supra had no problem getting down to a speed that allowed me to easily carve through the corner.
More importantly, the adaptive suspension of the Supra keeps the car amazingly flat, so in a situation where I would get very deep into a corner at high speed, forcing me to hammer the brakes, the front end does not dive down hard like it does with many sports cars. In keeping the nose up and the weight balanced evenly, I was able to put the car exactly where I wanted in the turns, where other cars that nose-down under hard braking will want to plow through the turn. The suspension played a similar role when I got to rocking and rolling through the chicanes, as the Supra sticks to the track like it is on a rail.
Not only does the new Supra do all of these things well, but over the course of five-straight hours of abuse, the new Toyota sports car performed just as well at the end of the day as it did at the beginning. The tires had gotten a little greasy, but the Brembo brakes were still grabbing hard and the engines never missed a beat. Along similar lines, for those interested in getting the Supra for a local track day, I found that I could put in 10 hard laps without any noticeable dip in performance, even at the end of the day. I made a point of running these cars hard at every stage of our day at the track and the Supra performed beautifully in every case.
Finally, while the power delivery is smooth enough that you can confidently power-hard out of every turn, shutting off the traction control system and hammering the throttle a little harder turns the Supra into a wicked drift machine. Toyota had a professional racer on-hand for thrill rides and he was showing that the new Supra will drift like a D1 car under the supervision of a skilled driver.
The Daily Drive
The 2020 Toyota Supra is one of the most entertaining and capable cars I have tested on a road course, so if you are a road racer, this car might be ideal, but in all reality, most owners aren’t going to go road racing. The majority of people who buy the new Supra will only ever drive it on the street, so I also logged an hour of road driving in a variety of situations. I drove the Supra in the rural areas around the track and in the more urban areas of Virginia, covering some highway driving and plenty of spirited driving on country roads.
As you might expect, the Supra handles the curvy country roads without issue, just like it did on the track, but what blew me away was the ride quality of the sleek Toyota sports car. Many cars that offer comparable cornering capabilities have a very stiff ride on the street, but even when I drove in Sport mode, the adaptive suspension system did a great job of absorbing any rough spots in the road. There is still plenty of road-feel, but after 5 hours of track time and an hour on the road, in no way did the Supra leave me feeling beat up, which is often an issue after a day of hard track testing in a sports car.
The Supra does not compromise ride quality for those great handling characteristics, so when it comes to a track-capable sports car that offers on-road comfort, there are few cars that can compete – especially in the low-$50k range.
Of course, the other key aspect of daily driving comfort is the feel of the interior and that is another area where the Supra is great. The bucket seats are soft and comfortable for a long drive, but the base and side bolsters keep you perfectly planted during hard cornering, so in the same way that that Supra’s suspension system is ideal for the road and track, the seats serve perfect double duty as well. Along similar lines, the steering wheel has a nice, thick feel to it and all of the key controls are easily within reach of the driver without leaning away from the seatback.
The Final Word
I went into my first drive of the 2020 Toyota Supra expecting that I would have fun with the car. I knew that Toyota wouldn’t put the Supra name on an automotive turd and the fact that BMW – the company that makes “ultimate driving machines” – would likely ensure a fun-to-drive machine, but I enjoyed this car far, far more than I expected. I am still stunned at how well it handled the tight track while still offering a comfortable ride on the open road. I loved how the twin turbocharged BMW engine delivered the power as I blasted out of tight turns at Summit Point and on the backroads of Virginia and the sound of the exhaust system has immediately become one of my favorites on the market.
The 2020 Toyota Supra is a beautifully designed and engineered performance car, and while BMW was involved, that doesn’t diminish the excellence of this car in every way. This is, without a doubt, the most engaging car from Toyota that I have ever driven, and it serves as a terrific evolution of the Supra name.
In fact, shy of the Lexus LFA, the new Supra is be the best all-around performance car that Toyota Motor Company has ever sold. While I may be upsetting readers who own the Lexus RC F or LC500, both of which pack more power and considerably larger price tags, the Supra offers better straight-line acceleration and dramatically better road-handling characteristics – making it the perfect daily-driven track toy.
Say what you will about the German influence or the dramatic styling – the Supra is back and it is fantastic. You might not love the fact that BMW was so heavily involved, you might not love the fact that it packs a BMW engine and you might not love the exterior design, but anyone who loves to drive will love to drive this new Toyota Supra.