OPINION: Is a Toyota GR Supra Worth It?

As a dedicated sports car, the GR Supra is a spectacular performer, with only one big flaw.

By Chris D'Alessandro Wheels.ca

Nov 12, 2021 8 min. read

Article was updated 6 months ago

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By now, you either care about the GR Supra sharing a platform with the BMW Z4, or you don’t.

If you’re conflicted about where you stand on that particular issue, all you need to ask yourself is, “Would I be okay if the new Supra cost $120,000?”

That’s the price tag of the two sports cars Toyota manufactures all on their own; the LC 500 and RC-F Track Edition. And while the new Supra could have presumably cut costs by sharing a chassis with either, that would still mean that Toyota would have to develop a brand new, closed deck, inline six engine to live up to the lineage of the infamous 2JZ — lest the new Supra be V8-powered.

Neither the LC 500 or RC-F are quite as good performers as their marketplace contemporaries. However, both manage to distinguish themselves. The LC 500, while not as fast as a Corvette Stingray or well-sorted as a 911, elevates the grand-touring experience. The RC-F Track Edition is nowhere near as capable as the Nissan GT-R or as well-rounded as an M4 — but it looks like a cyberpunk samurai and thinks it's funny to turn its tires into smoke — so it’s a laugh.

Toyota Supra’s differentiating factor in the market, if anything, has traditionally been performance value. So, it’s arguable that with a price tag eclipsing $100,000 the new Supra would never have been able to compete in the marketplace which offers ample, previously unobtainable levels of performance for that kind of money.

If you’re still in the camp of, “Toyota should have made the Supra all on their own, regardless of what the MSRP would be,” then you should probably hop off the article now. Because we’re examining what the GR Supra is, not what the comment section thinks it should have been.

The GR Supra we got has a starting price of around $68,000, and so it doesn’t need to compete with the likes of the C8 Corvette or Porsche 911 or Shelby GT500 or even the BMW M4.

The GR Supra instead finds itself more directly positioned against the Porsche 718 Cayman and BMW M240i, with which it shares a drivetrain. Those with mouths of meal and wit as sharp as butter knives will of course point out the BMW Z4 as a competitor… except I don’t think anyone on the face of the planet is actually considering buying a Z4 over a GR Supra, despite their shared mechanical lineage.

2022 Toyota Supra

So, the real question is, in 2022, is the GR Supra a good buy at its current price point?

On paper, things look very good for the new GR Supra. The big, and perhaps really only noteworthy news for 2022 (besides an admittedly attractive carbon fibre-trimmed variant named the A91-CF) is that Toyota has managed to lower the car’s claimed zero to 100 km/h time to under four seconds.

Neither the 718 Cayman S or the M240i (despite utilizing the same drivetrain) can live with that. On paper, it’s even quicker in a straight line than the Mustang GT or Camaro SS equipped with the much loved 10-speed automatic transmission — a feat the GR Supra wasn’t quite able to pull off upon its launch in late 2019.

If you buy a GR Supra for performance, you’re simply getting a lot of it for your money.

There do seem to have been some trade-offs in shaving off those precious milliseconds to 100 km/h. The Supra feels decidedly harsher than last year — even in Comfort Mode. The exhaust is louder and the suspension feels less forgiving. I imagine this isn’t a problem for the typical Supra customer, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling with my most recent GR Supra tester that it didn’t ride anywhere near as nice as the 2020 Camaro SS I had driven a few weeks earlier. This harsh ride was also quite the contrary to my experience with the 2021 GR Supra I drove last year, which I thought was amongst the most comfortable sports cars I’d ever driven.

I also experienced, with my most recent tester, how hopelessly impractical the GR Supra is. Driving on the war-torn streets of the downtown core of the city? A nightmare. Picking up someone at the airport? Better hope they only brought a carry on. Driving in the rain? Be very, very careful.

The GR Supra’s equipped Michelin Pilot Super Sport are “bubble-gum on the bottom of your shoe” levels of sticky. Combined with the Supra’s rigid and narrow frame, and tuned suspension, the driver is given undeserved levels of confidence while cornering or hooking up from a dig, despite the drama of often pitching the car sideways.

That is… as long as those Pilot Super Sport tires are warm.

2022 Toyota Supra

The Pilot Super Sport tires don't respond well to cold surfaces, especially when they themselves are cold. Grip is severely inhibited, and the ride quality is further savaged. It feels like driving on stone wheels à la The Flintstones. But in the wet? In the rain? You might as well put ice skates on the car and tie both of its shoelaces together. Completely hopeless.

Still, in the right conditions, the GR Supra delivers violent, exhilarating thrills and that’s worth all of the trade-offs in the world. In fact, I think the car is aided overall by the trade-offs. Driving it feels special. It feels like an occasion. Driving it aggressively makes you feel alive, by making you feel a little closer to the edge of death. That’s what sports cars are supposed to do and the GR Supra does it well.

If you start to push the car in Sport Mode, you have to be awake, and aware of your surroundings and what the car is doing at all times. The GR Supra won’t save you the way a lot of modern cars will. Put it this way; the GR Supra won’t leave you at the bar. But it’s not going to tell you when you’ve had enough, either.

It is very, very easy to pitch the GR Supra sideways. Oversteer is essentially on demand. The car assumes you always want to drift. It wiggles like an excited puppy as it accelerates from a dig. Because the weight is so evenly distributed, even the front end appears to wiggle under power.

The twin-scroll turbocharger mounted to the GR Supra’s BMW-sourced 3.0-litre inline six engine means torque hits you almost instantly. Peak torque (368 lb-ft) is available at 1,800 r.p.m., so like a startled lion, the GR Supra just rips your face off with barely any warning. In Sport Mode, the car feels very untamed and raw. It’s a feeling that I’m not even sure the current crop brooding V8 muscle cars — with the exception of the Hellcat — can match.

With the electronic nannies turned off, the car feels twitchy and edgy. But because the chassis, steering, suspension, and tires are so well sorted, it feels like an animal you can tame. The GR Supra feels much like the GR 86 in that way — the fun and driving enjoyment comes from the belief (reality TBD) that you are mastering the machine.

It feels purposeful, focused, and fighter-jet-like in its determined willingness to devour corners, but effervescent in its readiness to shake its tail feathers. It feels unedited and very much like the product of a small team with a clear goal — despite the BMWness of it all.

No, it’s not as practical or every day usable as any of the modern muscle cars. And in drag race terms it's not much faster on paper, and probably not any faster in the real world than any American car you could buy for similar money. But the GR Supra is not a muscle car. Or even a grand tourer like its predecessor, the A80. It’s a sports car. Which means it’s all about the experience of driving it, absent literally every other factor.

If you spend $70,000 on a GR Supra, what you’re getting is an incredibly special-feeling, purposeful and engaged driving experience, with the on-paper performance to give you all the bragging rights you need.

And if any of the above wasn’t enough to convince you, drive one to a gas station and watch people go ballistic. That alone is worth the price of admission.

However, there is still one major problem with the GR Supra. And it’s not the wind-buffeting noise which occurs while driving the car with the windows down (driving the car with the windows down on the highway is like having dubstep blasted through a subwoofer that’s being held at the base of your skull).

Three years after its debut, there is still no manual transmission option for the GR Supra. So, while the performance value is absolutely there, the GR Supra is still missing what is arguably the most important driving engagement tool a car can have — a clutch pedal.

Don’t get me wrong, as an overall experience, I still think the GR Supra, even with an automatic, is more fun and special feeling than a lot of other cars with a manual.

But if I was sitting on around $70,000 right now planning my next sports car purchase, I’d be waiting very patiently to see what the new Nissan Z will have to offer.

If the Nissan Z is faster than the GR Supra, in any configuration, I’ll eat my hat. I just don’t think an aged 2 + 2 chassis is going to keep up with the nasty little two-seater number that is the GR Supra. Especially considering Toyota’s obsession with shaving off milliseconds in its acceleration time every year.

But will I really care about a few milliseconds between the lights when offered the ability to change my own gears? Theoretical acceleration is a very, very tempting concession for a clutch pedal — especially when what you’re buying with either the Nissan Z or the GR Supra is an experience.

The verdict? The GR Supra is a hugely enjoyable sports car that feels very special to drive. And it is viciously quick for its sticker price. But I’d pay even more money for less performance if it had a stick shift.