First test-drive of the “GR Supra” 【Video Report】
GR Supra RZ
Driving a production-version Supra for the first time
I test-drove a GR Supra on public roads right before its announcement in Japan.
The test-drive was conducted on the test route used to develop the GR Supra and on a nearby winding road in the suburbs of Marseilles in France. I grabbed the steering wheel of the RZ model, which is equipped with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, to thoroughly check the performance of the car.
Looking at the car in the rural scene, not at an auto show venue or a circuit, I was impressed with its compactness. Honestly, I had felt that the shape was as a bit too decorative; however, it looked nice and muscular with its long wheelbase, wide tread, wide-diameter tires and tight cabin. The basic package, created as the result of thorough pursuit of dynamic performance, was covered with the minimum of decoration.
Some people might dislike the details such as the lights, designed based on the image of the FT-1 concept car. However, all the openings looked functionally necessary. I was impressed with the consideration given to the cooling effect and aerodynamic performance, because the coverings of the slits are removable when trimming the car for racing. Beyond my expectations, the shape reflects the pursuit of functional superiority.
A cockpit to make you feel excited
The interior space was not wide. I entered the cockpit striding over the wide side sill, and sat on the seat, which was positioned very low. When I closed the door, I knew what to do. Run!
In the same way as the exterior, the interior design had little in common with the BMW Z4. The meters were different, and the gun grip-type selector lever had a discrete design. It seemed that the infotainment system was the only aspect that it had in common with the BMW Z4.
I put myself in the seat, which held my body comfortably but firmly, and decided to start running. I woke up the inline six, pressing the start button, and pulled the selector lever toward me. I stepped on the accelerator pedal to run.
The body is rigid enough to surpass Lexus LFA while securing high riding comfort.
The first thing I was surprised at was the riding comfort. Of course, the suspension was not soft, and the front wheels and tires were large. In addition, the wheelbase was extremely short. In other words, there were conditions that would have adversely affected the riding comfort. However, despite these conditions, the Supra was quite comfortable, even on the cobbled road surface.
The reason was the extremely high rigidity of the body. It was so robust that I could not believe it had the large opening for the tailgate. It didn’t make a sound or give me any piercing shocks, even when passing over the bumps in the road that are so common in Europe. The suspension system, though hard, did a good job of absorbing the impact from the road surface.
I had heard that the torsional stiffness of the body surpassed the Lexus LFA’s CFRP-made body. I think that would not have been achieved if the development had only emphasized numbers. I believe that Toyota reached the high torsional rigidity while they were struggling for better running performance, and as the result, they achieved the high driving comfort, as a byproduct.
Of course, the dampers, which worked well starting from an extremely low speed range, played an important role. These Monroe-made dampers were selected by Mr. Tetsuya Tada, the chief engineer who headed the Supra development team.
The turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, which offers comfort and an enjoyable low speed range.
The turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six produced pleasant sounds, generating flat and solid torque from the very low speed range. It therefore came to my mind that the car would also be easy to drive in cities. The engine, including the gear ratios of the attached 8-speed automatic transmission, is shared with the BMW Z4. The car reached 85 km/h in 2nd, 131 km/h in 3rd, and 161 km/h in 4th, while its engine was revving up to the maximum limit of 7000 rpm. The shift feel was perfect. In the normal mode, the car shifted up very smoothly, with no uncomfortable shocks.
Thanks to that, I was able to enjoy driving the Supra even at a moderate speed, inside the town. Whether or not you can feel enjoyment without reaching a high speed is an important factor when selecting a sports car for street use.
Reacts sharply but tends to understeer
Now, what do you think happened when the speed increased further? I switched the car to the sports mode and headed for a winding road. I was glad to see the nose of the car reacting to the steering input immediately. The car responded to the steering wheel not only swiftly but also surely, which allowed me to make sharp turns without hesitation. The smooth reaction made me recognize the 50/50 front/rear weight distribution and that the center of gravity was lower in comparison to the 86, which is equipped with a horizontally-opposed engine.
However, while the initial response was sharp when turning corners at low speed, the cornering trajectory tended to expand if I kept the same steering angle. As mentioned above, the body was extremely rigid, making the suspension very active, and the combination of these two features seemed to allow the understeering phenomenon while providing the rear body with high road hugging performance. Thus, it was necessary for the driver to gradually increase the steering angle when cornering at low speed.
Comfort unique to an FR when cornering at medium speed
Perfect driving was realized when I was driving on a winding road at medium speed with the transmission in 3rd gear. When I controlled the front and rear loads by braking and jumped into a corner intentionally turning the steering wheel slightly faster, I felt not only that the nose of the car pulled inside quickly but also that the car changed its direction centering on myself. When I saw the exit and sank my foot on the accelerator pedal, the car let its rear end sink down quietly and accelerated in a flash. Such high-power cornering performance, which is unique to FR offers the most pleasant moment in driving a Supra.
There is no need to say how pleasant the engine was. It rotated as if flapping, producing flat torque. It revved up firmly and smoothly, making pleasant sounds that are unique to straight-six engines. I could not a second to press the accelerator pedal.
Now, let me touch upon the 8-speed automatic gearbox that Toyota developed, without paying attention to the shocks in shifting. In the sports mode, it shifts to give the driver an emotional high, although I wish that the top end of the engine speed could be a bit higher.
Tuned to be edgy
However, it was not easy to have such a high time. Since the car had both high power and torque, it easily defeated the grip of the rear tires if the driver stepped on the accelerator pedal recklessly, and its behavior was quick. Thus, the driver’s right foot had to learn to make delicate motions. It was obvious that the Supra was not as friendly as the latest 86, which boasts of its maturity.
During the interview at the Detroit Motor Show where the new Supra was premiered, Mr. Tetsuya Tada, who headed the development of the Supra, commented as follows: “The 86 is a machine for training. You all are good at handling it now. So, the next for you to challenge is a jet fighter that looks pretty tough to handle.”
I certainly agree with him because the Supra I drove gave me such an edgy impression. I felt the same way when I test-drove a prototype Supra at the Sodegaura Forest Raceway. I felt like further testing the suspension setup and electronically-controlled LSD by driving various courses.
Supra is back. The applause goes on.
The new Supra in the speed ranges that did not go that high was very controllable and discreet. In that sense, it was reminiscent of the previous A80 model. However, I think the new Supra, as a real sports car, has stepped into the beyond. It can be said that challenging the handling limits is just like challenging a mountain that gets steeper as its summit approaches.
Yes, the new GR Supra is an FR sports car powered by an inline six-cylinder engine in the same way as before, but it came back not as the revival of the former Supra models but as a sports car aiming at a higher level of driving. “Supra is back!” This news must definitely be welcomed by sports car fans all over the world.
Report by Yasuhisa SHIMASHITA
Photo & Video by Hideyuki MIYAKADO
GR Supra RZ
Kerb Weight 1520kg
Configuration Twin-scroll turbocharged inline six
Max Power 250kW / 335hp / 340ps / 5000rpm
Max Torque 500Nm / 1600 – 4500rpm
Drive configuration Eight-speed Automatic gearbox, rear wheel drive
Front suspension McPherson type
Rear suspension Multi-link
Front brake Four-piston fixed-calliper disk brakes, venilated
Rear brake Single-piston floating-calliper disk brakes, ventilated
Tyres, front/rear 255/35ZR19 / 275/35ZR19
GR Supra vs Cayman GTS vs BMW M2
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Special Thanks TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION