Goodwood Test: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Manual 2023 Review
After a hiatus of 21 years, the Toyota Supra finally returned in 2019 following years of hype and expectation. This sleek and dramatic-looking coupe promised thoroughbred supercar performance, certainly as far as looks are concerned, but as the details began to filter through, that initial excitement was dampened somewhat. Toyota’s partnership with BMW meant that the chassis and much of the interior were a direct carryover from the BMW Z4, while the engines were also taken from BMW’s stockpile, albeit re-tuned by Toyota. The fact of the matter remains that if it weren’t for the Z4, the Supra we have today wouldn’t exist.
Much of the Supra recipe was retained for the long-awaited fifth-generation GR model, which was most clearly an evolution of the previous iteration that went out of production in 2002. It was a rear-wheel-drive coupe with plenty of power and the option of a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine. There was one fairly major omission, though: there was no option of a manual gearbox, only an eight-speed automatic. The outrage was significant, and calls of ‘it’s just a BMW’ were difficult to ignore, or indeed deny.
That all changed a year later, though, when in 2022 Toyota announced it was bowing to the considerable pressure laid on by its consumer base, and a manual version of the Toyota Supra was indeed brought onto the market, available in limited numbers with the 3.0-litre engine. It was a moment to rejoice for some who had clamoured for such an announcement, but would this be the silver bullet to fix the reputation of the Supra?
- Supercar looks
- Comfortable interior
- Plenty of power
We don't like
- Jagged manual gearbox
- Uninspiring engine note
- Soggy steering
Let’s start with the design because, for the Toyota GR Supra, this bit is easy. It looks brilliant, at least from a distance. That muscular shape is to die for, with excellent proportions that give this car a beastly presence on the road. The front end is well judged, without too many flicks and swoops of superfluous bodywork, while the haunches a shaped with a satisfying bulge. The rear end is dominated by the enormous diffuser that juts out underneath a sculpted rear spoiler.
It's when you get in a little closer, though, that some of the more disappointing details come to light. There’s an awful lot of black plastic to be found where air vents are hinted. The rear intakes are for visual interest only, while the diffuser may look cool, but it feels awfully toy-like.
If you’re able to discard any snobbery you may have towards the plasticky feel, then the overall design of the GR Supra remains pretty spot on.
Performance and Handling
Picture a bag of pick and mix, and you’re pretty close to summarising what it’s like to drive the GR Supra in manual form. The first and most glaring facet of this car, is the gearbox, which is suitable really because it’s the main point of interest. It feels every bit the afterthought that it so clearly was when it was crowbarred into this car. Even from a superficial standpoint, the layout of the redesigned centre console is clunky and difficult to navigate. But when you’re on the move it’s similarly disjointed.
The rest of the Supra was so clearly intended to work with the automatic gearbox that the manual simply doesn’t fit. The ‘box itself doesn’t offer much to shout about either. The shift is far from slick and the clutch is long and a little vague. Ultimately it works to take away from the performance of the car, acceleration is stunted by the need to figure out gear changes that feel neither smooth nor natural, while you can forget any chance of heel and toe, because the pedals are still laid out for automatic driving – the implementation of rev matching here is justified. You can’t help but think that the best version of the Supra is by far and away the automatic.
That being said, there is still plenty to enjoy about the GR Supra. That 3.0-litre engine is heavy, but brutishly powerful, sending all 340PS (250kW) and 500Nm (369lb ft) to the rear wheels, which feels as alarming as you might think, especially when conditions become anything other than bone dry. A sprint from 0-62mph is manageable in 4.6 seconds with the manual, and the low-down shove of the engine delivers a tangible kick in the back. Power delivery is on the peaky side. That muscular engine simply struggles to contain itself, especially if you’re a little exuberant with the throttle pedal. Don’t be surprised to find the wheels spinning up into third and even fourth gear in damp conditions, and be prepared to catch some aggressive snaps even with the traction control switched on.
Despite its dynamic looks, the GR Supra doesn’t feel particularly well connected when it comes to cornering either. The rear-end grunt overwhelms any semblance of balance there may be in the chassis, while the steering never quite feels precise. Coercing a touch of oversteer is easy enough to accomplish with a twitch of your right foot, which does allow you to kick on through slower-speed corners with satisfying levels of flair, but there’s no real excitement to be found in the higher-speed stuff. The ride on the other hand is more GT than sportscar. It’s smooth and compliant, especially on the smaller 18-inch wheels, and actually, the Supra feels better suited to longer-distance cruising than short sharp bouts of country driving.
The same can be said for the sound of the engine, too, which is just a bit dreary. For all the power it produces, it doesn’t deliver it with any soul. Stretch it to the very top of the rev range and you will get more of a howl from that in-line six, but it never quite excites in the way you would have thought it might. Down with Petrol Particulate Filters.
Sitting inside the GR Supra goes some way to rectifying those issues because the interior feels like a genuine spectacle. You get down nice and low and fall into a bucket seat that hugs you tight. The BMW-sourced materials give it a quality feel, while the carbon-fibre-covered transmission tunnel, albeit in this slightly untidy manual form, adds sporting style. It’s an impressive presentation of the space and certainly feels like it's worth the price tag.
It’s surprisingly roomy, and comfortable even for taller drivers in excess of six feet in height, but it is laid out much in the way you would expect with minimal storage space, although you do get a pair of cupholders and a pretty large space behind the two seats which you could conceivably store a couple of bags. The boot is also a reasonable size, if not particularly useful.
Technology and Features
The most interesting element of the Supra’s interior is the instrument display, which is digital, but set around a physical rev counter that’s built into what is actually two screens. The other screen is an 8.8-inch touchscreen plonked on the top of the dashboard. You can use touch or a loose-feeling wheel to scroll through the various menus, while a row of buttons underneath control the air-conditioning. The trouble is they’re all perfectly flush with each other, so finding the right button is pretty tough without looking down at what you’re doing.
Elsewhere on the spec sheet, you’ll find blind spot monitoring, cruise control, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, Alcantara seats and a ten-speaker sound system. There’s also Apple CarPlay and wireless charging for your phone.
If ever you should refrain from judging a book by its cover, the Toyota GR Supra is a case in point. It looks like a dynamic, lightweight and engaging sportscar that’s bound to be spectacular on your favourite country lane. But it behaves like a brutish muscle car better suited to sharp bursts of acceleration between turns. A week in the manual version has gleaned two conclusions. Firstly, be careful what you wish for, and secondly, the GR Supra is a far better car in its natural automatic form.
The gearbox feels like the afterthought that it is within the context of the car, but even if you take it out of context, it’s thoroughly outshone by the alternative you’ll find in the cheaper and less potent GR86. All things considered, that’s just one of the reasons why Toyota’s junior sportscar is a far more enticing proposition. Aside from being alarmingly fast in a straight line, the Supra lacks driving engagement.
This is a car that’s best suited to long-distance trips, but considering there is very little luggage space available, it’s not really the car you’re looking for if you want to travel very far. The engine also struggles to leave its mark on your heart and ultimately falls flat. It’s a shame because there is so much to like about this car, it just doesn’t quite meet the lofty expectations so many had of it.
This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.
3.0-litre in-line six petrol
340PS (250kW) @ 5,000-6,500rpm
500Nm (369lb ft) @ 1,600-4,500rpm
Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Reviewed by Simon Ostler