When Toyota released the fifth generation Supra in 2019, the motoring public were up in arms that there was no manual option. To their credit, the Japanese car maker heard the message loud and clear.
That’s why, in 2023, they’ve made the world right again by giving would-be buyers the choice to row their own gears. The $94,529 question is; were the public right to be upset or did Toyota know best all along.
Before we get stuck into the stuff of internet wars, let’s take a moment to discuss something everyone can agree on – the 2023 Toyota GR Supra GT is one gorgeous looking car. So pretty is it, it wouldn’t appear out of place in an art gallery.
This writer truly believes its design could become as timeless as the FD generation Mazda RX-7. Our test car, painted in Azure Blue is a nice tie in with that thought. Other colour options: Monza Red, Silverstone Yellow, Fuji White, Bathurst Black, and Copper Grey.
Sporting a bonnet that stretches out into the distance from the driver, and a sloping rear section, the Supra has a classic roadster profile. Above the rear wheels are a set of hips that Shakira could only dream of.
They need to be seen from directly behind to truly appreciate how curvaceous they really are. From the aggressive front end, the double-bubble roof, bulging rear haunches and integrated ducktail spoiler, everywhere you look there is something happening.
The only negative would be the spattering of fake vents found on the front fenders and along the doors. The cabin of the Supra is a simple yet quirky layout.
Straddle the door sill and drop into the figure hugging, heated, leather seats and you instantly notice the larger-than-life steering wheel. It’s a strange choice when the steering wheel from the GR86 would have felt right at home.
Beyond that is a crisp LCD display that shows only the information you need to know. RPM, gear, and speedo. One flaw we found is if you happen to be driving at sunset, with the sun directly behind you, the dash becomes illegible.
That might not be such an issue on track but when navigating Sydney’s roads, that are littered with speed cameras every few hundred metres, it makes driving more stressful than it should be.
Placed between the two seats, taking pride of place among gorgeous carbon fibre, is the 6-speed shifter. Directly behind that are two cupholders that are firmly in the firing line of your elbow should you be driving with any gusto – consider yourself forewarned.
In front there is a wireless charging tray for your phone and USB-A port. Above is an 8.8-inch infotainment touchscreen which houses wireless Apple CarPlay and a suite of other entertainment options, as well as a reversing camera.
Storage is an interesting proposition. Considering how large the Supra feels out on the road, there is a surprisingly modest amount of room at your disposal. Boot space is listed as 296 litres yet feels much less due to the small aperture.
Internet pitchforks at the ready; let’s discuss the 6-speed elephant in the room. The 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine making 285kW of power and 500Nm of torque has its power going through a BMW sourced, Toyota tweaked, manual transmission.
It’s music to the ears of this writer, who is a self-confessed manual snob. This should be a fantastic recipe, however, despite our determination to love the driveline of the Supra, it left us feeling conflicted and disappointed.
The shifting action feels overly notchy and rubbery, and even getting the car in reverse was a challenge. Pinpoint accuracy and more force than you’d expect are required in equal measure to get across the gate to grab reverse too.
Additionally, there is a lot of driveline backlash present. You can feel the torque get sent down the line, hit the diff, and come back towards the cabin. Placing a driver with racing pedigree behind the wheel, which we did, confirmed what we were feeling as well.
It reassured us it wasn’t just our ham-fisted attempts at rowing through the gears causing the backlash to occur. Once you are off and running though, the Supra’s engine and gearbox work together brilliantly.
Torque is on tap at seemingly any speed, while the 4-pot brakes up front do a solid job of bringing the pace back down. Toyota claim a 0-100km/h time of 4.4 seconds, though you would have to be devoid of any mechanical sympathy to achieve such a time.
The steering feels numb, as is to be expected of electronic power steering, but it does a fine job of pointing the nose where you want it. Riding on 18-inch wheels, shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres, the Supra’s suspension does a great job of hugging the road.
Even in Sport mode it never feels crashy or overly busy. Toyota claim the Supra will reach an economy figure of 8.9-litres/100km, which is quite impressive considering the performance available.
Moving the Supra GT’s 1,503kg weight, without driver, with short bursts of acceleration around town was never going to yield fantastic numbers, though 10.3-litres/100km was a pleasant surprise to see at the end of our week.
An element that took us by surprise was the amount of road noise that comes through to the cabin, as well as the level of wind buffeting with the windows down.
Some noise is to be expected, it’s a sportscar after all, but the buffeting was so uncomfortable that after the first hour behind the wheel the rest of the week saw the dual-zone climate control get a workout.
Having spent a week with this thing, the Toyota Supra has left us feeling conflicted. On the one hand, it has all the makings of a fun Sunday driver or track car. On the other, it has an array of strange flaws that hamper the driving experience.
If you plan to use your Supra for city driving and long road trips, our advice is to stick to the 8-Speed ZF auto. If Sunday drives and track days are in your future, then the manual makes a lot more sense.
Overall, perhaps the feeling should be one of gratitude. Toyota are doing their best to make sure they produce fun cars people want to drive and bringing out a manual Supra because the public demanded it is a perfect illustration of their dedication to this.
Our 2023 Toyota GR Supra GT was supplied by Toyota Australia. To find out more, contact your local Toyota dealer.