Few cars arrive to the sort of expectations that the new Toyota Supra faced, but with one model year under its belt it’s time for the Japanese coupe to show it’s more than just an exercise in parts-bin sharing. True, there’s plenty of BMW to be found under the 2021 Supra 2.0’s contentious bodywork, but with a smaller engine and a smaller price tag come a solid argument that this was the car the modern Supra was always meant to be.
The Supra 3.0 remains on sale, tweaked for a little more power, and with a $50,990 starting price. This 2021 Supra 2.0, however, kicks off at just $42,990 (plus $995 destination).
With some divisive designs, opinions soften over time. With others… well, let’s just say that it’s either still too soon for the new Supra to have won people over, or too rare a sight yet, or simply accept that Toyota’s polarizing aesthetic is likely to always remain just that. Controversial.
There are charming angles and there are more challenging ones. I like the Supra in profile, particularly the way the blacked-out A-pillars leave the roof hovering over the glass. The boldly protruding rear lamp clusters are neat, too, and have hints of Lexus LC to them. With its long, swollen hood and matching bulges in the roof, it definitely has the right proportions to look purposeful.
I suspect it’s the fascia that causes the most issues, and the nose is certainly an acquired taste. The Nitro Yellow paint probably doesn’t help the cause; darker finishes help hide the excess of black plastic grilles and vents, too. The standard 18-inch cast-aluminum 10-spoke wheels look smart, at least, in their dual-tone finish. They’re an inch smaller than what you get on the Supra 3.0.
Inside, I stand by my first impression that the Supra has the nicest cabin of any current Toyota. The fact that it’s basically lifted from a BMW is a mere footnote. You’re responsible for manually adjusting the seats, unlike the power-seats in the 3.0-liter car, but that doesn’t make them any less comfortable or supportive. The combination of black Alcantara and leather trimming is nicely done, too, not to mention grippy through the corners.
The driver gets an 8.8-inch digital cluster, and there’s an 8.8-inch display atop the center stack for infotainment. With the $3,485 Safety & Technology package that’s upgraded to a touchscreen with navigation, plus you get a 12-speaker 500W JBL audio system and wireless Apple CarPlay. Again, the UI will be familiar if you’ve spent any time in a recent BMW, but that’s still no bad thing. I just wish the screen itself was tilted a little more toward the driver’s seat.
Purists may still scoff at the parts-bin sharing, but I’ve no issue with Toyota focusing on where it gets best bang for its buck. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 gets 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, routed through an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission to the rear wheels. There’s still no manual, an option which people generally complain about missing and then don’t actually buy when it’s available, and you lose the active rear sport differential of the 3.0-liter car.
Power is down over that 6-cylinder engine – which is good for 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque – but the top speed remains 155 mph. As is so often the case, too, the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story. For a start, maximum horsepower and torque arrive earlier in the Super 2.0, at 5,000 rpm and 1,550 rpm respectively.
Combined with the lower curb weight – 3,181 pounds versus 3,400 – it leaves the entry Supra feeling more nimble and perky. BMW makes an excellent turbo-four and, just because there’s a Toyota badge on the hood instead, none of that talent goes missing in the cheapest Supra. There’s no lag to the turbo kicking in, and the transmission isn’t averse to kicking down in a hurry, so it’s easy to get into the habit of point, squirt, and pivot.
In theory you’re looking at 5.0 seconds for the 0-60 run, versus 3.9 with the Supra 3.0, but honestly I don’t really care about that. I’m on record with the opinion that cornering well is more important, and more fun, than straight line speed, and just because I was talking about a $260k Lamborghini at the time doesn’t make that any less relevant for this $43k Toyota.
Crisp steering, little to no roll from the body, and a general feeling of playfulness. The brakes may be a little smaller, but then they’re fighting against less weight; you can dive into corners, slow late, and then rely on the punchy turbo-4 quickly dropping you back into the power band to zip you up to speed again. I reckon even manual hold-outs could be swayed by the eager ZF transmission once they have a clack of the standard steering wheel paddles, too.
The six-cylinder’s lovely soundtrack is missing, but I suspect that’s more of an issue in the Z4 sDrive30i where the drop-top exposes you to more exhaust noise anyway. Toyota follows the crowd with some audio “enhancement” inside, but it’s just not as stirring as that of the more expensive model.
The only thing I really missed from the Supra 3.0, though, is the adaptive dampers. Treated to decent quality asphalt and the two-liter car thrums along nicely, but there’s no denying that potholes and the like can unsettle things when up against Toyota’s firm tuning.
2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 Verdict
Bringing back the Supra was always going to be a tricky prospect for Toyota. For every potential buyer of an affordable, reliable sports car, there’s another disappointed that the fifth-generation to wear the nameplate isn’t quite as unique as its predecessors. Pleasing everybody was never going to be a practical goal.
Instead Toyota opted for making the 2021 Supra more attainable, and I think that’s the right strategy. The biggest challenge is getting people past the love-it-or-hate-it exterior styling, because from behind the wheel the Supra 2.0 punches well above its price tag. Accept it for what it is, and you’ll find the base Supra is actually the sweetest spot in the range.