First drive: Is the lighter 2.0-liter Toyota Supra the better Supra?

It’s handles more sharply than the 3.0, but...
by Stephen Dobie | Feb 6, 2021
PHOTO: TopGear.com
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Ah, I think I recognize this car...

It’s the Toyota Supra, both hero and villain of the Internet comments section. Rarely has a car stirred up so much debate, the return of the Supra badge—in the same joyously graphic font worn by its iconic ’90s forebear—whipping up insatiable excitement before its cut-and-paste BMW drivetrain tore a fault line in the forums. In short, the latest Supra has proven itself to be a decent sports car, but an inauthentic Japanese sports car.

What’s different here?

Well, it’s not going to win around the doubters. Gone is the Munich-sourced 3.0-liter straight-six that sparked so much outrage, replaced by a Munich-sourced 2.0-liter four-cylinder to really play fast and loose with the Supra’s heritage.

It’s the same turbocharged engine used in everything from BMW 1-Series and Mini hot hatches to the Morgan Plus Four, here producing 255hp and 400Nm and driving the rear wheels through the sole option of an eight-speed paddleshifting auto. It’s good for 0-100kph in 5.2sec and a 250kph top speed.

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How does that compare to the six?

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 on the road

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Well, this Supra 2.0 is nearly a second slower to 100kph, but the electronically limited top speed is no different. And it’s about more than raw numbers. For starters, there’s a £7,000 (P458,700) savings, this less powerful car starting at just under £46,000 (P3.01 million). More crucially, it’s 100kg lighter, with its engine pushed further back in the chassis for even better weight distribution. It means this ought to be the better Supra to drive.

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And is it?

Simply put, yes. It’s thanks to all the byproducts of lighter weight—sharper steering reactions, more resolved ride quality, greater agility—with the end result being you, the driver, having more confidence in what’s happening below. Especially with the improved traction from having less torque to digest; you’ll work the car way harder, in a greater breadth of weather conditions.

A chilly, wet day brings its chassis mischievously to life with a much gentler learning curve. Pop the stability control in its middle setting and you can lean confidently on its rear axle for frequent giggles where the heavier, more boisterous 3.0 can sometimes make for sweaty palms.

Surely the engine’s less fun, though?

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 engine

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It inevitably doesn’t sound as compelling, but this 2.0-liter is actually related to the 3.0-liter used in the top-rung Supra: They’re built on a 500cc-per-cylinder modular design (which also pops a 1.5-liter three-cylinder into Minis and cheaper BMWs). So, it probably ought not to be a surprise to learn it’s still satisfying to explore the upper reaches of its rev counter, especially given how short the ratios of this eight-speed auto are. It really does extract the best out of this engine.

Which is good, because the simpler focus of the Supra 2.0 may make you pine for a manual transmission every now and then. This engine is latched to a decent manual in Minis, so it’s possible...

What else is new?

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 profile

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As standard, the alloy wheels shrink an inch in diameter, the Supra 2.0 wearing 18-inchers. Which, aside from some marginally smaller exhaust tips, is the only way of aesthetically differentiating it from the pricier, bigger-engined version. But if you get your hands on the Fuji Speedway Edition, you’re upgraded back to 19-inchers with a special forged design alongside lustrous white paint and flashes of red inside and out.

Notable omissions on the inside of the four-cylinder Supra are electric whirring seats and a head-up display. The former lends it a sportier feel—I prefer manually notching my seat into place in a car like this—but the latter is something you might miss. Though the Supra’s big, central rev counter is still way more appealing than the TFT dial setup in its non-identical BMW Z4 twin.

So, what’s the verdict?

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 front view, hood and headlight feature

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It’s objectively a better car than the Supra 3.0: sharper and more resolved while cheaper to buy and run. But it’s also a bit of an enigma. Be brutally honest: Do you want handling or muscle? Because even though I always favor the former, I think the Supra’s ‘thing’ is the latter. So, losing two cylinders has made the Supra more of a joy to drive, but it has arguably traded in the badge’s USP in the process.

Becoming lighter and more focused also throws the Supra even more into the bear pit with the Porsche 718 Cayman and the Alpine A110, while there’ll possibly be an even more arresting rival in the form of Toyota’s own 86 when it arrives. But if it can feel like a lithe version of this Supra—with a stick in the middle and a bit more JDM character bubbling at its surface—it could be a startlingly good thing indeed.

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And if this corner of the sports-car market is swimming in competitors this accomplished, then I think our little corner of the world currently finds itself in a very good place. Like the Supra’s shape and can afford the finance? This entry-level version will slip even more easily into your life.

More photos of the 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0:

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 angled view of the front wheels

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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 red break caliper

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 trunk

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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 full dashboard feature

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 steering wheel

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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 center console with gear shift

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 rear view parked

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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 front view on the road

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 profile view while on the road

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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