It’s no Nordschleife but the final third of the run from Ulu Yam to Gohtong Jaya – comprising a string of low- and medium-speed uphill bends, is a good workout for any car – the corners are mostly off camber and you’ll need a punchy engine to sustain the climb, but more challenging is the patchy road surfaces that mess with grip and traction.
For something that is as aggressive looking as the Supra, sporting a stance seemingly more suited to the track than public roads, it is proving to be a friend behind the wheel. Instead of fidgeting over the problematic tarmac, the Supra cushions and resolves that into feedback, from which you can foretell the limits of adhesion from its Michelin Pilot Super Sports.
The composure that the Supra is showing here correlates to the superb ride quality in town, it’s the foundation with which the 335hp (388hp for 2020 model year) and 500Nm from the creamy smooth 3.0-litre turbo inline six-cylinder can be laid down with ease. The Supra can probably handle more, but there is never an instance where it feels as though it needs more grunt.
A Supra with German pedigree
When the last generation A80 Supra ceased production in 2002 in Japan (earlier elsewhere), Toyota never had a replacement planned. To revive the Supra nearly two decades later would have necessitated a ground up development to meet safety and emission regulations, but with the demand for sports cars no longer what it once were, every feasibility study for an all-new Supra would have returned a ‘No Go’, such is the economics of modern day mass production.
But Toyota president Toyoda-san has been on a mission to infuse excitement into brand by introducing dedicated models under the Gazoo Racing banner (the GR Yaris came after the Supra), yet sinking billions and years of development work into a slow-selling halo two-seater would not have made a business case when resources were needed elsewhere, particularly on electrification.
Even so, the decision to collaborate with BMW, which has the pedigree, RWD underpinnings and a storming modern inline-six to offer, would not have come easy. Pride, as much as the bottom line, would have been at stake, not to mention the pitfalls of working with an unfamiliar partner, so it was either that or no new GR Supra at all. Interestingly, the economies of scale from the collaboration also revived the Z4 model which BMW had discontinued back in 2016.
The sports car you can ‘daily’
Taking the Karak highway back to KL, the Supra shows off its ‘grand touring’ side by settling into a relaxed cruise (of the adaptive variety). Hate to say this but the BMW gene is most apparent here; the Supra being the equivalent of a M Performance variant that’s properly fast without being hardcore. It also means that the Supra isn’t quite as sharp nor as tied down next to a Porsche Cayman, but you are getting a sports coupe that’s happy to be driven daily, if you don’t mind living with just the two seats.
Maybe if Toyota spent as much effort on the Supra’s cabin as its striking exterior and gave it a more oriental personality (instead of just a different speedometer), the thought of having a cult favourite re-engineered by another car company may not have annoyed Supra loyalists that much. Either way, I’m glad that Toyota didn’t let pride get in the way of a coupe that looks so striking and drives even more satisfyingly.
(In the key North American market, Toyota sold 2,884 units of the A90 GR Supra in 2019 [July to December] and 3,798 units in 2020 [January to September], these sales numbers top those of the BMW Z4, as well as the Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster over the same period. Source: Carsalesbase.com).
Toyota GR Supra (2020 model year specifications)
Price: RM589,987 Engine: 3.0-litre inline-6 cyl, turbocharged, RWD Output: 388hp / 500Nm Transmission: 8-speed automatic Performance: 0-100km/h in 4.1 seconds; top speed 250km/h (limited) Wheels/tyres: 255/35 R19 (F) | 275/35 R19 (R) Safety: 7 airbags, Electronic Stability Control Warranty: 5-year/unlimited mileage