Tested: Toyota banishes boredom with sports car hero
We haven't seen a Toyota like this for a long time. Howling toward Bass Strait at 240km/h, the Supra's electronically augmented war cry envelops its cabin.
As the coupe jets to Phillip Island's first bend, powerful brakes bring it under control. Supercar-spec Michelins hook into corners made famous by the likes of Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi.
Eye-catching and undoubtedly quick, the Supra reaches beyond the popular Toyota 86 coupe to drive into new territory.
Toyota sells thousands of $100,000-plus cars every year but this one isn't up to caravan-towing duties or a Simpson Desert crossing - it's aimed at sports car fans with a budget for European metal.
Priced from $84,900 plus on-roads, the standard 2019 Toyota GR Supra comes with LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, 10-speaker audio, satnav, wireless phone charging and more.
The more luxurious GTS version - pre-ordered by most customers - adds 19-inch alloys, red brake calipers, head-up display, sports pedals and 12-speaker JBL sound for $94,900.
Options include Alcantara seats and matt grey paint for $2500 each, pushing a Supra-with-the-works to about $115,000 on the road.
Questions about whether people would pay so much for a Toyota were answered when the first batch sold out in 22 minutes. Fully loaded examples were the first to go.
On each version, the safety tech includes active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitor and rear collision alert.
Toyota backs the car with a five-year warranty and servicing is capped at $380 a year at all dealerships.
Its BMW-built 3.0-litre turbo six-cylinder turns the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and a limited-slip differential.
BMW supplies more than the engine here - the Supra's chassis is shared with the Z4 convertible, and the key, steering wheel controls, gear lever and infotainment come from Europe.
Folks familiar with recent BMW products will feel at home. Fans of Toyota's back catalogue will miss the Japanese charm.
Either way, you get a pair of supportive sports seats with power adjustment. Toyota's compact steering wheel is better than the BMW alternatives with thick and squishy rims, though the tiny plastic paddle-shifters fixed to the back of the wheel feel cheap.
The fundamentals are excellent - there's a good degree of steering wheel adjustment and the pedals are well-spaced for right or left foot braking, which in other sports cars isn't always the case.
Tall track-day warriors will struggle for headroom while wearing a helmet and many others will be annoyed by the lack of cabin storage.
Outward vision is compromised by the low roof and thick rear pillars. The interior sounds boomy on rough roads and there's no barrier between the compact boot and seats.
Chief engineer Tetsuya Tada says a straight six pushing power to the rear wheels was a must - and commercial realities meant Toyota had to find a technical partner to make the car happen. BMW was the only option when the project started back in 2012.
Purists objected to the marriage but we have no hesitation praising the turbo six and eight-speeder as one of the best combinations on the road. Smooth and sonorous, it shines in everything from BMW's M140i hot hatch to the X5 luxury SUV and is a fine fit for the Supra.
The auto feels smooth around town and crisp when pressing on. Minimal take-up of manual cars and falling sales for sports models makes it easy to forgive Toyota for choosing not to invest in a three-pedal version.
Peak outputs of 250kW/500Nm deliver a 4.3-second dash from rest to 100km/h. The claimed thirst of 7.7L/100km is impressive, if unlikely to be matched by keen drivers.
Numbers apart, the Supra's engine feels strong. It has the flexible shove expected of a large-capacity turbo and the sort of urgency that's conspicuously absent from the cheaper Toyota 86.
This is a fast car. And Tada is keen for customers to make it even faster, having consulting with hot-rodders throughout its development with a view to third-party upgrades.
Tuning was the key to the stardom of the last-gen Supra, which in the cult Fast and Furious films outgunned Ferraris with a few choice modifications.
The reborn range, likely to include more focused (and expensive) models with a sharper focus for the track, looks to have the same potential.
Tada benchmarked the Supra against Porsche's 718 Cayman, choosing to balance everyday usability with ultimate performance. The result excels on the road with a taut but not uncomfortable ride from its adaptive suspension.
Defying the trend for complex layers of driving modes, the Supra is a relatively straightforward machine relying on what Tada calls the "golden ratio" in the car's footprint. It's broader than the little 86 but has a lower centre of gravity and less distance between the front and back wheels.
It feels lively and agile, capable of engaging drivers at sensible speeds on the road and thrilling enthusiasts on the track. There are more focused machines for the money and more comfortable cars for a long day at the wheel - few do it all as well as the Supra.
Toyota took a risk with the new Supra and we're glad they did. It's a rapid, engaging and attractive coupe worthy of the badge and a place as the brand's halo model.
Toyota GR Supra
Price: From $84,900 plus on-roads
Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unlimited km, $1900 for 5 years
Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo, 250kW/500Nm
Safety: Not yet tested, 7 airbags, AEB, active cruise, lane departure warning
0-100km/h: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Badge of honour
Toyota says the Supra is the first in a range of motorsport-inspired models to wear the "Gazoo Racing" badge.
Gazoo Racing cars won the Le Mans 24 Hour and Dakar Rally this year. Others top the standings in the World Rally Championship and its Australian offshoot.
A limited run of supercharged Toyota Yaris hatchbacks wearing GR badges sold out in Europe and a million-dollar GR Super Sports model is on the way.
Toyota Australia sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley says there is more to come. "It's our full intention to explore the maximum potential of GR in the Australian market - well beyond Supra," he says. "We'll continue to explore those opportunities as those products become available."
He says the Supra halo model is aimed at "people we haven't been able to attract in the past. That's the true meaning of GR."