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Stop Fantasizing: The Toyota Supra is Better Than Its Own Advertisements

Sports car ads are formulaic, but effective: a striking form slides around corners with protesting tires, darts between obstacles in remarkably light traffic, and blasts by the camera at redline. Of course, none of this is possible without a closed course – but the logical part of your brain is on time out while your imagination runs the show.

Miles Branman/The Manual

You’re the driver, deftly controlling the throttle, brakes, and steering to orchestrate each maneuver. Out of the passenger window, you spot Steve the co-worker fumbling for his phone to take a photo. Out of the driver window, there’s a line of beautiful women flagging you down.

But now an anthropomorphic ball is singing about anti-depression medication and your daydream has evaporated. Logic kicks in to remind you that the last sports car you test-drove was so uncomfortable that a trip to Target, much less a day’s worth of showing off, would be unthinkable. And didn’t that wide-hipped, sharp-nosed coupe from the ad look just as inhospitable as all the other sports cars?

Indeed, the 2020 Toyota GR Supra has the shape and stance of a pitiless performance car, but don’t judge it too quickly. Under those bulging body panels lies German refinement. Sharing its platform, engine, transmission, and convenience features with the new BMW Z4, the fifth-generation Supra (arriving 21 years after the last version) is a unique proposition – especially at its $50K starting figure. A week with the Supra offers an honest look at livability, while a trip to the track puts those advertised stunts to the test.

The first obstacle a sports car must overcome is accessibility; if you can’t get in and out of the thing without getting frustrated, there’s no chance you’ll want to drive it. While not particularly large, the Supra is accommodating to tall riders. Six-footers find leg and headroom (even with a helmet on, as I’d later discover) to spare. A wide doorsill affords chassis rigidity, but requires a deep step in and out of the threshold – so choose to look cool or enter/exit quickly, because you can’t do both.

Once inside and en route, the Supra’s German sophistication shines through. Close to the ground, and on low profile tires, one would expect abundant road and tire noise, but the Supra’s cabin is thoroughly insulated. For more desirable acoustics, you can either tab the Sport button for a dose of exhaust overrun, or turn up the JBL surround sound system. And unless your commute is half a day’s journey, the Supra’s heated leather seats and bump-suppressing dampers will keep you fresh.

Miles Branman/The Manual

It’s hard to find fault with the tech as well: a BMW-sourced 8.0-inch infotainment with Apple CarPlay, weather, traffic, and navigation data joins an array of active safety features and head-up display. You’ll need those safety aids, because the Supra’s edgy styling penalizes outward visibility. Not to worry: fellow motorists will probably be checking out your ride, so they’ll see your blind lane change coming.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what part of the GR Supra is actually Japanese. Yes, the exterior and interior design are clearly a Toyota affair, but everything else is BMW, right?

Not quite. Consider the components — a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, adaptive suspension, rear-drive architecture, electronic locking rear differential, and electric power steering system — as un-molded clay. BMW gave Toyota the clay, but it let Toyota sculpt it.

Miles Branman/The Manual

As such, the Supra gets unique throttle mapping, braking components, steering calibration, transmission tuning, and suspension setup. In the world of vehicle development, that amounts to a completely different car. What kind of car? That’s what the Streets of Willow race circuit will uncover.

If the ads are to be believed, the Supra should dance around this closed course, on this perfectly clear day, with ease.

And so it is — nay, better. Tearing down the straight, lobbing off speed before corners, and finessing its way through curves, the Supra exceeds even the most extravagant couch-contrived fantasy. Having satisfied the logical parts of our consciousness during the past week, unbridled pleasure is free to take the wheel for lap after lap of commercial-worthy moves.

The marketing world can keep its fair maidens and jealous peers – the Supra doesn’t need ‘em (but who’s to say you won’t get them?).

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Miles Branman
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