An icon among Japanese sports coupes may return in a couple of years.
The Toyota Supra has gained legendary status in the United States since the vehicle's demise for the 1998 model year. Movies like the original The Fast and the Furious and video games like the Gran Turismo series have given the fourth generation of the sports coupe a legacy as a giant killer – capable of insane power from its biturbo inline-six engine. Now, a return of the iconic name appears to be on the horizon. Here’s everything we know about the revived Supra.
What is it?
Rumors of a Supra revival have been happening for years, but the genesis of the latest rebirth came from Toyota and BMW’s January 2013 agreement to partner on a sports car platform. The rumormill kicked into high gear a year later when Toyota debuted the FT-1 Concept at the North American International Auto Show, which looked like a perfect successor to the brand’s iconic sports coupe.
Toyota still hasn’t officially called this project the Supra, but the company’s top engineers have been pushing to put the famous name on the new vehicle. In the last couple of years, the automaker also renewed its trademark on the moniker, which eliminated any potential legal hurdles.
Whatever the company calls its sports coupe, the vehicle would at least be a spiritual successor to the Supra. The model would be the flagship in the Toyota brand’s lineup as a front-engine performance coupe.
What does it look like?
Remember that FT-1 concept? Our spy shots show that the Toyota Supra will stick pretty close to that design. Note the same classic long-hood proportions as the show car, with a rear-biased passenger compartment and double-bubble roof.
The strong center nose and flanking intakes provides a race-inspired look, and an adaptive wing slides away for a slippery silhouette. As on the concept, the trunklid is sculpted to rise up and also form the car’s rear spoiler. Though it looks like these prototypes have been toned down a teensy bit from the concept, it’s still an aggressive, modern approach to sports car design.
Spy photographers have also snapped pics of BMW’s side of the project – and even shot the cars together. The German vehicle, likely to be called Z5, is a two-seat roadster and reportedly is a back-to-basics successor to the Z4. Because the pair share a platform, the droptop provides a small hint at the Supra’s general size. But as these photos show, BMW will build a convertible while Toyota will offer up only a coupe.
What’s under the hood?
One possibility is that the Supra has a BMW-sourced turbocharged inline six. Adding more credence to this idea is the fact that spy photos of the Toyota prototype show it with the shift controls from a BMW automatic transmission, as well as other BMW electronics. That also has led to speculation that the car won’t be offered with manual gearbox option.
However, Toyota execs might not want to use another automaker’s engine in the brand’s flagship. A top engineer at Toyota Motorsport GmbH previously confirmed the company’s development of a turbocharged hybrid powerplant. He wouldn’t say the model it’s for, but the mill might make sense for the Supra.
Toyota is very enthusiastic about the idea. “I do not have any doubt whatsoever that in the longer-term future there will be a real Toyota sports model using electrification,” Toyota Europe president and CEO Johan van Zyl told reporters last fall.
Toyota has also patented an electric supercharger design, leading to speculation it could be used for the Supra. In addition, motorsports division Gazoo Racing has hinted it might be involved with the Supra’s powertrain.
If you want to consider something really off the wall, one rumor even speculates the Supra could be all-wheel drive. Two electric motors in the front and one in the rear would allegedly combine with a BMW-sourced 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder. This prospect seems especially dubious to us, though, because of Toyota's assertions about the FT-1's front-engine, rear-drive layout.
When will we see it?
This is a question with clearer answer. A number of rumors tell us BMW and Toyota have a contract with Magna Steyr for assembling the Z5 and Supra. Production would begin at the company’s facility in Graz, Austria, in 2018. If that timeframe is correct, the automakers would likely debut both models’ production forms in 2017 or in very early 2018 at the absolute latest.
A concept version of the Toyota is expected to make an appearance at the Tokyo Motor Show this October. As to the production model’s introduction, the North American International Auto Show in Detroit would be a fitting place. After all, BMW and Toyota announced their sports car partnership at the 2013 event, and the Japanese company unveiled the FT-1 concept in the Motor City in 2014.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the Supra’s progress, so continue visiting Motor1 for all the latest updates. Check out the gallery below to see all our spy photos of the forthcoming Toyota sports car.