Toyota GR Supra review – ride and handling
Responsive, well balanced and grippy, with good traction in the dry and a decent ride, but on-the-limit handling can get a little tricky
Front-engined, rear-drive, and low-slung – the Supra is the traditional sports car layout, and Toyota claims the centre of gravity is low, too. Throw in a decent hit of power to the rear wheels and you have the makings of an entertaining driver’s car, and to a degree that’s exactly what you get.
If the drivetrain feels BMW-like, then there’s definitely a different character to the chassis. It starts with the steering, which is lighter than that of equivalent BMWs, with less of that ‘gloopy’ feeling that pervades many of the German brand’s cars.
The response is good, too, and there’s fairly natural weighting as you wind on lock, but one thing missing, at least at road-going speeds, is any real information. This improves on a circuit – it’s clearly a steering set-up that responds well when there’s some load going through it – but does leave the Supra’s front end feeling slightly aloof on the road.
You won’t have to worry too much as it’s not a car short of front-end bite. You can occasionally feel the car’s weight, usually when a quick direction change is required, but there’s plenty of grip to exploit and good mid-corner balance. On dry roads at least the Supra feels progressive on the throttle, though the BMW six’s rapid build-up of torque means on greasy or wetter surfaces it’s not difficult to break traction, something the steering is quick enough to deal with.
One of the more surprising aspects of the Supra’s dynamics is its mature ride quality, which takes the edge off sharper bumps but offers plenty of control over larger undulations. The structure feels particularly stiff too, so (not unlike recent BMWs) there’s a real sense of integrity to the car, and supportive, comfortable seats and a cabin relatively well-insulated from road and wind noise makes the Supra an adept cruiser as well as an accomplished handler.
Unfortunately when you really begin to exercise the chassis, it doesn’t respond with so much clarity, as you feel like you’re constantly having to manage the weight and momentum of the six-cylinder up front. This could be due to its mass, but also feels like there could and should be more control across the front axle. This is where the supple ride and impressive isolation shows its compromise as it feels like the bushing and spring rates are lower than ideal. And when combined with the McPherson strut front suspension that generally doesn’t have the controllability of a more expensive double-wishbone set-up, it makes for a vagueness around the front end that doesn’t instil masses of confidence. This is then added to by the rear end’s sometimes snappy nature when putting power on – a natural reaction of having a relatively short wheelbase and wide stance.
The four-cylinder actually fixes some of this front-end vagueness, with less weight and taller sidewalls on the standard 18-inch wheels that make the whole car feel pointier and more agile. It’s not night and day, but with less mass to control, and less power coming out of the powertrain to worry about balancing at the rear, it makes for a more satisfying car to drive.
All we’d really ask for is that extra element of interaction missing from more talkative steering and a more engaging power plant and transmission, something that might well be on the way with the new manual model and its associated chassis updates. And when lined up against the Alpine A110 and Porsche 718 Cayman, those elements really matter.