Article by Robert Sixto. Photography from Toyota Media.
Toyota recently created quite a bit of excitement with the unveiling of their FT-1 concept. It was a concept car, like any concept, designed to inject new life and vigor into the brand, and by all accounts, it has been a huge success by doing just that. Many of us assumed it to be the next generation of the Supra, which holds a special place in the heart of all of us who fell in love with the great Japanese sports cars of the 1990’s. Toyota has confirmed those assumptions, and announced that it will in fact be the new Supra.
Age can add to a car’s reputation, and the Supra now has a legendary, almost mythical status amongst the JDM loving crowd. This latest Toyota concept, however, appeals to more than just the Supra lover’s cult. Let’s face itthis concept car looks fantastic. The graceful curves, the nose that looks inspired by an open wheel formula car, it is quite a good looking car that hits the right mix of beauty and muscularity that you look for in a proper sports car. Details on what will power the car are still not known. There is speculation, of course, that it will have the classic Supra straight six with a turbocharger (with BMW potentially having a hand in), or potentially a V6/electric hybrid powertrain. Whatever it will be powered by, the re-emergence of the Supra nameplate is a much-welcomed event in the automotive enthusiast world.
So what can the return of the Supra mean to us? At the very least, it’s another exciting Toyota on the market, which is significant in itself. Remember, Toyota, before the GT86/FR-S, was a brand fading into beige, producing mostly dull, utilitarian cars. One need only look back to the 90s to see what the Toyota of today was missing: the Supra, the MR2 and, of course, the AE86, just a few years before that. It was hard to imagine this same company had any performance roots, as it was a sea of Camrys and Priuseses..eses. Not that those are bad cars, but they’re hardly exciting. With Toyota re-emerging in the performance realm, at face value it gives the modified crowd more options. However, it also creates more competition among manufacturers, which could wake up other dormant makes that have taken a hiatus from the fun car segment (ahem, Honda), pushing more manufacturers into producing their own exciting new sports cars to compete with the latest Supra or FR-S. It all sounds perfect to us living the modified lifestyle, but there is one important point that has us concerned about the new Supra. In a word: attainability.
Here is where we hope Toyota heeds our plea: don’t get caught in the trap of making this a car to beat the GT-R, or the latest 911, or anything else that is boasting its record breaking Nurburgring lap time. We would love to see the next Supra be what the last one was, a fairly attainable and affordable car that delivers more performance and fun than it should. The approach with the GT86/FR-S was perfection in our opinion (clearly, as we actually decided to buy one), a driver-centric car that focused on driving feel, rather than numbers on a spec sheet. A car that lends itself to easy tuning/modifying by using a familiar, stout powertrain and the flexibility of a dual fuel delivery system (direct and port fuel injection). A car that you can easily live with and use on a daily basis because everything works well. The FR-S was made with this theme in mind, and so was the old Supra. These are things that made the old Supra special, and what the new Supra should strive for as well. We would be elated to see a Supra priced around the $35,000-$40,000 range, with rear wheel drive, small turbo straight six, on a durable and competent chassis. Who cares if it doesn’t beat an M4 straight off the showroom floor, just make it a pleasure to drive. Just make it durable, and if we thirst for M4 blood once the warranty runs out, here comes the bigger turbo. Rumors have the next Supra producing over 400 horsepower and, with that number, we would speculate a hybrid powertrain. Now, not to sound counter to the electric revolution, but in this application, would it still maintain the attainability that we hope for? There is no doubt that if Toyota produces it as a hybrid, the Supra will be something impressive. We might then expect a GT-R killer, or even something along the lines of a new LF-A. Fun to dream about, sure, but if it carries with it a price tag above six figures, it may only exist, for many of us, in our dreams and/or Gran Turismo garage. This thought depresses us, not because we doubt it would be another amazing car, but that it would not be a Supra.
This brings up another thought, as well. What if Toyota makes the resurrected Supra a performance hybrid, and yet somehow keeps it attainable? Are we now talking about a McClaren P1 for the masses? After all, Toyota was the early adopter of hybrid technology. It would be logical to think that they might have the capability to scale down costs in the hybrid arena. It seems fitting that Toyota would be the company to bring hybrid, to this application, into the mainstream. After all, they did it with the Prius. This scenario gives the modlife crowd even more options for opening up the car’s potential. Perhaps the days of replacement cat-back exhausts and larger turbos are waning, and a few lines of code in the powertrain computer can unlock power gains far exceeding that of such "old tech” modifications. Imagine a second renaissance of sorts, harkening back to the glory years of the 90s Japanese sports cars. With the difference being, this time around, each carmaker has electric power behind it as well. It would be amazing to see that kind of history repeat itself with such a progressive and truly futuristic twist. Making this kind of car accessible to many would be nothing short of revolutionary. Turning it into an exotic, in the vein of an LF-A, ironically would make it "just another” hybrid hypercar. Just being a high performance hybrid is not that unique any more, but being one that costs far less than a Manhattan condo, that would be something else.
Hear our plea Toyota: Do not worry about your next Supra getting stomped by a GT-R, or the new M4, do not concern yourself with how close to seven minutes it laps the Nurburgring. Just make it something that is rewarding to drive and brimming with potential, like you did with the FR-S. Make it friendly to our tinkering ways, keep it somewhat affordable if we work hard and save up our money. Definitely keep it as stunningly good looking as the concept, or as close to it as you can (within the realm of production reality, of course). Do not trouble yourself with it beating all those faster, stronger and more expensive cars . . .we’ll take it from here.