Mountain Wheels: 2 flavors of Toyota’s Supra offer a scale of sportiness |

Mountain Wheels: 2 flavors of Toyota’s Supra offer a scale of sportiness

The 2021 editions of Toyota's revamped Supra sports car include a larger engine, now rated at 382 horsepower, plus a less-expensive 2.0-liter version.
Photo from Toyota Motor Corp.

For whatever reason, this summer has been an embarrassment of riches when it comes to automobiles, which has certainly set the standards very high for any helpful evaluation of a car that might be right for you.

Case in point: The second year models of the relaunched Toyota Supra, a two-seat hardtop that mixes ultra-contemporary style with a back-to-basics roadster style that’s as old as cars themselves.

For 2021, you get two very similar but very different options of the Supra, each with its own merits. The full-blown, 3.0-liter six-cylinder Premium version now pushes an acknowledged 382 horsepower, and some say that figure might be a little higher out there on the street. Or you can tame things down a bit but still get most of the same experience, with the 2.0-liter turbocharged version, producing an impressive 255 horsepower. The 3.0-liter version has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $54,490, while the new 2.0-liter option starts at $42,990.

If you remember last year’s adventures with the vehicle, a cooperative project between Toyota and BMW (more on that in a second), the contemporary Supra offers up ferocious acceleration and handling in a small but efficient cabin for two. It also has a deceptively large cargo area under the old-school liftgate.

Both cars absolutely go like hell, thanks to their turbocharged technology, with zero to 60 mph blasts that are equally impressive; the 3.0-liter version just keeps going faster and faster for as long as you want to hold on.

That created a few slightly terrifying issues last year, as the 3.0-liter put out so much power that the chassis sometimes had trouble keeping it all planted, especially during tight cornering. They seem to have reprogrammed and rebalanced things for 2021 in the larger-output model, and I very much appreciated the more firmly planted feel I experienced, even at high speeds.

The big secret here might be the value, and perhaps the superior handling and overall experience, offered by the 2.0-liter turbo. With less raw power to cope with, the 2.0-liter Supra is a little less intimidating and allows you to appreciate the vehicle’s nuanced mix of sharp handling, great braking and heavy-duty fun factor.

Both models still have all the coolness built in, with a slightly rabbit-faced nose and broad headlamps that are a direct nod to the older ’80s and ’90s models. The cacophony of fins, curve and aerodynamic freakiness around the edges and out back is certainly reminiscent of my nine-times-more-expensive supercar experience this summer; consider Supra’s outlandish air treatments and its slightly cartoonish liftgate splitter a bargain, then. The lower fascia/lip stuff is so stuck out that I see many owners accidentally damaging it while parking, so do be extra careful.

Getting in can be a bit of a challenge as the roofline is very low and the seats promote an almost limbo-style slide to get you in and planted. Once you’re in, it’s a good, well-bolstered experience and comfortable enough for relatively long drives.

Yes, these cars are very, very BMW Z4 underneath. They’re made in Austria and festooned with BMW bits that Toyota has tried very hard to disguise or, in some cases, made no attempts whatsoever. That means there are some strange bits, like the passenger/driver separation bar on the center console that is technically on the wrong side or an instrument panel that’s set up to give you relatively little useful information.

About the most tangible difference you’d notice between the two Supra models, besides a few minor aesthetic tweaks, is that flat-out acceleration. The 2.0 is still surprisingly powerful at the low end but tends to flatten out over 65 mph. The 3.0 will easily do zero to 60 mph in under four seconds, consistently, and it will just go and go after that. Mileage was also a tad stronger in the smaller engine: about 28.6 overall mpg versus 25 (or much lower when lead-footing) on the bigger engine.

If you’re feeling like either of the two current models are a little too pedestrian for your liking, you can also get in line to order one of 600 special edition Supra A91-CFs, which feature an even more aggressive carbon-fiber body kit and whale-tail spoiler, plus special edition 19-inch wheels and red brake calipers. The car also comes with a one-of-a-kind interior and, true to its 382-horsepower output, a one-year membership to the National Auto Sport Association and a high-performance driving event. I see that last point as being especially helpful for this automobile.

Andy Stonehouse

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