Just one year after it first launched, the Toyota Supra has been given a hefty bump in power, but does it actually make it a better car?

When the Toyota Supra first lobbed in at the tail-end of 2019, it was one of the most controversial new model drops in years. With it sharing a platform with the BMW Z4 and nicking most of its interior components from the Bavarians as well, along with even being built in Austria by Magna Steyr rather than in Japan, the ever-passionate JDM fandom was quick to denounce it as not being a proper Supra – whatever that means.

With cries from the internet for a return of the 2JZ engine (something that’s never going to happen as no one is putting iron-block engines in sports cars these days) and Toyota to build its own Supra without BMW’s help (also something that will never happen as the finances would never add up), the Japanese giant has done the next best thing it could think to do to try and keep the internet happy, and that’s giving the Supra more power.

As far as this 2021 update is concerned, all the changes are, indeed, under the skin. There’s no facelift or interior changes here, just additional refinements to make this mixed-breed sports car even sportier.

To me, at least, it seems strange that any extra power should be required as the initial 2020 model year Supra was no slouch. Featuring a bespoke version of BMW’s ‘B58’ 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six, it produced 250kW and 500Nm which was enough to propel it from 0-100km/h in just 4.3 seconds. Not exactly what you’d call slow, is it?

Now though, select markets including Australia and North America have had the Toyota-specific version of this engine switched out for the same one that features in BMW’s M40i models which features a lower compression ratio (10.2:1, rather than 11.0:1) and makes more power. Sorry, Europeans, this version isn’t for you as it fails to meet EU emissions regulations.

For those of us lucky to get this more powerful donk, however, it means there’s now an extra 35kW on tap with peak power now pinned at 285kW from 5800-6500rpm, and although peak torque remains the same at 500Nm, it’s delivered across a much wider rev range of 1800-5000rpm. As before, the fantastic ZF eight-speed torque converter automatic remains the only transmission option, and it’s rear-wheel drive just as any sports car should be!

The result of all that extra power that’s even more accessible than before is a 0-100km/h sprint of a mere 4.1 seconds – although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s even quicker than that claim given just how brisk it feels – and a car that despite its familiar appearance feels completely different when you bury the loud pedal in the carpet.

In two words, the way the new engine delivers its power is thrillingly violent. Where the Supra previously felt smooth and refined, it now feels thoroughly raucous. It squirrels about as the wide 285-section Michelins at the back initially struggle to put the power down, before rocketing forwards as it finally hooks up. Try shifting manually with the steering wheel’s flappy paddles and you’ll likely miss the one-to-two upshift if you aren’t entirely focused as it’s that fast to wind up to the redline, and it’s a true manual mode so it won’t bail you out of missing a change either.

Nail the upshift though, and the power delivery as you wring it through second, third, and fourth feels utterly endless, even once you’re well into lose-your-license speeds. It undoubtedly has that Autobahn-ready feel that you’d expect of a Germanic car, but the rawness of its power delivery when you really push it does add some Japanese-esque flair that it perhaps initially lacked at launch.

Toyota’s engineers have done wonders with the exhaust system, too, as while this engine can sound pretty ordinary in some cars it’s been lifted from such as the X4 M40i, here it really does sing and make a glorious sound. It’s smooth and musical, and the pops and crackles on overrun aren’t too over the top, either.

To handle the extra power, the Supra has been further stiffened with the fitment of some even stronger front strut braces, and this now more rigid front-end could clearly be felt on my usual array of Adelaide Hills testing roads that have been churned up by tree roots and erosion from winter rains.

The softer, more progressive feel of the pre-power bump model is gone, and it now feels not only more taut and tight, but more punishing. Sure, the steering response and flatness through the bends is utterly impressive, but there’s no doubt that it’ll do its best job of trying to beat your innards to pulp.

Fortunately, the very BMW-ish interior prevents you from being turned to a human smoothie as the well-bolstered bucket seats are incredibly comfortable (and fetching in the red leather upholstery of my tester) but I don’t doubt the heavy-leaning on BMW’s parts bin to piece it all together will still be a sore spot for those not keen on the Germans’ involvement in the creation of the A90.

To the average punter, though, the re-skinned iDrive 6 infotainment system works a treat, all the interior switchgear is attractive and smartly laid out, the materials are all excellent, and key elements such as the gauge cluster being of a bespoke design to the Supra means that it doesn’t just feel like the hard-topped Z4 its slated as.

Of course, it’s still just as attractive on the outside, too. Looking unlike anything else on the road, it’s still a head-turner even after people have had time to get used to its distinctive looks, and I’m a massive fan of it from every single angle as it’s a properly photogenic piece of metal.

So, it’s good-looking, well-made and well-equipped, and even faster and more raucous than before. Aside from the lack of a manual gearbox – which wouldn’t make it a better car anyway – it’s the Supra everyone’s asked for.

However, I’m not entirely sure if all the extra power makes it a better car from a broader and more objective standpoint. It might be mighty thrilling, but a smoother, more forgiving, and more progressive-feeling car is something many people will prefer – myself very much included – and so while it was an absolute blast getting around everywhere in a big noisy hurry for a week in this updated Supra, the less powerful model I feel would tire you out a lot less on the daily drive than this stiffer and twitchier new one would.

As a weekend toy, though, it’s utterly fabulous. Call it whatever you want, there’s no escaping the fact that the A90 Supra is a true marvel and still a car people should be glad to be getting at all as powerful petrol-powered rear-drive sports cars become a rarer breed.

2021 Toyota Supra GTS List Price: $97,126
  • 9/10
    Performance - 9/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Tech & Features - 8/10
  • 7.5/10
    Practicality - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Value for Money - 8/10

Pros: Truly rapid and effortless acceleration thanks to the added power, ZF auto is a slick and quick operator, looks and sounds fantastic
Cons: Feels twitchy and overly stiff at times, feels less forgiving and predictable than before, will still be too ‘BMW-ish’ for the JDM die-hards

In a nutshell: The added power of the M40i engine makes the 2021 Supra a mighty thrilling and entertaining car that twitches and writhes about like an uncaged animal, but the less-powerful launch model feels to be a more predictable driver’s car than this new and ‘improved’ version. 

Principal photography by Marcus Cardone. Additional photography by Patrick Jackson.

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Toyota Australia who also covered all fuel expenses.

Patrick Jackson
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